BEAUMONT – A Texas appeals court dismissed a couple’s case involving Montgomery County’s order that makes it illegal to discharge firearms in unincorporated areas due to a subject-matter jurisdiction issue.
The Court of Appeals 9th District of Texas at Beaumont concluded that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the dispute between Terry and Jennifer Porter and Montgomery County. Due to the jurisdiction issue, the appeals court could not address the couple’s issue that the trial court mistakenly granted the county a motion for summary judgment. These circumstances forced the appeals court to dismiss the case with prejudice.
The case stems from a dispute between the Porters and the county.
In 2008, the Porters bought four contiguous lots, totaling more than 21 acres in an unincorporated subdivision in Montgomery County in 2008. They fenced in the area and opened a shooting range, according to the opinion.
About four years later, the couple received a letter from the county attorney, stating discharging firearms on their lots was prohibited. In 2005, the Commissioners Court of Montgomery County passed an order prohibiting the discharge of firearms in subdivisions within the county’s unincorporated areas.
After getting the letter, the Porters asked the Commissioner’s Court to remove their four lots from the subdivision. Their request was denied following a public hearing in February 2013.
In 2015, the Porters sued the county, seeking a declaratory judgment that the order regulating the firearm discharges did not apply to their property. In their suit, they alleged that sovereign immunity did not apply in their case because the Declaratory Judgments Act authorized courts to determine whether ordinances are being applied properly, according to court records.
The county asserted that governmental immunity deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over the couple’s claims. The couple and the county filed for summary judgements, according to the court opinion.
The trial court denied the county’s plea to the jurisdiction and the couple’s motion for summary judgement, but granted the county’s motion for summary judgment. Both parties appealed the trial court ruling.
The appeals court concluded that since no claim was made asserting that the order rendered by the “Commissioners Court was invalid, the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the controversy to allow it to provide the parties with its interpretation of the order. We hold the trial court erred by failing to grant Montgomery County’s plea to the jurisdiction, and we order the suit dismissed for want of jurisdiction,” according to court records.