What is a Rule 11 agreement?

Rule 11 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure allows parties and their attorneys to enter agreements regarding a case. For example, a Rule 11 agreement allows parties to agree how bills will be paid; who will have possession of the kids for a period of time; or that a discovery response deadline be extended. The requirement of a Rule 11 agreement is that it be between parties or their attorneys, be in writing and filed with the court, or made in open court on the record. Reading an agreement into the record in open court has the same effect as a written agreement because the court reporter’s transcription may be reduced to writing. 

Can a Rule 11 agreement be used to settle an entire case?

Rule 11 agreements can be used to when finalizing an entire case. This is most often done when parties appear in court and read their Rule 11 agreement into the record. The court will then render judgment by officially announcing its decision in open court or by written memorandum filed with the district clerk. The trial court must clearly indicate its intent to render judgment at that time rather than at a time in the future. A judge generally states: “I accept and approve the agreement of the parties, and I render it as an order the court.” If the court only approves the agreement and does not render it an order then the judgment is not finally rendered.

Can you revoke consent to a Rule 11 settlement agreement before judgment is rendered? 

A party has the right to revoke consent to a Rule 11 settlement agreement at any time before the judgment is rendered. In order for a valid consent judgment to exist, the parties must explicitly and unmistakably give consent at the time the trial court renders judgment on that agreement. Consent must exist at the very moment the court undertakes to make the agreement the judgment of the court. To that effect, a party can withdraw consent to the agreement by filing a pleading prior to rendition of judgment that revokes consent. A party can also file a motion opposing entry of judgment. A party can even stand in court before judgment is rendered and state: “I revoke consent to the agreement.”

The Texas Fifth Court of Appeals stated in 2003 that “[a] court cannot render a valid agreed judgment when consent of one of the parties is wanting.” Hawkins v. Howard, 97 S.W.3d 676, 679 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2003, no pet.). The Texas Supreme Court previously stated: “When a trial court has knowledge that one of the parties to a suit does not consent to a judgment, the trial court should refuse to sanction the agreement by making it the judgment of the court.” See Quintero v. Jim Walter Homes, 654 S.W.2d 442, 444 (Tex. 1983)). The lesson for attorneys and parties is that you need to seek rendition of judgment based on the Rule 11 agreement as soon as possible. This limits the possibility that the settlement agreement can later be revoked.