Friday, February 15, 2008

2008-02-15 Texas Supreme Court Smites Critics

Who said the Texas Supreme Court is not a responsive democratic institution?

Stung by recent criticism over its lack-luster performance statistics, the Texas Supreme Court handed down 154 pages worth of opinions today, way too much for any court watcher, legal-beat journalist, or even a bevy of editoral assistants, to get their teeth into - much less digest -in one sitting. Indeed, enough fodder for thought for an entire week. The flurry also purports to substantiate Chief Justice Jefferson's plea that the nine-member body is not monolithic, as more than 20% of the overall volume consists of separate opinions and only one case was decided per curiam. Notably absent is any stining dissent. When under attack, it makes sense to circle the wagons. It also makes sense to offer a gesture of peace, as the court did today when made an exception to its solid pro-defendant stance and reopened the courthouse door to a malpractice suit by a baby who just would not breath through its stomach and suffered brain injury for want of oxygen as a consequence. The Court agreed with the distraught parents that the doctor was not a good samaritan after all.

Today's tally, in reverse order of page count follows:

30 Pages: Bowden v. Phillips Gas Co., No. 03-0824 (Tex. Feb. 15, 2008)(Justice Wainwright) (unanimous opinion minus Brister, who sat this one out because the case came from where he did)
29 Pages: Fairfield Ins. Co. v. Stephens Martin Paving, LP, No. 04-0728 (Tex. Feb. 15, 2008)(Plurality Opinion by Justice Wainwright)
28 Pages: Concurring opinion in Fairfield Insurance by Hecht
25 Pages: Evanston Ins. Co. v. Atofina Petrochemicals, Inc., No. 03-0647 (Tex. Feb. 15, 2008)(Justice Green)
16 Pages: PR Investments and Special Retailers, Inc. v. Texas, No. 04-0431 (Tex. Feb. 15, 2008)(Justice Willett)
13 Pages: National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburg, PA v. Crocker, No. 06-0868 (Tex. Feb. 15, 2008)(Justice Willett)
6 Pages: Thao Chau v. Jefferson Riddle, MD, No. 07-0035 (Tex. Feb. 15, 2008)(per curiam)
6 Pages: Justice Hecht's separate opinion in Evanston Insurance
1 Page: Justice Johnson's concurrence in Fairfield insurance

Justice Phil Johnson actually did not weigh in with a full page. Much rather, it was a three sentence fence-sitting statement. Though unopposed in the Republican primary, Johnson must be too busy gearing up for the fight in the Fall to keep his seat. Perhaps he is trying to avoid the fate of Baltasar Cruz, who was crucified by the Dallas Morning News for verbosity, and written off as a viable judicial candidate for lack of a crucial qualification: Proven competence in raking in wads of campaign cash.

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