How “Related” Must a Communication be to be Subject to the Texas Citizens Participation Act?

The Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) is designed to protect the constitutional right of persons to speak freely, associate freely, and participate in government without the threat of an unmeritorious lawsuit being filed against them as a result.  More particularly, it protects the rights of persons to speak out on “matters of public concern.”  The TCPA defines what is a “matter of public concern” as including “an issue related to” health or safety.

A divided Dallas Court of Appeals considered how to apply this definition to communications made by a professional medical association in connection with the termination of a nurse employee following a drug test the employer had given the nurse.  In U.S. Anesthesia Partners of Texas, P.A. v. Mahana, No. 05-18-01414-CV (Aug. 27, 2019), Mahana filed suit against her former employer, asserting claims for breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Mahana alleged that her supervisor texted other employees stating that Mahana was being removed because she had tested positive for opiates and other controlled substances.

After Mahana filed suit, U.S. Anesthesia invoked the TCPA and moved to dismiss on the grounds that its communications involved matters of public concern and were therefore subject to the TCPA.  In addressing this threshold question—whether the communications related to a matter of public concern, i.e., health and safety—the majority, authored by Justice Erin Nowell, held that the communications were not related to a matter of health or safety because the communications were not related to the provision of medical services by a health care professional.  The majority reasons that the communications did not address Mahana’s job performance and whether she properly provided medical services to patients.  The majority specifically noted that Mahana alleged that she was never physically or mentally impaired while performing her duties.

Justice David Bridges dissented.  He argued that the communications did related to health and safety.  He pointed out that the drug test had been given to Mahana after pharmacy logs had shown missing drugs.  He further pointed out that the text messages by the health care supervisor stated that Mahana was being terminated because she was a drug addict who was engaged in illegal activity.  Justice Bridges argued that a communication need only “relate to” a matter of public concern, which requires only a tangential relationship.   He would have held that text messages between co-workers that a nurse anesthetist had tested positive for opiates and other controlled substances concerns an issue related to health or safety, such that the TCPA should be applied.

One further opinion was issued in this appeal.  In an unusual move, Justice Bill Whitehill wrote an opinion dissenting from the denial of en banc consideration of the case.  Justice Whitehill wrote to express his concern about the majority’s reasoning, pointing out that Mahana was a nurse anesthetist, who’s employment contract expressly provided that she could be terminated for substance abuse.  He closed by asking what is tangentially related to health and safety if a communication stating that a nurse anesthetist is addicted to illegal drugs isn’t related.

U.S. Anesthesia Partners of Texas, P.A. v. Mahana, No. 05-18-01414-CV (Aug. 27, 2019)

Fifth Circuit Holds That the TCPA Does Not Apply in Federal Courts

Resolving a longstanding uncertainty in federal district courts, the Fifth Circuit has held that the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) conflicts with federal procedural rules and therefore does not apply in diversity cases.

The TCPA is an anti-SLAPP statute (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation).  It is intended to provide a speedy process to resolve litigation that would impinge on First Amendment rights, typically defamation suits filed against those who speak out.  If a movant shows that the action is based on the movant’s exercise of First Amendment rights, the case will be dismissed unless the non-movant establishes by “clear and specific evidence” a prima facie case for each element of the claim.  The movant may rebut the non-movant’s evidence by establishing, with a preponderance of the evidence, the essential elements of a defense.  Most discovery is stayed while a TCPA motion is pending.  The Act sets specific time limits and provides a mandatory award of attorney fees to the movant if the case is dismissed.

In Klocke v. Watson, No. 17-11320, Klocke alleged that his son committed suicide after false charges of homophobic harassment were made by Defendant Watson.  Klocke sued Watson for defamation and defamation per se.  Watson moved to dismiss the defamation claims under the TCPA.  Klocke asserted that the TCPA was inapplicable in federal court and did not respond on the merits.  The district court overruled the objection and granted the motion to dismiss.  On appeal, Klocke argued that the TCPA’s provisions conflict with federal rule 12(b)(6) governing motions to dismiss and rule 56 governing summary judgments.

The Fifth Circuit had previously hinted that anti-SLAPP statutes would apply in federal court.  It had applied Louisiana’s anti-SLAPP statute in Henry v. Lake Charles American Press, LLC, 566 F.3d 164 (5th Cir. 2009).  The First, Second, and Ninth Circuits had each upheld the use of state anti-SLAPP statutes in federal courts.  Godin v. Schencks, 629 F.3d 79, 86–87 (1st Cir. 2010); Adelson v. Harris, 774 F.3d 803, 809 (2d Cir. 2014); United States ex rel. Newsham v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., Inc., 190 F.3d 963, 973 (9th Cir. 1999).

But in Klocke the Fifth Circuit disagreed both with its own holding in Henry and with the other circuits.  It cited Shady Grove Orthopedic Assocs., P.A. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 559 U.S. 393, 398–99 (2010), which held unenforceable in federal court a New York statute that precluded class action suits seeking penalties or statutory recoveries.  The Supreme Court held that the state law limited the reach of federal class actions under Rule 23 and therefore conflicted with federal procedural rules.  The Klocke panel found most persuasive the reasoning of Abbas v. Foreign Policy Grp., LLC, 783 F.3d 1328, 1333 (D.C. Cir. 2015), which held that a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction should not apply a state law or rule if (1) a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ‘answer[s] the same question’ as the state law or rule and (2) the Federal Rule does not violate the Rules Enabling Act.

In this case, the court held that TCPA’s burden-shifting framework imposed additional requirements beyond those found in Rules 12 and 56 and answered the same question as those rules.  Rule 12(b)(6) requires a court to accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and no evidence is required.  Rule 56 only requires a non-movant to show a genuine dispute as to a material fact, and unlike the TCPA the judge does not weigh the evidence to determine the truth of the matter.  The TCPA imposes additional requirements that demand judicial weighing of evidence and thus imposes requirements not found in the Federal Rules.

