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Civil Litigation No. 02-0293, 7/3/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: The court considers whether a district court may vacate a Board of Disciplinary Appeals order suspending an attorney from practicing law after this court affirmed the suspension order. Here, the real party in interest, Alto Watson, the suspended attorney, argues that the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure give district courts enforcement power over BODA judgments; thus, the district court has jurisdiction to hear his claim. Conversely, the relators, BODA and the State Bar of Texas, argue that the district court’s action in this case interferes with BODA’s jurisdiction over Watson’s suspension. HOLDING: The court conditionally grants extraordinary relief, ordering the district court to vacate its order voiding the BODA judgment and to dismiss Watson’s remaining claims. Because this case presents an issue of statewide importance – the interference by a district court in the regulation of the legal practice – the court finds compelling reasons to exercise jurisdiction in this matter. The district court not only abused its discretion by interfering with BODA’s jurisdiction but also continues to interfere with BODA’s jurisdiction by retaining the pending claims. Based on the court’s powers to regulate the practice of law, the court promulgated a regulatory scheme in which the power to regulate the practice of law is delegated to BODA. Here, BODA’s mandamus request presents issues of statewide importance. Because the district court disregarded the fact that this court previously affirmed Watson’s BODA judgment, the court believes that BODA has presented “compelling reasons” for bypassing the court of appeals and seeking mandamus relief directly before this Court. The court exercises jurisdiction in this matter. Rule 2.20 states an explicit rule specific to revocation of probation proceedings. Based on rule 2.20, BODA has exclusive jurisdiction to hear a motion to revoke a probated suspension from the practice of law. Likewise, a BODA judgment revoking a probated suspension cannot be superseded or stayed. Thus, rule 15.03, when read in conjunction with rule 2.20, establishes that the district court’s enforcement power is solely ministerial when BODA seeks to enforce a judgment revoking an attorney’s probation. Otherwise, the language of rule 2.20 would have no meaning. This court has consistently granted mandamus relief when a lower court interferes with the disciplinary process. In Re: State Bar of Texas, 960 S.W.2d 651 (Tex. 1997). The court has never considered whether a district court’s interference with a finally adjudicated BODA disciplinary judgment constitutes an abuse of discretion. Rule 2.20 establishes that BODA retains jurisdiction during an attorney’s entire suspension period. Thus, an attorney-license suspension presents a unique circumstance in which jurisdiction over a suspension continues past the final judgment for purposes of supervision and enforcement. Consequently, Watson’s argument that BODA no longer has jurisdiction over the judgment suspending his license to practice law disregards the plain language of rule 2.20. Hence, the district court’s order declaring the BODA judgment void – or, in other words, effectively revoking the BODA suspension judgment – not only “supersedes” the BODA order, but also interferes with BODA’s jurisdiction over the “full term of suspension.” The court believes that because the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure are dispositive on the issue of BODA’s jurisdiction, the district court abused its discretion in voiding the BODA judgment. In In Re: SWEPI L.P., 85 S.W.3d 800 (Tex. 2002), the real party in interest argued that the relators were not entitled to mandamus relief for a probate court’s ruling on a plea to the jurisdiction because an adequate appellate remedy existed. Although the court recognized that pleas to the jurisdiction will not ordinarily be reviewed by mandamus, the court granted mandamus relief because the probate court erroneously interfered with another court’s jurisdiction: “[T]he probate court not only erroneously concluded that it had jurisdiction, but also actively interfered with the jurisdiction of the Harris County court.” BODA likewise argues that appellate relief is inadequate here because the district court order interferes with BODA’s continuing jurisdiction over Watson’s suspension. Moreover, by allowing Watson to practice law after BODA revoked probation and suspended Watson’s license, the district court’s order “supersedes” BODA’s judgment contrary to rule 2.20′s express language. Accordingly, this case presents an analogous situation to the circumstances in In Re: SWEPIand the jurisdictional interference cases before it. Thus, the court believes that BODA lacks an adequate appellate remedy and mandamus relief is proper. OPINION: Schneider, J., delivered the opinion of the court.

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