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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The attorney general filed suit to establish the parent-child relationship between Thompson and three minor children. Thompson, who was incarcerated and proceeding pro se, filed an application for writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum, also known as a bench warrant, requesting permission to appear personally at pre-trial and trial hearings. The record does not reflect an explicit ruling on Thompson’s request, but the trial court proceeded to trial without issuing the bench warrant. Paternity test results presented at trial identified Thompson as the children’s father. Thompson could rebut the statutory presumption only by producing other genetic testing that excluded him as the genetic father or identified another man as the possible father. Thompson presented no such evidence. The trial court entered an order establishing the parent-child relationship, requiring Thompson to pay child support, and setting visitation. On appeal, Thompson contended, among other things, that the trial court erred by failing to consider and rule on his bench warrant request. A divided court of appeals, sitting en banc, reversed. Following previous decisions by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Court of Appeals District, the court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to expressly rule on Thompson’s request to be present at all hearings. The court rejected the attorney general’s argument that the trial court had no independent duty to identify and balance the factors courts must weigh to determine whether a bench warrant should issue in a civil proceeding. The court’s decision is in conflict with the decisions of several other courts of appeals. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. Following the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in Stone v. Morris, 546 F.2d 730 (1976), Texas courts of appeals have recognized a variety of factors that trial courts should consider when deciding whether to grant an inmate’s request for a bench warrant. These factors include the cost and inconvenience of transporting the prisoner to the courtroom; the security risk the prisoner presents to the court and public; whether the prisoner’s claims are substantial; whether the matter’s resolution can reasonably be delayed until the prisoner’s release; whether the prisoner can and will offer admissible, non-cumulative testimony that cannot be effectively presented by deposition, telephone or some other means; whether the prisoner’s presence is important in judging his demeanor and credibility; whether the trial is to the court or a jury; and the prisoner’s probability of success on the merits. The court of appeals reasoned that because the record did not reflect that the trial court balanced these factors, it could have improperly deprived Thompson of his constitutional right of access to the courts. Although Thompson’s request stated no basis for why his appearance in court was necessary to preserve his constitutional right, the court of appeals held that the trial court had an independent duty to identify and evaluate, on the record, the relevant Stonefactors before disposing of Thompson’s motion. This court disagrees. In general, the rules place the burden on litigants to identify with sufficient specificity the grounds for a ruling they seek. See Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21; Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 33.1(a)(1)(A). A litigant’s status as an inmate does not alter that burden. The central issue is the trial court’s responsibility to independently inquire into relevant facts not provided by the moving party. Thompson’s request for a bench warrant included no information by which the court could assess the necessity of his appearance. Although Thompson listed the Stonefactors in his request, he failed to provide any factual information showing why his interest in appearing outweighed the impact on the correctional system. In fact, the only pertinent information contained in the request was that he was located in Rosharon, more than 200 miles from the trial court. Thompson bore the burden to establish his right to relief. Thompson did not meet this burden. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by overruling his request for a bench warrant. Other courts of appeals have held that a trial court abuses its discretion when it fails to consider or act upon a prisoner’s request for a bench warrant. In many of these cases, the courts’ opinions do not reveal the content or quality of the bench warrant request. To the extent these cases suggest that a trial court has a duty to go beyond the bench warrant request and independently inquire into the necessity of an inmate’s appearance, regardless of the content of the request, the court disapproves of them. As the court in Pedraza v. Crossroads Sec. Sys., 960 S.W.2d 339 (Tex. App. � Corpus Christi 1997, no pet.) noted, since a prisoner has no absolute right to be present in a civil action, it follows that the prisoner requesting a bench warrant must justify the need for his presence. Because Thompson failed to make the required showing and the trial court is not required, on its own, to seek out the necessary information, the court holds that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by implicitly denying Thompson’s request for a bench warrant. OPINION:Harriet O’Neill, J.

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