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In this case, the 66th District Court of Hill County transferred a suit seeking the removal of a trustee and other relief to the county court at law. When the suit was filed, the Texas Property Code provided that district courts have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all proceedings concerning trusts, including proceedings to appoint or remove a trustee, determine the liability of a trustee, or require an accounting by a trustee. Act of May 26, 1997, 75th Leg., R.S., ch. 1375, § 5, 1997 Tex. Gen. Laws 5162, 5163 (amended 2005 and 2007) (current version at TEX. PROP. CODE § 115.001(a)). Because the Texas Property Code vests exclusive jurisdiction over the claims in this case in the district court, we hold that the county court at law had no jurisdiction to grant the relief sought and the judgment it rendered was void.

Letha and Ray Carroll were the parents of Johnny and Donald. Ray Carroll died in 1987, leaving an irrevocable testamentary trust called the Johnny Carroll Trust. Ray named Johnny as the trustee and Letha as the beneficiary of the trust. In November 2005, Donald and Letha sued Johnny, individually and as trustee, in the 66th District Court of Hill County.*fn1 They alleged that Johnny failed to provide an accounting, engaged in self-dealing, wasted trust assets, and failed to file income tax returns. Donald and Letha requested that the court order an accounting, remove Johnny as trustee, and award damages for his alleged misconduct.

In February 2006, the case was transferred to the Hill County Court at Law. By partial summary judgment that court removed Johnny as trustee, ordered him to provide an accounting, and ordered the trust records to be turned over to Donald, the successor trustee. In a final default judgment signed October 3, 2006, the county court awarded Donald and Letha $1 million for breach of fiduciary duty, $2.8 million in exemplary damages, and $15,000 in attorney’s fees. Johnny filed a motion for new trial on January 5, 2007, claiming he never received notice of the October 3 trial setting and did not receive notice of the default judgment until December 4. The county court never ruled on the motion and it was overruled by operation of law.

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