HOUSTON – The Texas Supreme Court will not review the top aviation verdict for all of Texas in 2013. The Houston-based law firm Arnold & Itkin secured the judgment, totaling nearly $1.7 million, on behalf of Derek LeBlanc, who was injured in a helicopter crash while on route to work on an oil platform in the Gulf.
The Texas Supreme Court has a unique structure, reflecting the state’s stubbornly independent-minded culture. Most state supreme courts have jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases and have seven (or fewer) members, who are appointed by the governor and face the voters — if at all — only for periodic “retention” elections. The Texas Supreme Court, in contrast, hears only civil appeals (criminal cases are decided by the co-equal Texas Court of Criminal Appeals) and has nine members, all of whom are subject to statewide partisan elections. The last feature is quite unusual; only seven states select judges in this manner. Despite this distinctive design, the Texas Supreme Court succeeds at steering a steady jurisprudential course in a cautious, low-key style.
BEAUMONT – In June 2015, the Ninth Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a now-retired district judge’s decision denying the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission governmental immunity. Two years later, on May 17, the Texas Supreme Court issued a mandate stating that its ruling reversing the Ninth Court is final, confirming Judge Gary Sanderson, formerly of the 60th District Court, was ultimately right in his decision to waive the commission’s immunity.
In a prior post, I discussed the Pidgeon v. Turner case, now pending before the Texas Supreme Court, involving a taxpayer challenge to same-sex spousal benefits. Oral argument was held on March 1. The taxpayers challenging the city of Houston’s policy of granting same-sex spousal benefits to city employees were represented at oral argument by Jonathan Mitchell, a former Scalia clerk, former Texas solicitor general, and now a visiting professor at Stanford law school. The city of Houston was represented by Douglas Alexander, a leading appellate practitioner in an Austin law firm whose partners include former Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson. The oral argument was superb, and both counsel fielded numerous questions from the fully-engaged justices.
The Supreme Court’s fractured decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) required states to recognize same-sex marriage. Obergefell came less than 30 years after Bowers v. Hardwick, in which the court refused to recognize a right to engage in homosexual sodomy. In changing its mind, the Court effectively amended the U.S. Constitution with its Delphic utterances.
Despite progress, East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse's founder cites work ahead to combat lawsuit abuse
LONGVIEW – Despite progress made in turning around a reputation that has pegged Texas as a popular venue for medical malpractice lawsuits and “not a business friendly environment,” Ruben Martin, founder of East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, said in a newsletter entry commemorating ETALA’s 25th anniversary that “junk lawsuits continue to cost us dearly.”
AUSTIN – A documentary filmmaker seeking to obtain the deposition of one of Texas’ most well-known plaintiff’s attorneys was shut down by a district judge Tuesday, as the court refused to unseal testimony linked to an asbestos memo that has been the subject of much controversy for the past two decades.