Teel v. Shifflett (pdf) (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 23, 2010)(Frost)
(protective order against fiancee affirmed, constitutional challenge not properly before the court)
The trial court reasonably could have concluded that future violence is likely to occur
based on the testimony showing a pattern of violent behavior. See Banargent, 2006
WL 462268, at *1–2; Clements v. Haskovec, 251 S.W.3d 79, 87–88 (Tex. App.—
Corpus Christi 2008, no pet.). Under the applicable standards of review, we conclude
that the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court’s finding that
Teel is likely to commit family violence in the future. Accordingly, we overrule Teel’s
AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED: Opinion by Justice Frost
Before Justices Brock Yates, Frost and Brown
14-08-00836-CV Ashleigh Elise Teel v. Kenneth Richard Shifflett
Appeal from 309th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: David D. Farr
Concurring Opinion by Justice Brock Yates in Teel v. Shifflett (no right to jury trial in case of this
M A J O R I T Y O P I N I O N
This is an appeal from a protective order entered against a man’s former girlfriend after the trial court
determined that the former girlfriend committed family violence against him and was likely to commit family
violence in the future.
In four issues, the former girlfriend challenges (1) the constitutionality of the statute under which the protective
order was issued, (2) a recitation in the judgment that the parties were “intimate partners” pursuant to 18 U.S.
C. §§ 922(g)(8) & 921(a)(32), (3) the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support a finding that the
former girlfriend was a household member, and (4) the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support
a finding that family violence is likely to occur in the future.
We modify the judgment to delete the intimate-partners finding and we affirm the trial court’s judgment as
Factual and Procedural Background
Appellant Ashleigh Elise Teel and appellee Kenneth Richard Shiflett began dating in April 2007. Sometime
after they met, they learned that Teel was pregnant, and they planned to marry each other on July 7, 2007. In
anticipation of the marriage, Teel moved her belongings into Shiflett’s house on July 4, 2007. The next day
Shiflett left the house to go to work, but when he realized he had left his wallet at home, he returned home to
retrieve it. Teel told Shiflett that she had taken the wallet. Teel testified that she was angry with Shiflett so she
hid his wallet from him. Teel began throwing items in the house and kicked Shiflett’s dog. She also picked up
a knife and moved toward Shiflett. As Shiflett struggled with Teel to take the knife away, his hand was cut.
After Shiflett took the knife, Teel left the house. When Teel returned later the same day, she burned Shiflett’s
arm with the cigarette she had been smoking. Teel and Shiflett struggled, and Teel kicked Shiflett in the groin.
She retrieved the knife from the kitchen and began slashing Shiflett’s clothes and other belongings. After
Shiflett called the police, Teel locked herself in a bedroom. When the police arrived Teel refused to put down
the knife until the police officers used a taser to subdue her.
On March 8, 2008, Shiflett went to a bar called Molly’s with some friends. When he arrived, someone told him
Teel had been in Molly’s, so he and his friends left Molly’s and went to ZZ Gators bar. After Shiflett entered ZZ
Gators, Teel approached him and hit him in the head. Teel and Shiflett engaged in a heated discussion, and
the bartender asked Teel to leave the bar.
On April 18, 2008, Shiflett filed an application for a protective order alleging that he and Teel lived in the same
household and that Teel had engaged in conduct that constituted family violence as defined in section 71.004
(1) of the Texas Family Code. Shiflett requested that this application be served on Teel; however, our record
does not reflect when any service was accomplished. On April 23, 2008, the trial court signed a temporary
protective order. In this order, the trial court directed the district clerk to give notice to Teel regarding the
hearing on Shiflett’s application. The appellate record reflects that this order was mailed to Teel on April 23,
On May 19, 2008, Teel demanded a jury trial and paid the jury fee. On that same day, Teel filed a motion to
dismiss and an original answer. On June 3, 2008, the trial court conducted a hearing on Shiflett’s application.
Teel’s counsel noted that, under the Texas Family Code, the trial court, rather than a jury, must make the
findings regarding an applicant’s entitlement to a protective order regarding family violence; however, Teel’s
counsel asserted that this statute is unconstitutional to the extent it deprived Teel of a jury trial regarding
Shiflett’s application for a protective order. The trial court denied Teel’s request for a jury trial.
