County Judge Dismissed From Lawsuit Involving Dispute Over Shooting Range on a Guardianship-Estate Property

July 12, 2022 | Client Results

The Eleventh Court of Appeals on April 28, 2022, ruled in favor of Jackson Walker’s client Scurry County Judge Dan Hicks and fellow appellee Pam Browning in a lawsuit involving property, a sports shooting range, and a guardianship.

The underlying dispute in the case arose from a guardianship that has existed since the 1980s in Scurry County for the benefit of Stacy James Browning. His estate acquired property that subsequently were leased for a sports shooting range starting in 2009. After the appellants in the case acquired nearby property in 2017, a fight started about the gun range, and the appellants claimed that bullets were constantly flying into their property and created an unsafe environment. In 2019, the appellants wrote to Scurry County Judge Dan Hicks claiming that the guardianship was being mismanaged and that it was dangerous to both Stacy Browning and the nearby property owners for the guardianship property to be leased as a gun range. Judge Hicks, in his judicial capacity, responded to the appellants and said he was looking into the issue. Nothing further was done by the appellants at that time.

Later that year in August, the appellants filed a motion to intervene in the estate, citing safety concerns for Stacy Browning. The appellants alleged that Judge Hicks abrogated his duties as county judge by ignoring the issue. The appellants then filed a claim against Judge Hicks, alleging that he is liable for failing to perform his duties as a county judge. Judge Hicks subsequently recused himself since he is a party, and the matter was heard by Judge Ernie Armstrong.

Jackson Walker filed a plea to the jurisdiction asking the district court to dismiss Judge Hicks because all of the facts that give rise to the appellants’ claims against Judge Hicks were judicial acts that were within his judicial capacity, and he is therefore protected by judicial immunity. The trial court granted the plea to the jurisdiction, and that decision was affirmed on appeal.

Jackson Walker partners Amanda N. Crouch and Jon Mark Hogg represented Judge Hicks in the lawsuit. The case, Creekside Rural Invs. v. Hicks, was brought before the Texas Eleventh Court of Appeals on appeal from the 132nd District Court in Scurry County, Texas.

Meet JW

Founded in 1887, Jackson Walker continues to advance the world of business by helping organizations of all sizes navigate today’s increasingly complex, interconnected legal landscape. With about one-third of the Firm’s more than 450 attorneys practicing litigation, JW has one of the largest trial practices in the Southwest. To explore the Firm’s experience representing government and judicial entities in litigation, visit our Trial & Appellate Litigation page.