1. “Is a fact-based claim of a past adjudication under Texas Family Code Section 54.02(j) cognizable on pretrial habeas review?”
2. “Did the overruling of Moon v. State in Ex parte Thomas retroactively vest the criminal district court with jurisdiction despite two appellate court judgments concluding that the criminal district court lacked jurisdiction to try Cameron Moon in the vacated criminal trial?”
3. “Did appellant’s request for relief on direct appeal seeking a reversal and a new certification hearing estop him from complaining on pretrial writ of habeas corpus that the criminal district court previously ‘adjudicated’ him in the trial he sought to have vacated?”
GRANTED ON THE COURT’S OWN MOTION
“When Section 54.02(j)(3) of the Family Code speaks of an ‘adjudication’ and an ‘adjudication hearing,’ does the meaning of those words also embrace events that might occur in an adult criminal trial, or are their meanings restricted to the context of juvenile proceedings?”
After his first murder conviction was reversed by the Court of Criminal Appeals because the juvenile transfer order was factually insufficient, the juvenile court again waived jurisdiction and recertified him to stand trial in the district court. The transfer was made under Tex. Fam. Code § 54.02(j)(3), which applies to cases in which no adjudication was made or adjudication proceeding conducted. When Section 54.02(j) is not satisfied by the State, the juvenile court must dismiss the case. The district court denied his pretrial application for a writ of habeas corpus.
On appeal, Moon alleged that Section 54.02(j)(3)’s no-adjudication-was-made or adjudication hearing conducted provisos precluded the transfer because he had been previously convicted of the offense. He also challenged the juvenile court’s determination that when the CCA vacated his conviction, jurisdiction remained in the juvenile court. He claimed that the CCA did not answer the question and opined in the alternative—that jurisdiction remained in the district court the first time until the CCA declared the transfer order invalid. Thus, there was an adjudication. The State argued that Moon’s claim sufficiency (i.e., how the transferring court weighed the factors) is not cognizable on habeas under the CCA’s more recent decision in Ex parte Thomas, 623 S.W.3d 370 (Tex. Crim. App. 2021), which overruled its first decision in this case. Ex parte Thomas held that the lack of specific findings in a transfer order does not render it invalid or deprive the district court of jurisdiction.
The en banc court of appeals held that Ex parte Thomas clarified that void-transfer-order claims are cognizable because it goes to the district court’s jurisdiction over a case. Here, the transfer order was void because the State failed to prove there was no prior adjudication. The court also rejected the State’s argument that Moon had an adequate appellate remedy that prevents habeas jurisdiction. Because the new interlocutory civil appellate remedy is not available to Moon, having been enacted after the second transfer order was made, Moon would have to wait until he was convicted a second time to appeal. And if Moon prevailed, the remedy would be a dismissal for failing to satisfy Section 52.04(j)(3). Finally, following Ex parte Thomas, the court held that the original transfer order in this case was valid. It opined that there is a law-of-the-case exception when an appellate court’s decision was clearly wrong. The court remanded and ordered the district court to grant relief.
The State claims that the lower court has improperly extended pretrial habeas cognizability to factual findings made by the transferor juvenile court. Further, pretrial habeas review is generally not allowed to challenge a statute’s application. Should an appellate court be permitted to decide what constitutes an “adjudication” in Section 52.04(j)(3)? Further, habeas is not a substitute for direct appeal. While the lower court acknowledged the appellate remedy, it wrongly framed it as a threshold jurisdictional issue.
The State next argues that the court’s reliance on Ex parte Thomas to retroactively grant the district court jurisdiction under the original transfer order is erroneous. This is contrary to the procedural history of this case. Under the law of the case, even if the CCA’s first decision was wrong, it should control Moon’s retrial proceedings. It observes that Ex parte Thomas did not resolve the underlying factual issue in Moon’s case, so it does not fall under the clearly erroneous exception to the rule.
Last, the State argues that Moon’s claim is barred by estoppel. Moon got the relief he requested the first time from the CCA by claiming that the district court lacked jurisdiction when he was convicted.