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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In this eminent domain case, the appellant, W. H. Seals, appeals the trial court’s judgment granting the appellee, Upper Trinity Regional Water District, property rights from the appellant for the installation of water lines and awarding the appellant $16,735. HOLDING:The court reverses the trial court’s judgment and remands the cause to the trial court to proceed on appellant’s first amended plea to the jurisdiction; special exceptions; objections, and declaratory judgment. The court holds that the appellee’s actions at the Sept. 26, 2000, status conference hearing constituted a general appearance and that the trial court therefore had personal jurisdiction over appellee in September 2000. In eminent domain cases, the condemnor’s request for access to survey the property during the trial court’s administrative jurisdiction occurs before the trial court has obtained judicial jurisdiction, which is only achieved when the condemnee files an objection in the trial court to the special commissioners’ award. The court does not construe the rules of civil procedure, read together with the appropriate provisions of the property code, to allow for a general appearance in a trial court before that court’s judicial jurisdiction is invoked. Rather, in the context of eminent domain cases, a general appearance, for purposes of waiving citation, cannot occur until after the trial court has judicial jurisdiction over the pending cause. Therefore, in determining whether the appellee made a general appearance in the trial court, the court look to its actions in the court beginning on Sept. 13, 2000 � the date that the appellant filed his objections to the special commissioners’ award and consequently invoked the trial court’s judicial jurisdiction. To constitute an answer or appearance, the party must seek a judgment or a decision by the court on some question. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 120a provides a vehicle by which a party may file a pleading without making a general appearance when the party objects to the jurisdiction of the court over the person or property of the defendant on the ground that such party or property is not amenable to process issued by the courts of this state. The words “not amenable to process” mean that the special appearance is available solely to establish that the court cannot, under the federal and state constitutions and the appropriate state statues, validly obtain jurisdiction over the person or the property of the defendant with regard to the cause of action pled. The appellant contends that appellee’s participation at the status conference hearing on Sept. 26, 2000, constituted a general appearance. As previously mentioned, this hearing was set on the trial court’s own motion after the appellant sent a letter to the court. The court clerk sent a notice-of-hearing letter, which directed the attorneys of record to appear before the court. The appellee argues that it participated in the hearing only to the extent of responding to the court’s questions and sought no affirmative relief that would invoke the trial court’s in personam jurisdiction. Conversely, the appellant argues that the appellee went beyond acting as a silent figurehead in the courtroom. Rather, the appellant asserts that the appellee sought affirmative action from the trial court, pointing to two separate instances. Although the appellee attempted to avoid invoking the trial court’s jurisdiction by stating on the record that it was, “here in response to the call of the Court” and “not asking for any affirmative relief,” the record reveals that the appellee’s participation at the hearing constituted a general appearance. The appellee stated that it had no objection to the appellant’s unsworn testimony, reserved the right to place the appellant under oath, and asked the trial court to determine the scope of the pleadings in this case. The appellee’s actions rose above the level of merely acting as a silent figurehead in the courtroom and represent affirmative action which impliedly recognized the trial court’s jurisdiction over the parties and the pendency of the proceeding. This is especially true in light of the fact that appellee did not assert that it was not amenable to process prior to, contemporaneous with, or during the hearing. Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, “[e]very appearance, prior to judgment, not in compliance with [the special appearance] rule is a general appearance.” Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 120a(1). OPINION:Dixon W. Holman, J.; Holman, Gardner and Walker, JJ.

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