Supreme Court of Texas Blog: Legal Issues Before the Texas Supreme Court
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Final Orders for June 2017

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Earlier today, the Texas Supreme Court issued decisions in its final four argued cases from the term.

The Court’s official website has been struggling to […]

Earlier today, the Texas Supreme Court issued decisions in its final four argued cases from the term.

The Court’s official website has been struggling to recover from a serious server problem earlier this week, but I’m posting a copy of the opinions here:

(Some older opinions are gathered on this page.)

You can also see my website’s version of the full orders list.

The stats on my website have been updated but not yet triple-checked. You can see:

(There were 11 cases with dissents this term. I bet the “under” but, at exactly 11, I think that qualifies as a push.)

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Are the SCOTX dissents coming in June?

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I’ve been publishing voting stats about the Texas Supreme Court since 2010, but my first project was a look back at four years in which […]

I’ve been publishing voting stats about the Texas Supreme Court since 2010, but my first project was a look back at four years in which the court had the same nine members (the 2006 to 2009 terms). Over that span, the court issued about 25 decisions with a dissent each year — and about 9 per year were 5-4 votes.

The 2010 term marked a recent low with only 11 cases receiving any dissent from the judgment. Since then, the totals have been 22, 23, 14, 19, 15, and (last year) 18 decisions with dissents. (You can poke through the details on the Texas Supreme Court voting patterns charts.)

With a month to go, the total for the 2017 term is only 5:

Dissents per term

As it happens, dissents saw a similarly slow start last year. Through May 2016, the court had issued only 7 decisions with dissents — before a surge of dissents in June pushed the year-end total to 18.

Should we expect this term to be similar? Or will this be the fewest dissents since at least 2005?

If placing a bet, I would take the “under.”

The short reason why: there are very few “older” argued cases yet to be decided.

For obvious reasons, it takes longer to to produce decisions with dissents than without. Some time is needed for an internal back-and-forth of drafts among the justices. The dissent reacts to what the majority writes, and often the majority makes improvements and adds a section respodning to the dissent. In rare instances, a dissent might even persuade enough other justices to win the day. (If you see a published “dissent” with an unusually detailed fact section and procedural history, that might be a tell.)

Most of the dissents published in June 2016 were from cases that had been argued the previous fall (or even earlier), so the court had plenty of time for its internal deliberations. Only three of last June’s dissents were for cases argued that spring.

In 2017, those older cases are already off the board. Only a single case remains from last fall’s argument calendar (Pagayon v. ExxonMobil, No. 15-0642). Only two remain from this January. The other sixteen cases were argued in the February or March sittings.

Although I wouldn’t bet on a large number of additional dissents, it’s always possible. The cases argued late this spring might prove especially contentious. What’s clear, however, is that if the court does release a significant number of dissents this June, they will have been written in impressively short time.

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School finance: The State wins; the ISDs lose; the Legislature now has a wider range of options to reform the system

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Today, the Court issued its ruling in the Texas school finance case. The public information officer’s summary is more than 3000 words. I tried it […]

Today, the Court issued its ruling in the Texas school finance case. The public information officer’s summary is more than 3000 words. I tried it in three tweets:

The vote was unanimous on the merits, although some Justices wrote separately to emphasize the importance of education.

Comments Off on School finance: The State wins; the ISDs lose; the Legislature now has a wider range of options to reform the systemTags: Case Notes

No opinions or grants [Mar. 11, 2016]

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The Court again had a quiet orders list this week, with no opinions or grants.

The Court again had a quiet orders list this week, with no opinions or grants.

Comments Off on No opinions or grants [Mar. 11, 2016]Tags: Order Lists

No opinions or grants [Mar. 4, 2016]

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The Court did not issue any opinions with this week’s orders list.

The Court did not issue any opinions with this week’s orders list.

Comments Off on No opinions or grants [Mar. 4, 2016]Tags: Order Lists

Personal jurisdiction in a defamation case that crosses borders; interpreting an oil-and-gas agreement [Feb. 26, 2016]

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With this week’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in five cases. It did not select any new cases for future argument.

Looking at […]

With this week’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in five cases. It did not select any new cases for future argument.

Looking at the calendar, to remain on-target to meet last year’s target Court has a fair number of cases to be decided in the next few months, to equal last year’s target of clearing its docket by the end of June. I see 44 argued cases remaining to be decided, with approximately 17 weeks remaining until the end of June.

Opinions

Does Texas have personal jurisdiction over a Mexican TV station whose broadcasts reach the state?
Summary for previous event:
Set to be argued on October 12, 2015

This is a defamation case involving a broadcast that originated in Mexico and, it is alleged, caused harm in Texas. TV Azteka broadcasts from a location in Mexico that reaches both a local audience and several cities on the Texas side of the border.

The TV station filed a special appearance arguing that Texas courts lack jurisdiction to hear this defamation claim. The trial court denied that request, and the court of appeals agreed that Texas courts can proceed.

