The Dallas Morning News — Blawgletter’s home town newspaper — published an article about the Supreme Court of Texas on the front page of the Business section.  So?  The article suggests that the court may now have swung as far pro-big business defendant as it went pro-personal injury plaintiff in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The piece, by Eric Torbenson, doesn’t come right out and say that.  But "Critics:  Texas Supreme Court favors big business" does quote law professors and lawyers who have started noting — publicly — the high and growing percentage of the court’s decisions that favor civil defendants, especially large companies. 

That bidnesses have won between 82 and 87 percent of the time since 2005 (up from about 50-50 five years earlier) gets a mention of course but as something that critics complain about.  Ditto the fact that all the justices belong to the Republican party.

Non-critics defended the court, pointing out — rightly — that a simple win/loss tally, while suggestive, doesn’t tell you enough to assess the quality and fairness of the justices’ legal analysis.  We would also want to know things like:

  • What percentage of verdicts did the court overturn?
  • How often did the justices uphold class certification orders?
  • Did the court issue a lot of summary orders without hearing oral argument?
  • Did more than one or two of the justices receive the endorsement of the Texas Civil Justice League, which says it supports "pro-business" lawmakers but "qualified" judges?

We don’t know the actual answers but have the impression that the court tosses well over three-quarters of the verdicts it chooses to review, that the justices have never upheld class certification since the dawn of the 21st century, that the court summarily decides cases almost as often as it gives them full consideration, and that all nine of the sitting justices garnered the TCJL’s support.

Jury trials in Texas have dropped 55 percent since 1996, and Texas state courts have taken cases out of the hands of juries 81 percent more often than a decade ago.

When the News starts reporting on possible pro-business bias of any institution, our ears prick up.  Maybe others will take notice too.  We’re just sayin’.

Barry Barnett