Today I’m attending the Practice Before the Texas Supreme Court CLE in Austin. I’ll be speaking a little later about electronic resources for practitioners.

Meanwhile, the real work of the Texas Supreme Court churns ahead. The Court released its regular orders list today, with five decisions and one new cases granted for argument this fall.

Public use and bad faith in condemnation cases

The grant was in City of Austin v. Whittington, No. 10-0316 (DDB) yet another condemnation case. This one involves allegations of bad faith and lack of “public use” on the part of a city.

Five decisions today

One of today’s cases involves a discovery request served against Google trying to uncover the identity of an anonymous blogger. The Texas Supreme Court did not grapple with the First Amendment question, but instead framed this as a general question about when discovery of private information against a third-party can be obtained.

The Court makes clear that, in Texas, a side agreement between the plaintiff and the party holding that information (here, Google) does not excuse the trial court from considering the objections of the person whose personal information is involved.

Because there are so many other kinds of personal information out there in the world besides anonymous speech, the Court’s holding on this seemingly narrow procedural ground may be even more important than if it had instead based its result on First Amendment grounds.

  • In re John Does 1 and 2, No. 10-0366 (per curiam) (DDB). In a per curiam opinion, the Court granted mandamus relief to a blogger who wanted to maintain his (or her) anonymity. The plaintiff in this defamation case sought discovery against Google, which agreed to produce the materials. The blogger filed a motion to quash. The trial court did not follow the usual procedures (in Texas Rule 202) because the plaintiff and Google had already reached an agreement.

    The Texas Supreme Court holds today that the requirements of Rule 202 still applied because the blogger had an obvious interest in the outcome. “But PRK and Google were not the only parties to the proceeding. Rule 202.3(a) requires that ‘all persons petitioner expects to have interests adverse to petitioner’s in the anticipated suit’ be served with the petition and given notice of hearing. PRK asserted that relators would be defendants in the anticipated lawsuit, and by their motions to quash, relators made an appearance in the proceeding. PRK and Google could not modify the procedures prescribed by Rule 202 by an agreement that did not include relators.”

I can’t write the usual summaries for the other four cases just yet, but here’s a list of the cases decided to tide you over:

  • Italian Cowboy Partners, Ltd., et al . v. The Prudential Insurance Co., No. 08-0989 (DDB). This was a 6-3 decision, with Justice Green writing the majority and Justice Hecht writing the dissent.

  • James Derwood Iliff v. Jerilyn Trije Iliff, No. 09-0753 (DDB). Justice Wainwright wrote for a unanimous Court affirming the judgment.

  • Allen Keller Co. v. Barbara Jean Foreman, No. 09-0955 (DDB). Justice Lehrmann wrote the opinion for a unanimous Court, reversing and rendering judgment. This was Justice Lehrmann’s first majority opinion. (She has previously written two dissents.)

  • O. Lee Tawes, III v. Doris Barnes, No. 10-0581 (DDB). Justice Green wrote the opinion for the Court answering the Fifth Circuit’s certified question.