At trial, Teel testified and admitted that she had burned Shiflett’s arm with a cigarette and brandished a knife
on July 5, 2007. She further admitted that she hit Teel at ZZ Gators on March 8, 2008. Teel maintained that
her actions on both occasions were necessary to defend herself.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found that Teel and Shiflett had formed a household and that
Teel was a member of the household. The court further found that Teel committed family violence on two
occasions (July 5, 2007 and March 8, 2008) and was likely to commit family violence in the future. The trial
court’s written order reflected its oral findings, but also included the additional finding that Teel and Shiflett
“were intimate partners pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, sections 922(g)(8) and 921(a)(32).”
In her first issue, Teel argues that she was entitled to a jury trial because the parts of the Family Code
requiring the trial court, rather than a jury, to make the fact findings regarding Shiflett’s application violate Teel’
s right to a jury trial under article I, section 15 and article V, section 10 of the Texas Constitution. See Tex.
Const. art. I, § 15; Tex. Const. art. V, § 10; Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 81.001, 85.001 (Vernon 2008). We
presume that the challenged parts of the Texas Family Code are constitutional. As the party challenging the
constitutionality of a statute as applied, Teel had the burden of proving all facts necessary to show that these
statutes are unconstitutional as applied to her. See Edgewood Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Meno, 917 S.W.2d 717, 725
(Tex. 1995); Tex-Air Helicopters, Inc. v. Galveston County Appraisal Review Bd., 76 S.W.3d 575, 584–85 (Tex.
App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2002, pet. denied).
Under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 216, entitled “Request and Fee for Jury Trial,” “[n]o jury trial shall be had
in any civil suit, unless a written request for a jury trial is filed with the clerk of the court a reasonable time
before the date set for trial of the cause on the non-jury docket, but not less than thirty days in advance.” Tex.
R. Civ. P. 216. It is within the discretion of the trial court to deny a jury trial if the party requesting the jury trial
does so less than thirty days before trial. See Huddle v. Huddle, 696 S.W.2d 895, 895 (Tex. 1985) (per
curiam). Teel has not challenged the constitutionality of Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 216. In this case, the
trial occurred forty-six days after Shiflett filed his application and forty-one days after the date the record
reflects that the district clerk sent a copy of the temporary protective order to Teel. Teel did not request a jury
trial until fifteen days before trial. Teel has neither argued nor proven that she was unable to request a jury
trial at least thirty days before trial. Even if the trial court had determined that the challenged statutes
otherwise would have unconstitutionally deprived Teel of her right to a jury trial, the trial court still would have
had the discretion to deny Teel’s request for a jury trial under Rule 216 based on Teel’s untimely request. See
Huddle, 696 S.W.2d at 895. Therefore, Teel did not prove all facts necessary to show that, as applied to her,
these statutes unconstitutionally deprived her of the right to a jury trial. See Tex-Air Helicopters, Inc., 76 S.W.
3d at 584–88 (holding party challenging constitutionality of statute did not prove all facts necessary to show
that the statute was unconstitutional as applied); Williams v. Williams, 19 S.W.3d 544, 546 (Tex. App.—Fort
Worth 2000, pet. denied) (holding that trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying jury trial on application
for protective order against family violence because request for jury trial was untimely under Rule 216).
Accordingly, we overrule Teel’s first issue.
Finding of “Intimate Partners”
In her second issue, Teel argues that the trial court erred in including a finding that the parties were intimate
partners pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, sections 922(g)(8) and 921(a)(32). Teel preserved error on
this issue in the trial court. Section 922(g)(8) makes it unlawful for persons under family protective orders to
possess, ship, or transport any firearm or ammunition. See U.S. v. Miles, 238 F.Supp.2d 297, 304–05 (D.
Maine 2002). The term “intimate partner” means, with respect to a person, the spouse of the person, a former
spouse of the person, an individual who is a parent of a child of the person, and an individual who cohabitates
or has cohabitated with the person. 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(32). Teel alleges that because Shiflett did not plead that
the parties were intimate partners, the judgment does not conform to the pleadings.
