In Hoffpauir v. Cormier, parties sought to modify the terms of a trust agreement under Texas Property Code section 112.054(a) to extend the trust’s term. No. 09-18-00358-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 8473 (Tex. App.—Beaumont August 21, 2019, no pet. history). After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted the modification. A pro se beneficiary appealed but failed to have the reporter’s record prepared.

The court of appeals summarily affirmed due to an inadequate record. The court first set forth the standard of review for a suit to modify a trust: “We review an order modifying the terms of a trust under an abuse of discretion standard.” Id. The court noted that “[T]he appellant bears the burden to supply this Court with a complete record demonstrating the trial court abused its discretion.” Id. “Appellate courts generally presume pretrial hearings are non-evidentiary and that the trial court only considered evidence filed with the clerk. However, if the proceeding’s nature, the trial court’s order, the parties’ briefs, or other indications show that an evidentiary hearing took place, then the complaining party must present a record of the hearing to establish harmful error.” Id. The court held that multiple indicators showed that the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the modification of the trust agreement. The court then held that “When a party fails to make the reporter’s record part of the appellate record, we presume sufficient evidence was presented to support the trial court’s finding and judgment.” Id. The court then concluded: “Here, Hoffpauir complains of the trial court’s order allowing for modification of the trust agreement following an evidentiary hearing, but she has failed to present us with the reporter’s record of the hearing. Therefore, we presume the trial court properly conducted the hearing on July 17, 2018, and sufficient evidence was presented for the trial court to make all necessary findings.” Id. The court affirmed the modification.

Photo of David Fowler Johnson David Fowler Johnson

dfjohnson@winstead.com
817.420.8223

David maintains an active trial and appellate practice and has consistently worked on financial institution litigation matters throughout his career. David is the primary author of the Texas Fiduciary Litigator blog, which reports on legal cases and issues impacting the fiduciary…

dfjohnson@winstead.com
817.420.8223

David maintains an active trial and appellate practice and has consistently worked on financial institution litigation matters throughout his career. David is the primary author of the Texas Fiduciary Litigator blog, which reports on legal cases and issues impacting the fiduciary field in Texas. Read More

David’s financial institution experience includes (but is not limited to): breach of contract, foreclosure litigation, lender liability, receivership and injunction remedies upon default, non-recourse and other real estate lending, class action, RICO actions, usury, various tort causes of action, breach of fiduciary duty claims, and preference and other related claims raised by receivers.

David also has experience in estate and trust disputes including will contests, mental competency issues, undue influence, trust modification/clarification, breach of fiduciary duty and related claims, and accountings. David’s recent trial experience includes:

  • Representing a bank in federal class action suit where trust beneficiaries challenged whether the bank was the authorized trustee of over 220 trusts;
  • Representing a bank in state court regarding claims that it mismanaged oil and gas assets;
  • Representing a bank who filed suit in probate court to modify three trusts to remove a charitable beneficiary that had substantially changed operations;
  • Represented an individual executor of an estate against claims raised by a beneficiary for breach of fiduciary duty and an accounting; and
  • Represented an individual trustee against claims raised by a beneficiary for breach of fiduciary duty, mental competence of the settlor, and undue influence.

David is one of twenty attorneys in the state (of the 84,000 licensed) that has the triple Board Certification in Civil Trial Law, Civil Appellate and Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Additionally, David is a member of the Civil Trial Law Commission of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. This commission writes and grades the exam for new applicants for civil trial law certification.

David maintains an active appellate practice, which includes:

  • Appeals from final judgments after pre-trial orders such as summary judgments or after jury trials;
  • Interlocutory appeals dealing with temporary injunctions, arbitration, special appearances, sealing the record, and receiverships;
  • Original proceedings such as seeking and defending against mandamus relief; and
  • Seeking emergency relief staying trial court’s orders pending appeal or mandamus.

For example, David was the lead appellate lawyer in the Texas Supreme Court in In re Weekley Homes, LP, 295 S.W.3d 309 (Tex. 2009). The Court issued a ground-breaking opinion in favor of David’s client regarding the standards that a trial court should follow in ordering the production of computers in discovery.

David previously taught Appellate Advocacy at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law located in Fort Worth. David is licensed and has practiced in the U.S. Supreme Court; the Fifth, Seventh, and Eleventh Federal Circuits; the Federal District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Texas; the Texas Supreme Court and various Texas intermediate appellate courts. David also served as an adjunct professor at Baylor University Law School, where he taught products liability and portions of health law. He has authored many legal articles and spoken at numerous legal education courses on both trial and appellate issues. His articles have been cited as authority by the Texas Supreme Court (twice) and the Texas Courts of Appeals located in Waco, Texarkana, Beaumont, Tyler and Houston (Fourteenth District), and a federal district court in Pennsylvania. David’s articles also have been cited by McDonald and Carlson in their Texas Civil Practice treatise, William v. Dorsaneo in the Texas Litigation Guide, and various authors in the Baylor Law ReviewSt. Mary’s Law JournalSouth Texas Law Review and Tennessee Law Review.

Representative Experience

  • Civil Litigation and Appellate Law