The parties dispute the degree to which the TV station has chosen to avail itself of the business opportunities, and legal responsibilities that may come, from having its signal extend into Texas.The plaintiff points to some materials suggesting that TV Azteka was selling advertisers on the benefits of having the signal extend into Texas. Emphasizing a different aspect of its revenue, the TV station says that it had no legal control over how its signals were used in Texas and was unable to charge local cable stations to rebroadcast them.

The national and state associations of broadcasters have filed amicus briefs, urging the Texas Supreme Court to take the case and rule that signals crossing international borders — like postings on the internet — do not automatically create personal jurisdiction wherever they are read.

Court of appeals must address all issues necessary to judgment

In an employee-arbitration case, the trial court agreed with an employee that the agreement was unconscionable. Its ordered addressed only some of the employee's arguments, leaving the others unanswered.

On appeal, the employee urged those other grounds as alternate reasons to affirm. The court of appeals reversed and ordered arbitration (the equivalent here of a rendition, not a remand), declining to consider the employee's alternate grounds:

The court did not address any other arguments that Cardwell raised to oppose arbitration, explaining without authority that “as the trial court did not base its determination of unconscionability on those grounds, we need not consider them.” The court of appeals observed in a footnote that Cardwell had not cross-appealed from the trial court’s findings and conclusions or complained of the omission of findings and conclusions.

The Texas Supreme Court reversed that outcome, remanding to the court of appeals to consider those alternative grounds. The Court noted that a party defending the trial court's judgment need not perfect a cross-appeal and that Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 47.1 says "[t]he court of appeals 'must hand down a written opinion that . . . addresses every issue raised and necessary to final disposition of the appeal.'”

Comments Off on Personal jurisdiction in a defamation case that crosses borders; interpreting an oil-and-gas agreement [Feb. 26, 2016]Tags: Order Lists

Four grants for future argument (likely in the fall); rehearing granted in the Houston takings case between home owners and a flood-control district [Feb. 19, 2016]

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This Friday’s orders list brings four more cases chosen for oral argument. It also brings a rare grant of rehearing in an argued case that […]

This Friday’s orders list brings four more cases chosen for oral argument. It also brings a rare grant of rehearing in an argued case that was decided last June: HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT AND HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS v. EDWARD A. AND NORMA KERR, ET AL., No. 13-0303

The Court has not specified an argument date for the new grants. Most likely, they will be heard in the fall.

Rehearing Grant

In June, the Court decided HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT AND HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS v. EDWARD A. AND NORMA KERR, ET AL., No. 13-0303 . The vote was split 5-4, with two separate dissenting opinions. A motion for rehearing was filed, and fifteen amicus filings followed shortly thereafter, urging the Court to reconsider.

Today, the Court has granted the motion for rehearing but has not (yet) withdrawn its opinions and has not (yet) set the case for re-argument, if that is its intention. Instead, the case remains on the active docket, awaiting a more final disposition.

The timing of today’s order was driven by the timing of the motion for rehearing. It was filed on August 28th — 175 days before this orders list. Had the Court waited until next week to take action, the 180-day clock for rehearing motions set by the Texas Constitution would have expired.

New Grants

ONCOR ELECTRIC DELIVERY COMPANY LLC, ET AL. v. PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION OF TEXAS, ET AL., No. 15-0005

utilities
Set to be argued on September 13, 2016

WADE BRADY v. LEAANNE KLENTZMAN AND CARTER PUBLICATIONS, INC. D/B/A THE WEST FORT BEND STAR, INC., No. 15-0056

defamation
Set to be argued on September 13, 2016

KEN PAXTON, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS v. CITY OF DALLAS, No. 15-0073

open records
Set to be argued on September 14, 2016

B.C. v. STEAK N SHAKE OPERATIONS, INC., No. 15-0404

employment
Set to be argued on November 7, 2016

Comments Off on Four grants for future argument (likely in the fall); rehearing granted in the Houston takings case between home owners and a flood-control district [Feb. 19, 2016]Tags: Order Lists

Two (more) grants on a Tuesday, for argument in March [Feb. 16, 2016]

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That might sound familiar, or even vaguely predictable, for those monitoring the argument calendar:

Doing a little math… we might expect some grants to […]

That might sound familiar, or even vaguely predictable, for those monitoring the argument calendar:

Doing a little math… we might expect some grants to be announced on February 16th, to be argued on March 9th or March 10th.

The two cases granted with some orders issued earlier today (official version) are being scheduled for argument on March 9th and March 10th.

More details about these cases will appear after the docket is updated. Generally speaking, the J.B. Hunt case is about two Texas trial courts competing for jurisdiction. The Doctors Hospital case is about how liability for medical malpractice can, or cannot, percolate up through the limited-partnership structure owning a hospital.

IN RE J.B. HUNT TRANSPORT, INC., No. 15-0631

Set to be argued on March 9, 2016

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