Forte v. Forte (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 18, 2009)(Anderson)
(sanctions order did not set forth specifics of conduct found sanctionable, thus did not satisfy the
particularity requirement or Rule 13 (Tex. R. Civ. P. 13), and is accordingly reversed)
REVERSED AND REMANDED: Opinion by Justice Anderson
Before Justices Anderson, Guzman and Boyce
14-08-00179-CV Barbara Jean Forte v. Joseph Wesley Forte
Appeal from 328th District Court of Fort Bend County
Trial Court Judge: Ronald R. Pope
Reversed and Remanded and Memorandum Opinion filed August 18, 2009.
Fourteenth Court of Appeals
BARBARA JEAN FORTE, Appellant
JOSEPH WESLEY FORTE, Appellee
On Appeal from the 328th District Court
Fort Bend County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 02-CV-124959
M E M O R A N D U M O P I N I O N
This is an appeal from an order imposing sanctions under Rule 13 of the Texas Rules of
Civil Procedure against appellant, Barbara Jean Forte's, attorney, Ayesha
Mutope-Johnson. Because we agree the trial court abused its discretion when it
sanctioned Mutope-Johnson, we reverse and remand.
Factual and Procedural Background
This appeal arises out of a divorce proceeding originally filed by appellee, Joseph Wesley
Forte, on July 3, 2002. Both parties to the divorce action were represented by a
succession of attorneys and the case proceeded at a glacial pace. On February 15, 2005,
the trial court entered temporary orders that enjoined both appellee and appellant from
selling any property and also prevented appellee from "excluding [appellant] from the use
and enjoyment of the residence located at 107 Squires Bend, Stafford, TX 77477."
Apparently frustrated with the pace of the proceedings, appellee took actions which led
appellant to believe appellee was preparing to sell the Squires Bend residence in violation
of the trial court's temporary orders. This led to a period of intense activity by appellant's
attorney aimed at preventing what appellant believed was the imminent sale of the
residence. Included in this flurry of activity was a "Motion for Enforcement by Contempt and
for Sanctions and Order to Appear" filed by appellant against appellee on October 5, 2005.
Appellee finally filed a response and a counter-motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 13 of
the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure on May 14, 2007. The trial court held a hearing on
October 23, 2007. At the end of the hearing, the trial court announced it was denying
appellant's motion for contempt and for sanctions and was granting appellee's motion for
sanctions and sanctioned Mutope-Johnson $750.00. Soon thereafter, the trial court
entered a written order to that effect. This appeal followed.
In a single issue on appeal, appellant contends the sanctions order does not meet the
requirements of Rule 13 as the trial court did not (1) determine good cause existed for
sanctioning Mutope-Johnson; and (2) did not state the particulars of the sanctionable
A. Does the Sanctions Order Meet the Specificity Requirement?
Whether to impose Rule 13 sanctions is within the trial court=s sound discretion. Mattly v.
Spiegel, Inc., 19 S.W.3d 890, 895 (Tex. App.-- Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, no pet.),
overruling on other grounds recognized by In re J.R., 123 S.W.3d 669, 672 n.6 (Tex. App.--
Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, no pet.). We will not set aside a Rule 13 sanctions order unless
an abuse of discretion is shown. Id. However, while a decision to impose Rule 13
sanctions is within the discretion of a trial court, Rule 13 imposes a mandatory duty on the
part of the trial court to point out with particularity the acts or omissions on which the
sanctions are based. Id. A primary purpose of the particularity requirement is to justify the
imposition of sanctions and to show that the trial court properly weighed the sanctions
request and imposed sanctions in an appropriate manner when justified by the
circumstances. Id. at 896.
The sanctions order at issue here does not contain any facts justifying the imposition of
sanctions against Mutope-Johnson. Therefore, the sanctions order does not comply with
Rule 13 and constitutes an abuse of discretion that renders the order unenforceable and
requires that it be reversed. Id. We sustain appellant's single issue on appeal.
Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's sanctions order and remand for further proceedings
in accordance with this opinion.
/s/ John S. Anderson
Panel consists of Justices Anderson, Guzman, and Boyce.
 The relevant part of the order provides:
The Court then heard and considered JOSEPH WESLEY FORTE=s request for sanctions and
being of the opinion that the request should be granted;
It is, therefore, ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that Ayesha G. Mutope-Johnson,
attorney-at-law, the attorney of record in this cause for BARBARA JEAN FORTE, shall pay $750.00
to Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr., counsel for JOSEPH WESLEY FORTE, as a monetary sanction for a
violation of Rule 13, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Ms. Mutope-Johnson shall pay the $750.00
sanction to Andrew L. Jefferson, Jr., no later than 30 days following the date on which this order is
signed by the Court. This monetary award shall earn interest at the highest legal rate if it is not
paid within 30 days after this order is signed by the Court.