Survey: Texas SC should rule on case by case basis, not numbers

Marilyn Tennissen Oct. 29, 2008, 10:29am

A recent survey of Texas voters show they strongly believe all cases before the state Supreme Court should be decided on the merits, not on a tally of rulings in favor of the plaintiff or defendant.

According to a survey released by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse organizations in Texas, the state's voters soundly rejected the notion that the Texas Supreme Court should achieve a numerical balance in the number of rulings handed down for one side over another.

On Nov. 4, Texas voters will be asked to choose candidates for three spots on the Texas Supreme Court. Three incumbent Republicans are trying to hold onto their seats, while their Democratic challengers have often campaigned that the all-Republican court has unfairly ruled in favor of corporate defendants in a majority of cases and that there should be more balance on the court.

But according to the CALA survey of Texas voters, more than 8 in 10 voters clearly agreed that the role of the high court is to decide cases based on the facts of that particular case, regardless of whether the ruling favors the defendant or the plaintiff.

Only one in 10 said the court should achieve balance by ruling for the plaintiffs and defendants about the same number of times.

"Clearly, this survey shows that voters have considerably more sense than some of these personal injury lobby groups who sit around in Austin talking to each other," said Bill Summers, president of Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. "Anyone with a lick of sense knows that our courts should rule on the facts of each case and not seek to reach some arbitrary balance between the number of rulings that favor a plaintiff vs. the number of rulings that favor a defendant."

Chip Hough, chairman of the Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, noted that Texas justice has run the gamut from a high court perceived as "activist" -- whose members willingly created new law -- to a high court viewed as having limited their role to ruling interpreting and applying Texas laws as written.

Nine in 10 voters surveyed said the role of the court is to fairly interpret and apply Texas laws as written. This function of the court was perceived as the most important function of the court by 86 percent of Texans.

"Good laws have helped make Texas the model for reform," Hough said. "But these laws are meaningless without good judges to fairly apply the law and base their rulings on the laws as written."

The survey of 804 Texas voters was conducted by Base1ice & Associates from July 27-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

On the ballot for Texas Supreme Court:

  • Chief Justice
    (I)Wallace B. Jefferson – Republican
    Jim Jordan - Democrat
    Tom Oxford - Libertarian

  • Justice, Place 7
    (I)Dale Wainwright - Republican
    Sam Houston - Democrat
    David G. Smith - Libertarian

  • Justice, Place 8
    (I)Phil Johnson – Republican
    Linda Reyna Yañez - Democrat
    Drew Shirley - Libertarian

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