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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In March 2006, the state of Texas filed a civil action against Kevin Gore pursuant to Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure seeking forfeiture of personal property the state seized as contraband. The civil case apparently arose from events that led to Gore’s arrest and subsequent indictment for felony drug offenses. The state served Gore with various discovery requests together with the original petition. Gore responded to the discovery in May 2006 and also served requests for written discovery and notices of deposition upon the state. On June 8, 2006, the state filed a motion seeking abatement of the civil forfeiture lawsuit until the resolution of related criminal charges. Trial judge Frazier Brown Jr. ordered the state to respond to all outstanding requests for written discovery but otherwise ordered the forfeiture action abated until Dec. 31, 2006. The abatement order provided that Gore could file a motion to compel discovery after Dec. 31, 2006; Gore could depose two deputy sheriffs and a representative of the state, and could file a motion for summary judgment after Jan. 1, 2007; and the case would be set for trial on the Feb. 12, 2007 jury docket. Pursuant to Brown’s order, the state filed its disclosures and responses to Gore’s discovery requests on June 20, 2006. The state objected to two requests for production, one as irrelevant and the other as calling for work product. The state did not interpose any other any objections or claims of privilege. All of the state’s unverified answers to interrogatories and most of its disclosures and responses to requests for production consisted of advising Gore to see the attached file. In January 2007, Gore served the state with his notices of intent to depose two deputy sheriffs and a designated representative of the sheriff’s department and attempted to confer with the state about purported inadequacies in the state’s responses to discovery. The state responded by filing a motion to continue the abatement. The motion was heard Jan. 29 by trial Judge Karen Pozza, who continued the abatement until May 7. Pozza also ruled that Gore could file and pursue a motion challenging the adequacy of the state’s disclosures and responses to discovery. Gore then filed a motion to compel and for sanctions. The motion was heard by trial Judge David A. Berchelmann Jr., who denied it without prejudice to Gore’s ability to re-urge the motion after the abatement was lifted. The abatement ordered by Pozza expired May 7, and Gore set his motion to compel and for sanctions for a hearing on May 8. During the hearing, again before Berchelmann, the state orally moved to continue the abatement. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court denied Gore’s motion to compel without reaching the merits of the motion and ordered the case “abated in its entirety until the criminal case is resolved.” Gore sought relief from this last order, requesting the 4th Court of Appeals to order Berchelmann to lift the abatement order, allow Gore to conduct depositions and order the state to properly answer discovery propounded by Gore. HOLDING:The court conditionally granted the writ of mandamus. A trial court abuses its discretion when it arbitrarily abates a civil case for an indefinite period of time. Nevertheless, the state argued in the trial court that because there were pending criminal proceedings, it was “absolutely entitled to a full abatement on everything.” The parties in the civil case, the court stated, are entitled to full discovery within a reasonable time, to develop their claims and defenses, and to have the case tried. “The pendency of a criminal investigation, indictment, or other proceeding,” the court stated, “does not affect a contemporaneous civil proceeding based on the same facts or parties” and does not justify abating or staying all discovery in the civil case until resolution of the criminal matter. A forfeiture proceeding, the court stated, is a civil case that shall proceed to trial in the same manner as in other civil cases. Accordingly, absent authority to the contrary, Gore has the same right as any other civil litigant to obtain full discovery within a reasonable time, develop his defenses and proceed to trial. The court recognized that the state “may have a legitimate interest in seeking some protection from civil discovery because disclosure could interfere with a criminal prosecution based on the same facts.” But the court stated that it is not good public policy to deny civil litigants their entitlement to a fully authorized discovery to assist in preparation of the suit merely because criminal matters may be pending. Rather, the proper remedy is an individually tailored protective order. Thus, the court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in abating the case until the criminal proceedings were resolved. Because the order halted all proceedings in the case, denied Gore his right to full discovery and severely compromised his ability to develop his defenses, Gore had no adequate remedy by appeal. OPINION:Hilbig, J.; Angelini, Speedlin and Hilbig, JJ.

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