In re Bloom

Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-15-01364-CV (December 9, 2015)

Justices Francis, Myers, and Schenck (Opinion)

When his mother died intestate, Michael Bloom and his sister fell into a predictable dispute about her estate. The dispute landed them on the probate court’s contested docket and ultimately gave rise to a lawsuit by the sister against Bloom and a cohort for alleged misconduct regarding some of his mother’s inter vivos transfers shortly before her death. When Bloom repeatedly reasserted arguments the Probate Court had rejected, that court entered a series of monetary sanctions against him. And when he failed to pay them despite apparently having the means to do so, the court awarded “death penalty” sanctions against him, striking his pleadings and rendering a default judgment for his sister, including attorney’s fees. But that decision was interlocutory because the sister’s claims against Bloom’s co-defendant remained pending. So, Bloom sought appellate relief via mandamus. The Dallas Court of Appeals rejected that entreaty, however. The Court acknowledged that most sanctions awards that “have the effect of adjudicating a dispute, … but which do not result in the rendition of an appealable judgment” may be addressed by mandamus because “the eventual remedy by appeal is inadequate.” But not every such case, the Court said, and not here in particular. The death-penalty sanctions against Bloom were interlocutory only because claims remained pending against another party in the case. Bloom would not suffer adverse effects from the ongoing proceedings solely against that other party, and he would have access to an adequate remedy on appeal after final judgment in the case. Further, the Court said, if Bloom were concerned about delay, “nothing prevents him from seeking severance of the trial court’s order rendering judgment against him,” which would provide him an avenue for earlier appeal. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals denied Bloom’s mandamus petition.