Supreme Court of Texas Blog: Legal Issues Before the Texas Supreme Court

Category: 'Order Lists'

No grants or opinions – but a short outage on the blog [Oct. 16, 2015]

October 16th, 2015 · Comments Off on No grants or opinions – but a short outage on the blog [Oct. 16, 2015]

With this week’s orders list, the Court did not issue any opinions or choose any new cases for future argument.

Earlier this week, the Court heard its third group of oral arguments this term, including two that are attracting some press attention:

Programming note

Due to some changes in how the Court’s website presents the official docket information, my scrapers are now very confused. The edits look small to humans. For example, where docket entries for many years have said “Petition for review filed,” they now say “Petition for Review.” And so on. But my scrapers were tuned to the Court’s old data format, and that old predictable format was used to compute a petition’s current “stage” — which fed through most of my data.

The opinion and voting data should remain unchanged. But my list of currently pending petitions is quite thoroughly broken. (As I write, that page shows only 9 cases at the petition stage, all of which are parental termination matters.)

My hope is that this is a short outage. But until I dig into the data and see what is involved in a fix, I can’t make any promises.

Tags: Order Lists

Eight grants and one revised opinion [Oct. 9, 2015]

October 9th, 2015 · Comments Off on Eight grants and one revised opinion [Oct. 9, 2015]

With this week’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court chose eight new cases for future oral argument. It also released a revised version of its earlier majority opinion in KACHINA PIPELINE COMPANY, INC. v. MICHAEL D. LILLIS, No. 13-0596 .

The eight grants:

Read more

Tags: Order Lists

Quiet orders list [Oct. 2, 2015]

October 2nd, 2015 · Comments Off on Quiet orders list [Oct. 2, 2015]

There were no opinions and no new grants on this week’s orders list.

Tags: Order Lists

Quiet orders list [Sep. 25, 2015]

September 25th, 2015 · Comments Off on Quiet orders list [Sep. 25, 2015]

This week brought the Court’s second oral argument sitting of the term. The Friday orders did not, however, include any new grants or opinions.

Tags: Order Lists

Two per curiam opinions; no grants [Sep. 18, 2015]

September 18th, 2015 · Comments Off on Two per curiam opinions; no grants [Sep. 18, 2015]

The Court’s orders list for this week contained two per curiam opinions, each applying a recent holding from the Court.

Who is a proper law enforcement official under the Whistleblower Act?

The Court again faced the question of whether a report that an employee makes internally within a government agency counts as a report to "law enforcement," and thus grants the employee protection from retaliation under the Texas Whistleblower Act.

This case was decided at the court of appeals level before the Court's decision in TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES v. OLIVER OKOLI, No. 10-0567. The Court concluded that the same holding should apply here, and that a report made to an official with merely internal oversight authority within the agency did not qualify. Instead, the report must be made to someone with the authority to enforce laws against the public.

Spectators at a sporting event are not engaging in a "recreational use" of the property

The Supreme Court found the facts in this case indistinguishable from those in its recent decision in UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT ARLINGTON v. SANDRA WILLIAMS AND STEVE WILLIAMS, No. 13-0338.

What makes this per curiam interesting is how the Court dealt with Williams being a plurality decision. Because only four Justices joined the "opinion of the court" in that case, its statements do not form a truly binding holding of the Court. So, to assemble a holding, the Court adds up the justices who agreed with the judgment, looking for a majority who shared a common holding.

Although not embracing the plurality’s analysis, Justice Boyd concurred with the opinion’s salient holding. Id. at 62 (Boyd, J., concurring). Thus, a majority of the Court agreed that under facts similar to those in this case, the recreational use statute does not apply.

Tags: Order Lists

Quiet orders list [Sep. 11, 2015]

September 11th, 2015 · Comments Off on Quiet orders list [Sep. 11, 2015]

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

Tags: Order Lists

Fourteen grants, and some (straggling) opinions about the San Marcos water-flouridation case [Sep. 4, 2015]

September 4th, 2015 · Comments Off on Fourteen grants, and some (straggling) opinions about the San Marcos water-flouridation case [Sep. 4, 2015]

At the end of the Court’s first argument week of the term, we have its first orders list — which has 14 cases chosen for oral argument and a (large) list of petition denials and rehearing denials. The Court also granted rehearing of two petitions previously denied, reinstating them to the docket. (The details of the cases chosen for argument will appear in a later post.)

The Texas Supreme Court also issued what are, depending on how you look at it, the first two opinions of this new term or the final opinions of the last one. On August 28, the Court issued an order denying mandamus relief in IN RE SHANNON DORN, KATHLEEN O'CONNELL, COMMUNITIES FOR THRIVING WATERS - FLOURIDE-FREE SAN MARCOS, AND MORGAN KNECHT, No. 15-0632 . Today, just after the turning of the Court’s calendar, it has published an opinion dissenting to last week’s order and one concurring in the outcome.

