Monday, April 2, 2007
PFR Grant and Reversal Rate (Tex. 2006)
Texas Supreme Court Grant and Reversal Rates for Fiscal Year 2006, and Other Annual Statistics on Supreme Court Activity
[Also see --> article on more recent appellate reversal statistics]
BY WOLFGANG P. HIRCZY DE MINO
Supreme Court Caseload. In Fiscal Year 2006, the Texas Supreme Court granted 108 petitions for review (PFRs) and disposed of 97. A total of 1,253 such petitions were filed or carried over from the previous year. 822 were disposed of and 431 remained pending on August 31, 2006. Harris County (Houston) and Dallas County (Dallas) contributed the largest shares of the case load. The Supreme Court also accepted and decided 30 mandamus petitions, with a total of 330 on the docket and 92 remaining at the end of the fiscal year.
Texas Supreme Court Jurisprudence by the Numbers. In Fiscal Year 2006, the Texas Supreme Court granted 108 petitions for review and disposed of 97. It accepted 119 new petitions for review of the merits, and denied or otherwise rejected 703. The court also granted mandamus relief in 24 cases and answered two certified questions from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Only one cause was decided on a motion for rehearing.
What Are The Odds of A Petition Being Granted? Given its large case load, the court is quite selective in deciding which cases it will hear and decide on the merits. The approximate acceptance rate was 14.5% for petitions for review (PFR) and less than half that (6%) for mandamus proceedings. Among the intermediate appellate courts, the 9th Court of Appeals in Beaumont had the highest PFR grant rate (26.1%) albeit based on small total of only 22 petitions, followed closely by the Waco Court of Appeals with 25.5%. The Sixth Court of Appeals (Texarkana) scored lowest with 4%, followed by the Seventh Court, sitting in Amarillo, with 5.1%. As for the major metropolitan areas of the State, the Supreme Court granted 9% of the 121 petitions from the Dallas Court of Appeals, which is one of the busiest courts of appeals in the state and the largest in size (13 members). Houston’s two intermediate appellate courts together accounted for 196 petitions for review (22% of the total), with an almost identical grant rate of 13.3% and 13.9% for the First and Fourteenth Court of Appeals, respectively.
Annual Opinion Output. The Justices of the court delivered 149 opinions in the 97 cases decided on the merits in FY 2006. 24 of these appeals were from the two Houston courts of appeals. A majority (60) were decided with unsigned per curiam opinions. There were 48 signed majority opinions, 12 concurrences, 21 dissenting opinions, and three opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. With nine majority opinions, twelve per curiams, and four concurring and dissenting opinions each, Justice Scott Brister, who formerly was an appeals court judge in Houston, was the most productive member of the court. Justice Nathan Hecht, the most senior member of the court, ranked second with a total of 22 authored, followed closely by Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, who delivered 19. Leaving aside Justice Jane N. Bland, a member of the First Court of Appeals, who wrote one opinion while sitting by assignment for a recused member of the high court, Justice Don Willett produced the lowest number of opinions in FY 2006 - a total of nine, including one dissent.
Patterns of Dissent and Disagreements over Reasoning and Rationale. Although all of the current court’s members are Republicans, they do not always see eye to eye on the important legal and policy issues they agree to examine and resolve for the entire state. Justice Harriet O’Neill, currently the only female member of the Jefferson Court, led with five dissents and wrote concurring opinions in two more cases. At the other end of the spectrum, Justice Paul W. Green did not dissent even once. Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson wrote one opinion concurring and dissenting in part. If failing to join the majority and writing to explain why is a fair measure of originality, Justice Scott A. Brister was the most independent jurist on the Jefferson Court with a total of eight separate opinions, evenly divided between concurrences and dissents. Justices Harriet O’Neill and J. Dale Wainwright, with a total of seven each, follow closely behind.
A Reversal-Happy High Court. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court - at least in part - in 71% of the cases. The true reversal rate is probably even higher because the reported reversal statistics do not include granted petitions that were decided concurrently without a separate opinion being issued. These granted causes account for approximately 10% of the total. The Court also conditionally granted mandamus relief 24 times out of a total of 238 petitions seeking such relief.
Will They Grant That Motions? Once the justices have handed down their decision, they rarely change their mind. Motions for rehearing have almost no chance of success. Out of a total of more than two hundred, the Court only granted three. By contrast, motions for extension of filing deadlines are routinely granted. The Court denied or dismissed only 22 of 470 such motions.
Disciplinary actions. The Texas Supreme Court also has rule-making authority and regulates the practice of law and the conduct of the state's attorneys. The Court disposed of all four disciplinary appeals and none remained pending at the end of the 2006 Fiscal Year.
Date source: Texas Judicial System Annual Report for FY 2006 Annual Reports for other years