Benny P. Phillips, M.D. v. Dale Bramlett, et al., No. 07-0522 (DB)

In an order issued on Monday, the Texas Supreme Court denied the pending motion for rehearing in Phillips v. Bramlett, a 5-4 case about the duties of insurance companies to the physicians they cover in medical-malpractice cases.

Court-watchers know that almost all orders denying rehearing are listed on the Friday order lists. Why the unusual timing of this denial?

The answer comes from Article 5 of the Texas Constitution §31(d):

(d) Notwithstanding Section 1, Article II, of this constitution and any other provision of this constitution, if the supreme court does not act on a motion for rehearing before the 180th day after the date on which the motion is filed, the motion is denied.

The motion for rehearing in Phillips was filed on April 3, 2009. The 180th day would have been Wednesday, September 30, 2009 — before the next Friday order list.

This very specific, 180-day deadline is a nice benchmark for Texas docket watchers. If the Texas Supreme Court keeps a rehearing petition around for more than a few months, that is a strong indication that some action is being considered. (( That action might be (1) a true rehearing, in which the Court resets the case for argument; (2) a conclusive rehearing in which it issues a judgment different than the previous judgment; or (3) a revised opinion in the case that leaves the Court’s earlier judgment intact. ))

My DocketDB site maintains a list of recent motions for rehearing in the Texas Supreme Court, as well as motions that have been pending from 45 to 90 days and more than 90 days.