Even short delays in the litigation process can doom a mandamus petition

This case involves a petition drive seeking to put the question of fluoridated water on the ballot, in the form of a charter amendment. In May, the city clerk sent a letter to the group stating that the signatures would not be counted because the petitions were not accompanied by an oath or affirmation of validity. The group sent some letters explaining its position to the city. The city responded by itself filing suit on June 18, seeking a declaratory judgment. The group filed an answer and counterclaim on July 17.

On August 14, the district court ruled for the group of voters. The city, however, filed for an interlocutory appeal that stayed further action in the trial court. With the ballot deadline looming, and perhaps inspired by the Court's very recent ruling supporting a citizen's petition in IN RE JARED WOODFILL ET AL., No. 14-0667, the group of voters sought immediate mandamus relief from the Texas Supreme Court.

On August 28, the Texas Supreme Court denied relief. With its September 4 orders list, some of the Justices wrote separate opinions explaining their own thinking.

Justice Devine, joined by Justice Lehrmann, would have granted the mandamus relief because the legal question was clear and because failing to issue mandamus relief would bless the city's use of an interlocutory appeal to moot the ability of courts to speak to the question:

Here, a district court determined the City Clerk must review the petition signatures and perform her ministerial duty. Rather than comply, the City initiated an interlocutory appeal, assuring that the deadline would pass before relief could be obtained. I would not permit a city to use a directory deadline in the Election Code in this manner to either avoid a ministerial duty or thwart the will of the people.

Justice Brown, joined by Justice Green, wrote an opinion concurring in the Court's decision to deny relief. The concurrence focused on the delays earlier in the process — such as the letters being written to the city, and the voters waiting 30 days to file an answer rather than filing one immediately. The concurrence suggested that the voters should have first sought relief from the court of appeals before coming directly to the Texas Supreme Court because the "urgency [here] is of their own making."

The interlocutory appeal filed by the city remains pending in the court of appeals.

Tags: Order Lists

Final Friday of the Texas Supreme Court’s 2014-2015 term (Aug. 28, 2015)

August 28th, 2015 · Comments Off on Final Friday of the Texas Supreme Court’s 2014-2015 term (Aug. 28, 2015)

With today’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court issued its final Friday orders for the term. The list included one per curiam about a workers comp issue, and no grants.

As the Term comes to a close, the usual drama is missing. The Court cleaned out its docket of argued cases at the end of June. (You might have missed it because a different “SC” issued a different opinion that same day.) Total cases remaining on July 1: 0.

I thought we’d all have a relaxed summer, but the Court has subsequently issued a few more opinions, bringing the total number of cases pending at the end of the term to -5.1

Two of those opinions involved a challenge to the City of Houston’s ordinance about equal rights for sexual orientation (HERO). In the first decision, issued in July, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the city council had improperly rejected a local petition of voters demanding that the question be put on the ballot for voter approval. IN RE JARED WOODFILL ET AL., No. 14-0667

The city council responded by keeping the ordinance in place while scheduling a ballot measure asking voters if they wanted to repeal the ordinance . The challengers thought this framing was backwards, and filed another mandamus petition asking the Supreme Court to intervene, again. On August 19, the Court issued an opinion ruling that the ballot measure must ask voters to approve the ordinance; that it was not enough to presume the law exists and ask voters whether they would like to repeal it. IN RE F.N. WILLIAMS, SR., AND JARED WOODFILL, No. 15-0581

That’s two of the five opinions. The others, in brief:

  • CITY OF INGLESIDE, TEXAS v. CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS, No. 14-0548 :: This was a lawsuit between two cities over their common boundary, which was defined in the operative document as being a “shoreline.” One of the cities filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that the boundary line was a nonjusticiable political question. The Supreme Court disagreed, concluding that the courts can properly clarify a term like “shoreline”, and thus tell the parties where the boundary defined by the controlling law actually falls in fact, without offending the separation of powers.

  • KATY VENTURE, LTD. AND KATY MANAGEMENT, L.L.C. v. CREMONA BISTRO CORP., No. 14-0629 :: A default judgment is subject to later attack when the plaintiff has it served on an out-of-date “registered” address rather than the defedant’s true “last known mailing address,” when there is evidence that the plaintiff had actual knowledge of that new address.

  • DALLAS NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY v. GLORIA DE LA CRUZ, No. 13-0814 :: The Court reversed a workers comp award to someone who claimed to have lost the use of her feet due to an injury suffered elsewhere on her body (her back). The pivotal step in the analysis is the sentence: “For total loss of use of a [body part] to be compensable, the loss of use must have resulted from injury to the [part] itself, as opposed to the loss of use resulting from injury to another part of the body.”

The week ahead

Next week brings the first week of oral arguments in the new term. On Tuesday, the Court will hear arguments in the school-finance litigation. That is followed on the calendar by normal argument slates on Wednesday and Thursday.

  1. Well, the true count is still at zero. These were per curiams that were never argued. I’ve been asked if the timing of these opinions reflects some resurgence in the old shadow/submarine docket of per curiam cases. My first reaction is no, that this is just a normal trickle of cases. []

Tags: Order Lists