When I started this blog, it seemed like every Friday orders list brought the possibility of a new opinion.
To be sure, the odds did not seem even. Weeks with a conference were good candidates. Weeks with an oral-argument sitting were not. And late August was a world unto itself.
Things might be different now. I wrote last fall about how few cases the Court had carried forward from previous terms. Of those four, five, or six cases (( The number varies depending on how you count two cases that were, technically, abated at the magic moment when midnight struck on August 31, 2011. )), the Court has already decided three. The only cases still pending that were argued in a previous term are Bison Building Materials v. Aldridge (blog post) (by far the oldest), Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day (blog post), and Severance v. Patterson (blog post) (on rehearing).
Last fall I wondered if this would affect the seasonal pattern of opinions: “When during the year does the Texas Supreme Court issue the bulk of its opinions?”
Now we have a little more data.
So what’s the new pattern?
I’ll show you:
|Date||Opinion Count||Conference Week?|
|Feb. 17, 2012||1 decision (signed)||Yes (2-day)|
|Feb. 10, 2012||1 decision (signed)||No|
|Jan. 27, 2012||3 decisions (1 signed)||Yes (2-day)|
|Dec. 16, 2011||11 decisions (3 signed)||Yes (2-day)|
|Nov. 28, 2011||1 decision (signed)||No|
|Nov. 18, 2011||1 decision (signed)||Yes (2-day)|
|Oct. 21, 2011||6 decisions (1 signed)||Yes (2-day)|
|Sep. 30, 2011||None||Yes (2-day)|
All but two opinions have been issued on the Friday following a conference. Only one conference (the very first) was not followed by at least one opinion.
If I asked you to guess which two opinions this term have been outliers, decided on weeks other than a conference week, you might guess correctly: Allcat and Nestle USA. Both were brought as original proceedings with an unusual statutory deadline.
If you strike those two from the table, the pattern is very strong. With a monthly conference schedule (so far), we have had a monthly set of opinions.
Looking forward, the Court has two conferences scheduled for March, one in April, and two in May. (The corresponding Fridays are March 9, March 30, April 20, May 11, and May 18.)
When summer comes, the calendar is quite different. The Court has a conference scheduled each week in June, followed by a six-week hiatus from conferences until mid-August.
The pattern described here could easily be broken as the Court digests and decides the cases that were argued this fall. But if it generally holds, it may help us offer clients a little better insight about when to expect decisions.