In re Garza (1998) – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In In re Garza, 981 S.W.2d 438 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1998, orig. proceeding), one district court rendered a final decree, thus becoming the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. Pursuant to Bexar County's rotating civil docketing system, the case was randomly assigned to another judge when the mother filed an application for a protective order.

The Court of Appeals held that the statutory and constitutional exchange of benches provisions authorized any judge to rule on custody and support matters so long as the record is clear that the judge is acting for the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. Garza, 981 S.W.2d at 442.

In a concurring opinion, however, Justice Rickhoff recognized that the rotating docketing system "renders the continuing, exclusive jurisdiction provisions meaningless." Id. at 443 (Rickhoff, J., concurring).

He advised the district courts to implement the spirit of the Family Code by creating a rule requiring the presiding judge to consider assigning motions and actions related to custody and support of children to the same judge who rendered earlier decisions related to those children "because judge shopping is a serious temptation for some parents...." Id. at 443-444.