Although she cites no authority in support of this issue, Teel’s argument is grounded on the basic idea
addressed by the rules of civil procedure that a judgment shall conform to the pleadings. Tex. R. Civ. P. 301.
Pleadings must give reasonable notice of the claims asserted. SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Doe, 903 S.W.2d
347, 354–55 (Tex. 1995). A reviewing court should liberally construe the petition to contain any claims that
reasonably may be inferred from the specific language used in the petition and uphold the petition as to those
claims, even if an element of a claim is not specifically alleged. See id. In making this determination, however,
a reviewing court cannot use a liberal construction of the petition as a license to read into the petition a claim
that it does not contain. Moneyhon v. Moneyhon, 278 S.W.3d 874, 878 (Tex. App.—Houston [14 Dist.] 2009,
no pet.). The petition must give fair and adequate notice of the claims being asserted, and, if the reviewing
court cannot reasonably infer that the petition contains a given claim, then the court must conclude the petition
does not contain such a claim, even under a liberal construction. See SmithKline Beecham Corp., 903 S.W.2d
Shiflett’s application for a family protective order contains no request for a finding that the parties were intimate
partners under the federal statute. Nonetheless, in the protective order, the trial court found that Shiflett and
Teel were intimate partners. Therefore, the judgment did not conform to the pleadings, and the trial court erred
in granting such relief in the absence of pleadings or trial by consent. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 301; Moneyhon, 278
S.W.3d at 878. If issues not raised by the pleadings are tried by express or implied consent of the parties,
these issues shall be treated as if they had been raised by the pleadings. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 67, 301; Baltzer
v. Medina, 240 S.W.3d 469, 476 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2007, no pet.). To determine whether the
issue was tried by consent, the court must examine the record not for evidence of the issue, but rather for
evidence of trial of the issue. Greene v. Young, 174 S.W.3d 291, 301 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2005,
The record does not reflect that the intimate-partners issue was tried by consent. Although the record
indicates that the parties had cohabitated and had a child together, the record does not reflect that the parties
were trying the issue of “intimate partners” as that term is defined by section 921 of Title 18 of the United
States Code. Accordingly, we sustain Teel’s second issue.
Legal and Factual Sufficiency of the Evidence
In her third and fourth issues, Teel argues the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the trial
court’s findings that the parties were members of the same household and that family violence was likely to
occur in the future.
Standard of Review
Under section 85.001 of the Texas Family Code, the trial court may grant a protective order upon finding that
family violence has occurred and is likely to occur again. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 85.001(a) (Vernon 2008). In
reviewing a trial court’s findings of fact for legal and factual sufficiency, we apply the same standards that we
apply in reviewing jury findings. Ulmer v. Ulmer, 130 S.W.3d 294, 299 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2004,
no pet.). When reviewing the legal sufficiency of the evidence, we consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the challenged finding and indulge every reasonable inference that would support it. City of Keller
v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 823 (Tex.2005). We must credit favorable evidence if a reasonable factfinder
could and disregard contrary evidence unless a reasonable factfinder could not. See id. at 827. We must
determine whether the evidence at trial would enable reasonable and fair-minded people to find the facts at
issue. See id. The factfinder is the only judge of witness credibility and the weight to give to testimony. See id.
When reviewing a challenge to the factual sufficiency of the evidence, we examine the entire record,
considering both the evidence in favor of, and contrary to, the challenged finding. Cain v. Bain, 709 S.W.2d
175, 176 (Tex. 1986). After considering and weighing all the evidence, we set aside the fact finding only if it is
so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust. Pool v. Ford Motor
Co., 715 S.W.2d 629, 635 (Tex. 1986). The trier of fact is the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses and
the weight to be given to their testimony. GTE Mobilnet of S. Tex. v. Pascouet, 61 S.W.3d 599, 615–16 (Tex.
App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2001, pet. denied). We may not substitute our own judgment for that of the trier of
fact, even if we would reach a different answer on the evidence. Maritime Overseas Corp. v. Ellis, 971 S.W.2d
402, 407 (Tex. 1998). The amount of evidence necessary to affirm a judgment is far less than that necessary
to reverse a judgment. Pascouet, 61 S.W.3d at 616.
