Monday, February 26, 2007

The Poor Can Appeal Late Too: In an opinion issued on Friday, the Texas Supreme Court applied its recent holding in Higgins v. Randall County Sheriff's Office by holding that an indigence affidavit can be filed after the appellate court grants a party 10 extra days to pay the filing fee. The per curiam opinion is Hood v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. can be accessed here.

Another Case Off to Arbitration: In In re BankOne, the Texas Supreme Court issued this per curiam opinion holding that a dispute between a company and Bank One relating to the company's checking account should be arbitrated because of an arbitration clause in the account rules and regulations.

The City is Burning: In City of Houston v. Steve Williams, the Texas Supreme Court held in this per curiam opinion that whether firefighters can assert claims against the City presents issues that should be resolved by the trial court in light of revisions to the Local Government Code.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Constables That Owned Their Jobs: In Dallas v. Wiland, the Texas Supreme Court held in this opinion that three deputy constables have a property interest in their continued employment and cannot be discharged without cause. Justice Hecht (joined by Justice Wainwright, Justice Green, Justice Johnson, and Justice Willett), writing for the majority, held that the constables that brought the action were denied procedural due process because they were discharged without a hearing and they therefore could recover damages for injuries resulting from their loss of employment.

Justice Brister (joined by Chief Justice Jefferson, Justice O'Neill, and Justice Medina) concurred in part and dissented in part in this opinion. The point of dissention focuses on whether Dallas County should be granted a "second chance to escape liability" that was afforded to it by the majority opinion.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Get Off My Floating Homestead: In Norris v. Thomas, the Texas Supreme Court was asked by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether a boat (with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and galley) qualifies for the homestead exemption under the Texas Constitution. Justice Willett wrote the Court's majority opinion (joined by Chief Justice Jefferson, Justice Hecht, Justice Green, and Justice Johnson) and held that the 68 foot yacht in question did not constitute a homestead. Justice O'Neill dissented (joined by Justice Wainwright, Justice Brister, and Justice Medina) because of the difficulty distinguishing between a mobile home hooked up to land-based electricity and water, and a boat hooked up to land-based electricity and water, when it is the attachment itself that makes the dwelling habitable as a residence.

The City Took My Driveway: In City of San Antonio v. TPLP Office Park Properties, the Texas Supreme Court issued this per curiam opinion addressing questions resulting from the City of San Antonio's decision to block access from a private business driveway to a city street. The Court held that the "City's decision and actions to close access between the private driveway and the street constituted a proper exercise of the City's police power, the City is not estopped from closing the access, and closing the access would not constitute a compensable taking."

Jack Fell In the Box: In Jack in the Box Inc. v. Skiles, the Texas Supreme Court issued this per curiam opinion regarding whether an employer owed its truck driver a duty to warn of a danger. The truck driver, Skiles, was injured when he used a ladder to enter his truck because the lift did not work. Because dangers associated with the use of a ladder to climb over a lift gate are common and obvious, the Court held that Jack in the Box had no duty to warn Skiles about the dangers of using a ladder.

Late Interpleader: In State Farm Life Insurance Co. v. Martinez, the Texas Supreme Court issued this unanimous opinion authored by Justice Brister holding that (1) statutory penalties are proper for the delay before an interpleader is filed, but not for the time after the filing, and (2) prejudgment interest on proceeds in the court registry are barred as a double recovery.

Do Not Forward: In Wachovia Bank of Delaware v. Gilliam, the Texas Supreme Court issued this per curiam opinion addressing whether the record showed that substituted service papers were forwarded to the defendants "home office" or "principal office." The Court found no evidence that the papers were forwarded.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Too old to be in this Court (or not old enough): The Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion today in United States Automobile Association v. Brite discussing jurisdictional amounts for an age discrimination case filed in a county court of law -- more specifically, whether jurisdiction should be calculated by an amount in controversy based on what the plaintiff seeks to recover or whether the amount in controversy should be calculated without including damages that are uncertain in time and duration (such as future pay). Justice Medina, writing for a unanimous panel, issued this opinion holding that "amount in controversy" includes all damages the plaintiff seeks to recover at the time the suit is filed, regardless of whether such damages are uncertain in time and duration.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Trial by Jury Endangered: Barry Barnett's Blawgletter contains a post discussing (and containing a link) to an amicus brief filed in the Texas Supreme court by Professor Gerald R. Powell. As the post explain, "[w]riting as private citizen, Professor Gerald R. Powell regrets that the Court's recent 5-4 decision in an antitrust case "exemplifies another reason that trial by jury is endangered." (See the majority opinion in The Coca-Cola Co. v. Harmar Bottling Co., No. 03-0737 (Tex. Oct. 20, 2006) here.)"