Cohen v. Midtown Mgmt. Dist., No. 01-14-00914-CV, 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 2410 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Mar. 8, 2016, no pet.)
The plaintiff taxing authorities filed suit against Cohen for delinquent taxes on five parcels of real property, penalties and interest, and attorney’s fees and costs. Cohen failed to appear for trial and, after the taxing authorities presented evidence of the delinquent tax records, the trial court announced judgment for the “Plaintiffs” and signed a final judgment that described the five parcels and identified the amounts owed to the taxing authorities (the “original judgment”). Plaintiff Greater Southeast Management District filed a motion to amend the judgment nunc pro tunc to specifically identify the Houston Independent School District (“Houston I.S.D.”) on the first page of the judgment. While the original judgment had provided an award for the Houston I.S.D., the Houston I.S.D. was not specifically identified on the first page. The trial court granted the motion, and Cohen appealed the judgment nunc pro tunc (the “July 2014 judgment”). While the July 2014 judgment was on appeal, Plaintiff Greater Southeast Management District again moved for an amended judgment nunc pro tunc to (1) provide the amount of an award to the Houston Community College System (“HCCS”), and (2) to amend the market values for each property to correspond to the tax statements admitted at trial. The trial court granted the motion, and Cohen appealed the second judgment nunc pro tunc (the “May 2015 judgment”).
On appeal to the First Court of Appeals, Cohen argues that both nunc pro tunc judgments are void because they corrected judicial errors, rather than clerical errors. While clerical errors that are differences between the judgment entered by the trial court and the terms of the judgment rendered by the trial court can be changed, changes due to judicial errors, or mistakes of law or fact in a judgment, are void. Relying on the trial court’s specific award to Houston ISD in the original judgment, the court of appeals held that the omission of Houston ISD on the first page of the original judgment was clerical and that the July 2014 judgment correcting that error was valid. In contrast, the court of appeals ruled that the May 2015 judgment was void because it attempted to correct judicial errors. The court held that the record supported its conclusion that the provision of an award to HCCS was a substantive judicial change because both the original judgment and the July 2014 judgment did not identify HCCS as a recovering plaintiff and both judgments dismissed all parties not included in the judgment. Similarly, the court of appeals concluded that the increased market values included in the May 2015 judgment were void corrections to judicial errors because the record contained no evidence to support the increased values.