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SCOTX again clears its docket of argued cases

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With this past week’s orders, the Texas Supreme Court finished issuing opinions in the cases that were argued during its 2018 term. All the recent […]

With this past week’s orders, the Texas Supreme Court finished issuing opinions in the cases that were argued during its 2018 term. All the recent opinions are collected on this blog page.

This marks four years that the Court has met its target of clearing those argued cases from its docket by the end of June, roughly matching the U.S. Supreme Court calendar.

This week’s orders also look ahead to the fall, assigning specific argument dates to 30 cases that will be heard in September and October.1

Some early statistics

I try to keep my published statistics up-to-date throughout the year, but one of the Justices might have beaten me to it with some tweets on Friday morning.

My opinion totals, luckily for me, match those. I show 71 signed decisions and 29 per curiams, totaling 100.

There could be two wrinkles with my totals. First, I did decide to count the new decision on rehearing in USAA TEXAS LLOYDS COMPANY v. GAIL MENCHACA, No. 14-0721 with this new term. The Court granted rehearing, wrote a substantially different opinion, and changed its voting alignment. For my purposes at least, that’s a new decision. So, it comes off the books for 2017 and goes onto the books for 2018.

Second, I also decided to treat USAA Texas Lloyds v. Menchaca as a plurality, rather than a majority.2 I’m not sure how the official statistics, when they’re issued, will classify this case. Although there are parts of the lead opinion that gathered more than four signatories, only three justices joined the opinion’s rationale for the judgment of remand. That feels like a plurality to me.

By my count, that makes two pluralities this term. The other was issued just this past Friday. In AMANDA BRADSHAW v. BARNEY SAMUEL BRADSHAW, No. 16-0328 , the five justices who voted for the judgment did not agree on the rationale.

And if you’re looking for a sneak peak at my voting tables showing how the Texas Supreme Court Justices vote with or against each other, the online version of that chart now covers all the opinions through June 2018. I haven’t yet had time to really analyze this term’s patterns. But if you want to explore the rare disagreements between some justices, or rare agreement between others, you can click through to see which specific opinions led to these totals.


  1. The list of those granted cases is available on this blog page, and the fall calendar begins on this page
  2. My opinion chart for the term now breaks majorities and pluralities into separate columns. 

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Today’s grants and the shape of next year’s argument calendar [Jun. 1, 2018]

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With the first orders list of summer, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in four cases, chose twelve new cases to be argued in the […]

With the first orders list of summer, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in four cases, chose twelve new cases to be argued in the fall, and formally dismissed a mandamus petition that was (very briefly) set for oral argument this past March.1

Next year’s argument calendar

At this week’s conference, the Court made grant-or-deny decisions about some of the pending fully-briefed petitions that had been studied by staff. The Court chose 12 to be argued this fall, and it denied review for 9 others. Other fully-briefed petitions remain pending (the blog tracks those, too), and I expect to see another round or two of “grants” later in the summer.

With this week’s additions, the total number of grants for next year now stands at 14, which could fill out the September argument sitting (even if no more grants were made).

What struck me, when I looked at next year’s calendar, is that the Court seems to be experimenting with front-loading arguments into September and January, leaving more calendar time for drafting of opinions.

For comparison, in recent years the Court has tended to only have one argument sitting in September (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014) and one in January (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015). The sole exception (Sept. 2015) had sittings in the first and last weeks of the month.

The Court hasn’t explained its thinking, but an educated guess is that shifting arguments earlier in the term could ease some of the internal scheduling issues created by having a single fixed June 30 “deadline” for getting opinions out the door.2 More time to deliberate, in more cases.

We may see other ripple effects of shifting arguments forward in the term. For example, there might be more time pressure to consider “grants” in November or December to fill out a January argument calendar. Or it’s very possible that some of these planned argument dates might, if not filled, quietly disappear as the Court updates its online calendar.

Today’s decisions

The Court issued opinions in four argued cases today, including one 5-4 decision.

There are now 18 argued cases remaining to be decided this term. (The blog tracks those cases here.)

Petitions chosen for oral argument

These are the 12 petitions chosen for future oral argument:

One of the petition denials today involved a dispute over whether Texas’s public-information laws require state officials to reveal which pharmacy has been providing Texas’s execution drugs. The Austin-American Statesman has coverage: “Court upholds ruling requiring Texas to reveal execution drug source” (Jun. 1, 2018)


  1. The mandamus petition was IN RE FORD MOTOR COMPANY, No. 17-0264 . After receiving notice that this case had been set for argument, the plaintiff voluntarily non-suited Ford from the trial proceeding and filed a motion to dismiss the mandamus on the ground of mootness. Ford opposed that motion, arguing that exceptions to the mootness doctrine should apply. The Court removed the case from the argument calendar and, today, grants the motion to dismiss. 
  2. The change might also have been inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court’s practice of holding two-week argument sittings, instead of one-week sittings. But the math isn’t precisely comparable. The U.S. Supreme Court hears fewer cases per day (just two, with rare exception), so a five-day sitting of that Court might have the same number of causes as a three-day sitting of ours. 

Comments Off on Today’s grants and the shape of next year’s argument calendar [Jun. 1, 2018]Tags: Order Lists · Practice Notes

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 recover […]

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.

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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