A “household” is a “unit composed of persons living together in the same dwelling, without regard to whether
they are related to each other.” Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 71.005 (Vernon 2008). A “member of a household”
includes a person who previously lived in the household. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 71.006 (Vernon 2008).
Both parties testified that they intended to marry on July 7, 2007, and that on July 4, 2007, Teel moved her
belongings to Shiflett’s house. Shiflett testified that prior to this move, Teel had lived with him for at least one
month. Teel testified that she did not intend to live with Shiflett until after their wedding and, despite the fact
that she spent several nights at his house and moved her belongings into his house, she did not consider
herself as having moved into his house to establish a household because she maintained an apartment at
which she received mail. The trial court found that on July 5, 2007, the parties established a household.
Although the parties’ cohabitation was intermittent due to their disagreements, the uncontroverted evidence is
that they intended to marry and Teel moved her belongings into Shiflett’s house. Teel gave birth to a child in
January 2008, and both parties believe the child was fathered by Shiflett. Under the applicable standards of
review, we conclude that the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court’s finding that
Shiflett and Teel had formed a household. Accordingly, we overrule Teel’s third issue.
Teel does not challenge the trial court’s finding that family violence occurred; rather, she argues the evidence
is legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that family violence is likely to occur in the
future. Teel points out that Shiflett never testified that he “believed” or “feared” that Teel would commit family
violence in the future and argues that Shiflett never presented any objective evidence that would show a
likelihood that Teel would commit family violence in the future.
In parental-termination and child-custody cases, “evidence that a parent has engaged in abusive or neglectful
conduct in the past permits an inference that the parent will continue this behavior in the future.” In re T.L.S.
and R.L.P., 170 S.W.3d 164, 166 (Tex. App.—Waco 2005, no pet.). This principle also applies in cases
involving protective orders against family violence. Banargent v. Brent, No. 14-05-00574-CV, 2006 WL
462268, at *1–2 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 28, 2006, no pet.) (mem. op.). “Oftentimes, past is
prologue; therefore, past violent conduct can be competent evidence which is legally and factually sufficient to
sustain the award of a protective order.” In re Epperson, 213 S.W.3d 541, 544 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2007,
no pet.). In this case, Shiflett testified to several instances of violence, one in which police officers had to
subdue Teel with a taser because she would not relinquish a weapon. The trial court reasonably could have
concluded that future violence is likely to occur based on the testimony showing a pattern of violent behavior.
See Banargent, 2006 WL 462268, at *1–2; Clements v. Haskovec, 251 S.W.3d 79, 87–88 (Tex. App.—Corpus
Christi 2008, no pet.). Under the applicable standards of review, we conclude that the evidence is legally and
factually sufficient to support the trial court’s finding that Teel is likely to commit family violence in the future.
Accordingly, we overrule Teel’s fourth issue.
We modify the judgment of the trial court to delete the finding that the parties were “intimate partners”
pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, sections 922(g)(8) and 921(a)(32). We affirm the judgment as
/s/ Kem Thompson Frost
Panel consists of Justices Yates, Frost, and Brown (Yates, J., concurring).
 This rule has been held to be constitutional by a sister court of appeals. See Rent America, Inc. v. Amarillo
Nat. Bank, 785 S.W.2d 190, 193 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 1990, writ denied).
 In the Williams case, the court held that “[b]ecause the evidence in this case conclusively establishes that
Appellant’s request for a jury was not made until he was in court for the hearing, the request was not timely as
a matter of law, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the request.” Williams, 19 S.W.3d at
546. The opinion in Williams contains obiter dicta regarding constitutional rights, statutory construction, and
legislative intent, which might give the impression that the Williams court addressed the constitutionality of
sections 81.001 and 85.001 of the Texas Family Code. See id. at 546–48. However, the Williams court did not
hold or state that these statutes are constitutional. See id. Instead, the Williams court, like this court, based
its decision on the untimely request for a jury trial under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 216. See id.
 At the time of the hearing, genetic testing had been ordered but not completed.