Lawyers say Texas SC judicially active for business

Rob Luke Nov. 29, 2007, 5:32am

Justice Nathan Hecht, right

AUSTIN -- Plaintiffs' lawyers in the Lone Star State are complaining that the Texas Supreme Court goes out of its way to issue opinions that too often favor corporate defendants.

The attorneys have cited well-known SC cases decided in recent months that they claim resemble pro-corporate judicial activism, the Dallas Morning News (DMN) reported recently. They made their complaints public before some of the Justices at a Dallas Bar Association event held in September.

In Entergy Gulf States, Inc. v. John Summers (docket# 2001019), the bench found for appellant Entergy in a workers' compensation claim, essentially on a technicality in the statute. Pro-consumer legal activist group Texas Watch called that decision "egregious" and the SC "anti-consumer," DMN noted.

Attorneys also cited the antitrust case Harmar Bottling V. Coca-Cola (docket# 2000845), where the SC overturned a $16 million award for Harmar also on a legal technicality.

Some plaintiffs' lawyers claim the Texas Supreme Court cherry-picks state laws and even cases simply to find in favor of the defendant. "The Texas Supreme Court has made the climb to get relief so steep here that unless you have wrongful death and negligence, it's nearly impossible to make a case," a Dallas lawyer told DMN.

The issue is complicated by controversy surrounding Justice Nathan Hecht's fund-raising efforts prior to hearing cases argued by donors, LNL has reported. Hecht authored the controversial ruling on Harmar v. Coca-Cola that was strongly opposed in a narrow majority.

But the SC's public information lawyer Osler McCarthy told DMN that lawyers shouldn't jump to conclusions about rulings. "In any given decision, a win for a plaintiff - whether it's a corporate plaintiff or an injured person - may involve a development in the law that actually favors the other side," he said.

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