It turns out, there is only one case on today’s argument calendar. Basith Ghazali M.D. v. Patricia Brown, No. 10-0232 has been removed from the argument calendar pending a possible settlement.

September 13, 2011

Finance Commission of Texas, et al. v. Valerie Norwood, et al., No. 10-0121

I won’t write too much commentary about today’s case because I worked a small amount on it while at OSG. Here is Osler McCarthy’s summary:

Among principal issues in this challenge to regulations promulgated for home-equity lending in Texas are (1) whether deference should be the review standard for agency interpretations when the agencies — the Finance Commission and Credit Union Commission — were given power to interpret the constitutional home-equity provisions; (2) whether the two commissions erred by adopting the Finance Code’s definition of “interest” for interpreting the constitutional provisions; and (3) whether the appeals court erred when it upheld agency rules that allow signing a home-equity loan by power of attorney instead of in specific locations set by the home-equity amendment.

The trial court invalidated seven of nine challenged regulations. On review, the court of appeals held the standard of review should be the deference given to state-agency statutory interpretations. The appeals court affirmed the trial court in part and reversed and rendered judgment in part, holding the commissions’ rules defining interest were contrary to the intent and plain meaning of the constitutional home-equity lending provision.

That summary identifies what makes this a very unusual administrative-law case: Because of the way that home-equity restrictions are hard-coded into the Texas Constitution, these state agencies are being asked to interpret a constitutional provision rather than (as in most other contexts) a statute. Although this is a fairly rare situation, how the Court approaches this may make some important law about agency deference or constitutional interpretation more generally. (Oh, and it will also determine which rules apply to home-equity lending in Texas.)

If you’re thinking of tuning into the live stream of the argument, you’ll see another unusual thing. There are two counsel listed to argue each side, which might give it the feel of a law-school moot court competition:

For petitioners: Evan S. Green and Craig Enoch, Austin

For respondents: Robert Doggett and Nelson Mock, Austin