Friday, March 17, 2006

For the second time this month, the Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion in favor of arbitration. In In re Nat’l Benefit Advisory Assoc. the Court today ruled that “tortious interference claims between a signatory to an arbitration agreement and agents or affiliates of the other signatory arise more from the contract than general law, and thus fall on the arbitration side of the scale.”

In a second opinion issued today, Tesco Am. Inc. v. Strong Indus., the Court addressed the question of whether “an appellate judge is disqualified because, unbeknownst to her, before she took the bench another attorney at her very large firm played a very small role in the early stages” of the appeal. In a majority opinion written by Justice Brister, the Court held that she should be disqualified.

Justice Hecht issued this dissenting opinion, explaining that “Justice Higley’s participation in the decision of the court of appeals was error, though no fault of her own, but not error that requires reversal. We have an opinion joined by two other Justices, fully explaining the reasons for their decision, and we should proceed to determine the issues the parties have raised here.”
“Candidate seeking Tarrant data.” Today’s Fort Worth Star Telegram includes this article that begins: “Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith has formally requested detailed election data from Tarrant County in an effort to determine whether an election-night computer glitch may have affected his bid for the state's highest civil court.”

Thursday, March 16, 2006

BREAKING NEWS – A press release issued by Steve Smith’s campaign today states: “Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith announced today that he has taken the next step towards filing an election contest or request for recount in his race for Texas Supreme Court, Place 2.”

Monday, March 13, 2006

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court issued one new opinion. In Hyundai Motor Co. v. Victor Manuel Vasquez, the Court addressed “whether a trial court abuses its discretion in refusing to allow a voir dire question from counsel that previews relevant evidence and inquires of prospective jurors whether such evidence is outcome determinative.” A Justice Bland opinion, joined by Justices Hecht, O’Neill, Brister, Willett, and Cayce held that it does not.

Justice Wainwright, joined by Justice Johnson, wrote this dissenting opinion, believing that the majority opinion “sidesteps the harder issue posed by this case and fails to recognize the asserted error [that] was preserved.”

Justice Medina, joined by Justices Wainwright and Johnson, wrote this dissenting opinion where he concludes: “Because I believe the trial court's solution of forbidding further inquiry into the issue of seat belt bias was arbitrary and made without reference to the principles which should have guided the court=s discretion, I would affirm the judgment of the court of appeals and remand this case for trial. Because the Court does not, I dissent.”

As a side note, because Chief Justice Jefferson and Justice Green were recused, the Honorable John Cayce, Chief Justice, Second District Court of Appeals, and the Honorable Jane Bland, Justice, First District Court of Appeals, sat by commission of Governor Rick Perry pursuant to Tex. Gov't Code ' 22.005.
The Sunday edition of the Amarillo Globe News contains this editorial that begins: “Don Willett, meet Joe Biden. Willett is a conservative Republican Texas Supreme Court justice. Biden is a liberal Democratic U.S. senator from Delaware. They're both so different, but they have something in common: They both have been known to present other people's words as their own.”

In other election news, the Star-Telegram has this article about tabulation problems in Tarrant County. According to the article, “David Rogers, campaign manager for former Texas Supreme Court Justice Steve Smith, said Smith may ask for a recount in his race against Justice Don Willett. The campaign is also considering filing a suit challenging the results.”

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Willett narrowly leading Smith; Incumbent was appointed to state Supreme Court by the governor": This article appears today in The Houston Chronicle.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram contains a similar article: "Justice holds onto slim lead in election."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Texas Supreme Court issued three new opinions this week:

  • In Marshall v. Housing Authority of San Antonio, the Court addressed the issues of whether a tenant may appeal from an adverse judgment in a forcible detainer action without posting a supersedeas bond, and whether a forcible detainer action is moot when the tenant is no longer in possession of the premises and her lease has expired. A Justice Johnson opinion answered both questions in the affirmative
  • In City of White Settlement, Texas v. Super Wash, Inc., the Court addressed whether a car wash business can estop the City of White Settlement from enforcing an ordinance that requires the car wash business to maintain a continuous fence along one side of its property. A Chief Justice Jefferson opinion concluded that the City, under the circumstances present in this particular case, could not be estopped from enforcing its zoning ordinance.
  • In In re Dillard Department Stores, Inc., the Court addressed whether to compel arbitration in a dispute between a retailer and an at-will employee. In this per curiam opinion, the Court found that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the retailer’s motion to compel arbitration.

Monday, March 06, 2006

“Court candidates tout conservatism”: This article appeared in yesterday’s edition of The Dallas Morning News discussing a few last minute comparisons of the candidates vying for Texas Supreme Court Place 2.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

This month at the Texas Supreme Court: has this list of petitions and petitions for discretionary review granted by the Texas Supreme Court. Cases set for oral argument this month include:

  • Brust v. MBNA Bank of America, NA, No. 05-0559
    Granted Feb. 24
    Issue: Whether, after a credit-card-debt arbitration, the trial court properly struck petitioner's discovery requests that sought proof of her consent to arbitration, and affirmed the arbitrator's award of damages to the bank, where the petitioner asserted the credit card had been fraudulently obtained through identity theft.
    Set for oral argument March 23.
  • Ben Bol-Palito Blanco Consolidated Independent School District v. Texas Political Subdivisions Property/Casualty Joint Self-Insurance Fund, No. 05-0340
    Granted Feb. 24
    Issue: Whether local-government entity TPS, which provides property and casualty insurance to school districts through a self-insurance pool and which denied a school district's mold-and-water-damage claim, enjoys sovereign immunity from the district's suit.
    Set for oral argument March 22.
  • City of San Antonio v. Mark Hartman, et al., No. 05-0147
    Granted Feb. 24
    Issue: Whether the city of San Antonio enjoys sovereign immunity from a wrongful-death, premises-liability suit under the Texas Tort Claims Act, where plaintiffs' decedents drowned after their car was swept away on a flooded road.
    Set for oral argument March 23.
  • Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. LP v. Mitchell, No. 05-0171
    Granted Feb. 24
    Issue: Whether the Texas Supreme Court's decision in Continental Casualty Co. v. Downs -- finding that a carrier that fails to begin worker's compensation benefit payments or send a notice of refusal to pay to the claimant within seven days of receiving written notice of injury has waived its right to contest compensability -- should be applied retrospectively to cases arising before the decision was issued.
    Set for oral argument March 23.
Today's Dallas Morning News contains this exclusive article: "Exclusive: Opponent says justice copied books; Willett admits borrowing from Scalia, Bork in application for state Supreme Court." The article begins, "Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett's job application to the state included at least half a dozen examples of writing cribbed – without attribution – from two books by conservative legal stalwarts, the Republican's opponent said Wednesday."