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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:John G. Kenedy Jr. died in 1948. His will was probated in Kenedy County in cause number 189, and his estate was left to his wife, Elena Suess Kenedy. John’s sister, Sarita K. East, challenged some of the distribution in a cause numbered 35, but the entire estate was settled in 1952. Sarita died in 1961. Her estate was probated in Kenedy County under cause number 244. Portions of her estate were given to the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation, while portions were extensively litigated. In a will contest, a Nueces County trial court, in cause number 101-209-D, upheld the validity of Sarita’s will, and the ruling was upheld on appeal in 1978. Litigation filed in 1964 contesting an inter vivos gift, cause number 85, was ultimately dismissed. And in 1986, in cause number 344, the Attorney General sought a final accounting of Sarita’s estate that ended in 1987. Elena died in 1984. Her will was probated in Kenedy County in cause number 379. A portion of her estate went to the John G. Kenedy Jr. Charitable Trust. Her estate was settled in 1985. Ann Fernandez, who claims she just recently learned that she is the biological child of John, filed several bills of review to reopen most of the cases referred to. She filed bills of review in Kenedy County Court for causes 189, 344, 379 and 395 (referring to the estates of John, Sarita and Elena). She filed bills of review in the Kenedy County district court for causes 35 and 85. She also filed two bills of review in Nueces County � one for the will contest, and another dealing with Exxon Mobil. Fernandez claimed she was entitled to an accounting and distribution from the foundation and the trust. Because Kenedy County does not have a statutory probate court, the foundation and trust filed motions to assign a statutory probate court judge in causes 344 and 395, pursuant to Probate Code �5B. A statutory judge was appointed by the presiding judge of the statutory probate courts pursuant to Government Code �25.0022. The judge consolidated the bills of review in causes 189, 344 and 379 into 395. The judge also ordered the pending cases in Nueces County be transferred to his court and consolidated with 395. Fernandez filed a motion to transfer causes 35 and 85 to the county court and consolidate them with cause 395, too. The foundation filed a motion to dismiss, alleging the judge did not have jurisdiction to order the transfers. The trust filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that only the court that rendered the judgment can hear a bill of review challenging that judgment. The foundation made a similar argument in response to Fernandez’s motion to transfer. The statutory probate court judge denied the trust’s and the foundation’s motions/pleas. The same day he ordered causes 35 and 85 transferred as requested by Fernandez. The trust and the foundation filed for a writ of mandamus. They challenge the statutory probate court judge’s authority to transfer the bills of review pending in other courts to his court. HOLDING:Writ conditionally granted. The court first points out that the statutory probate court judge could not have granted the foundation and trust all of the relief they now seek because he granted the motion to transfer 35 and 85 on the same day that he denied the plea to the jurisdiction and motion to dismiss. In other words, those cases were not yet pending before his court when he denied the relators’ motions. The court, therefore, treats the writ of mandamus as applying only to the order transferring and consolidating 189, 344 and 379, and the order transferring and consolidating the two Nueces County causes. The court then turns to decide whether the statutory probate court judge abused his discretion ordering the transfers. The tension is between the longstanding rule that bills of review are to be filed in the courts that rendered judgment and �5B, which allows transfers of certain “pending” probate matters. The court states its support for the continued soundness of the general rule, but also acknowledges that once a bill of review has been filed in the court in which the judgment was entered and jurisdiction has attached, the case may be transferred to another court for a determination on the merits in appropriate cases. “The focus in determining whether the transferee court has jurisdiction is not whether the court that rendered the judgment under attack ordered the transfer, but whether the court hearing the bill of review was authorized to do so by law after jurisdiction attached in the proper court.” The court thus holds that once jurisdiction attaches in the proper court, a bill of review may be transferred by another court to itself if there is specific authority for the transfer. Section 5B provides that specific authority. Despite its holding, though, the court ultimately finds that the statutory probate court judge did not have authority under �5B to transfer the bills of review to itself because the authority to transfer is only triggered when an estate is pending before the court, and no estate is pending in these cases. Black’s Law Dictionary includes in its definition of “pending” the fact that “an action or suit is”pending’ from its inception until the rendition of a final judgment.” Under that definition, “pending” does not, therefore, describe a closed estate. The question then becomes whether filing a bill of review renders an estate that has been closed “pending” for purposes of triggering the transfer power contained in �5B. Finding no orders setting aside the final orders in the probate matters, the court finds that the estates remain closed. To reach any other conclusion, the court adds would mean that any closed estate could be rendered “pending.” Under this rationale, every estate ever closed could be rendered “pending” at any time in the future. The court does not find that the legislative preferences for convenience and consistency compels a different reading. “Because the three estates were closed long ago and not reopened by the mere filing of the bills of review, we conclude none of these three estates is”pending.’ Without an estate pending before him, the statutory probate court judge was without any statutory authority under section 5B to transfer to the county court the bills of review filed in the District Court of Nueces County and the District Court of Kenedy County. In ordering the transfers, the statutory probate court judge clearly failed to analyze the law correctly and properly apply it to the facts before him.” OPINION:Valdez, C.J.; before Valdez, C.J., Hinojosa and Castillo, JJ. Castillo, J., dissents.

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