Bills of Review in Texas

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Jason B. Freeman

Jason B. Freeman

Managing Member


Mr. Freeman is the founding member of Freeman Law, PLLC. He is a dual-credentialed attorney-CPA, author, law professor, and trial attorney.

Mr. Freeman has been named by Chambers & Partners as among the leading tax and litigation attorneys in the United States and to U.S. News and World Report’s Best Lawyers in America list. He is a former recipient of the American Bar Association’s “On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyers” in America award. Mr. Freeman was named the “Leading Tax Controversy Litigation Attorney of the Year” for the State of Texas for 2019 and 2020 by AI.

Mr. Freeman has been recognized multiple times by D Magazine, a D Magazine Partner service, as one of the Best Lawyers in Dallas, and as a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters service. He has previously been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Top 100 Up-And-Coming Attorney in Texas.

Mr. Freeman currently serves as the chairman of the Texas Society of CPAs (TXCPA). He is a former chairman of the Dallas Society of CPAs (TXCPA-Dallas). Mr. Freeman also served multiple terms as the President of the North Texas chapter of the American Academy of Attorney-CPAs. He has been previously recognized as the Young CPA of the Year in the State of Texas (an award given to only one CPA in the state of Texas under 40).

What is a Bill of Review? 

A bill of review is an equitable proceeding, seeking to set aside a prior judgment that is no longer subject to challenge by a motion for new trial or appeal. Although it is an equitable proceeding, the fact that an injustice has occurred is not sufficient to justify relief.  While the typical scenario for a bill of review is a default judgment, a bill of review may actually be filed after any other type of judgment.

A bill of review, when properly brought, is a direct attack on a judgment. A direct attack is a proceeding brought for the purpose of changing a former judgment and securing the rendition of a correct judgment.  When a bill of review fails as a direct attack, it may instead constitute a collateral attack.

What are the elements of a bill of review?

A bill of review plaintiff who does not dispute that he was properly served in the underlying action must plead and prove:

However, once a bill-of-review applicant proves the absence of service or lack of notice of the dispositive trial setting, the applicant is relieved of proving the traditional elements and the court may grant the applicant’s petition if it is timely.

Generally, a bill-of-review plaintiff must file his claim within four years of rendition of the judgment he attacks.

The Standard of Review for a Bill of Review

In reviewing the granting or denial of a bill of review, an appellate court draws every presumption in favor of the lower court’s ruling, which will not be disturbed unless it is affirmatively shown that there was an abuse of discretion.  The trial court may be reversed for abusing its discretion if it has acted in an unreasonable or arbitrary manner or without reference to any guiding rules and principles.

The Meritorious Defense Requirement and Procedure

With regard to the meritorious defense requirement, the petition must allege, with particularity, sworn facts sufficient to constitute a meritorious defense and, as a pretrial matter, present prima facie proof to support the contention.

A prima facie meritorious defense is made out when it is determined that the complainant’s defense is not barred as a matter of law and that he will be entitled to judgment on retrial if no evidence to the contrary is offered.  This determination is a question of law for the court.

Prima facie proof may be comprised of documents, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits on file along with such other evidence as the trial court may receive in its discretion.  The bill of review defendant may respond with like proof showing that the defense is barred as a matter of law, but factual questions arising out of factual disputes are resolved in favor of the complainant for the purposes of this pretrial, legal determination.

If the court determines that a prima facie meritorious defense has not been made out, the proceeding terminates and the trial court must dismiss the case.  If a prima facie meritorious defense is shown, the court will then conduct a trial on the bill of review petition where the other elements will be considered.

Freeman Law Tax Attorneys

Freeman Law aggressively represents clients in tax litigation at both the state and federal levels. When the stakes are high, clients rely on our experience, knowledge, and talent to help them navigate all levels of the tax dispute lifecycle—from audits and examinations to the courtroom and all levels of appeals. Schedule a consultation or call (214) 984-3000 to discuss your tax needs.