The court held that Henry was not binding despite the Fifth Circuit’s rule of orderliness.  It reasoned that Henry interpreted a different statute, that Texas’ law imposes more complex burdens, the panel in Henry did not consider the potential conflict between the Louisiana anti-SLAPP provision and the federal rules, and the Henry panel did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shady Grove.  It concluded that “this panel is not bound by a non-argued, undecided issue in another case interpreting another state’s dissimilar statute.”

The court’s opinion in Klocke v. Watson may be found here.

Statute Making it a Crime for a Public Official to Circumvent the Open Meetings Act Held Unconstitutional

In a decision that upends decades of open meetings law, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that the provision of the Texas Open Meetings Act prohibiting a government official from circumventing the Act through a “walking quorum” or “daisy chain” discussion outside of a public meeting is unconstitutionally vague.

The Texas Open Meetings Act requires every meeting of a governmental body to be open to the public except as authorized. Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.002.  A “meeting” is defined as any deliberation or gathering at which a quorum of the governmental body is present and public business or policy over which the governmental body has supervision or control is discussed or decided.  Id. § 551.001(4).  All public officials must watch a mandatory video or attend other training under the Act.  Id. § 551.005.  A public official commits a crime if they engage in an unauthorized closed meeting.  Id. § 551.144.

The Act also makes it a crime if a government official “conspires to circumvent this chapter by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations in violation of this chapter.”  Id. § 551.143.  For years this provision was understood to bar “walking quorum” or “daisy chain” discussions. The understanding was confirmed by a 2005 Texas Attorney General Opinion which held that the section applied to

“’members of a governmental body who gather in numbers that do not physically constitute a quorum at any one time but who, through successive gatherings, secretly discuss a public matter with a quorum of that body’ … ‘a daisy chain of members the sum of whom constitute a quorum’ or a ‘walking quorum.'”

Tex. Atty Gen. Op. No. GA-0326 (2005).

A county judge was indicted for violating this section and challenged the provision as overbroad in violation of the First Amendment and unconstitutionally vague.  The trial court dismissed the indictment but the court of appeals held the statute constitutional.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed.

The court held that the statute potentially implicated the free speech rights of public officials and applied a heightened standard of review.  It held that the statute was “hopelessly indeterminate by being too abstract” with regard to what it meant to circumvent the Act.  The court acknowledged the Attorney General Opinion but found that even if the Act could be limited to that definition, there were still many ways in which a “daisy chain” or “walking quorum” could be defined, citing opinions from other states.  It concluded that section 551.143 was unconstitutionally vague on its face and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the indictment.

Unless and until the legislature amends the statute to specify conduct that improperly circumvents the Texas Open Meetings Act, public officials are no longer at risk of prosecution for having daisy chain or walking quorum meetings outside of the public eye.

State of Texas v. Doyal, No. PD-1254-18 (Tex. Crim. App. Feb. 27, 2019)

2018 Reversal Rates for Intermediate Appellate Courts

As I reported recently, the overall reversal rates for the fourteen courts of appeals is right at about the average from the past few years.  There are a few individual courts that had some noteworthy numbers.

The Third Court of Appeals (Austin) historically has a high affirmance rate–perhaps due to the different type of docket that court handles–but this year the court improved on its average.  The Texas Supreme Court reversed only 42% of the cases that it agreed to hear from that court.  The Austin Court of Appeals’ average reversal rate for the last 5 years is just over 50%.

The Thirteenth Court of Appeals (Corpus Christi) had an 80% reversal rate, which was about the average.  This reversal rate is a slight up-tick from its overall average of 70%.

The Houston First District Court of Appeals had a big jump in its reversal rate.  In 2017, that court’s reversal rate was 55%, but in 2018, the reversal rate was 80%.  The First District Court of Appeals 5-year average still beats the overall average reversal rate.

The Sixth (Texarkana), Ninth (Beaumont), Tenth (Waco), and Twelfth (Tyler) Courts of Appeals had 100% reversal rates, but it must be remembered that these are smaller courts with smaller dockets and there are fewer cases taken up for review, so the numbers for a single year are not statistically significant.  Even so, it is notable that the Eleventh (Eastland) Court of Appeals had a 33% reversal rate.  Eastland’s overall reversal rate for the last five years is below the average, coming in at 67%.

Reversal rates for the individual courts of appeals are displayed in the graphs below.

2018 Texas Supreme Court Numbers are in…

With the close of 2018, the statistics for opinion disposition by the Texas Supreme Court are in.  I’m still crunching numbers and will follow this post with additional statistics, but here’s what some of the preliminary data show for the 2018 calendar year:

  • 98 causes were disposed of.  That’s the highest in 5 years and 14 more than in 2017 and 2016.
  • 24 per curiam (unsigned) opinions were issued.  That number is about the same as in the prior two years, so it appears that the bulk of the increase in overall causes disposed of came from matters disposed of with oral argument
  • 11 of the causes disposed of were original proceedings (10 mandamuses and 1 original petition).  This number is up slightly from prior years and may explain in part the higher disposition rate overall.
  • The overall reversal rate for cases taken on petition for review is within the average for the last few years, coming in at 78.4%.

I’ll be rolling out additional statistical information in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Fifth Circuit Denies Attorney Fees Where Attorneys Created Claim for Purpose of Generating Excessive Fee Request

The Fifth Circuit has affirmed a denial of all attorney fees under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act based on the “outrageous facts” and the conduct of the plaintiff’s attorneys.

Crystal Davis alleged that Credit Bureau of the South violated Texas and Federal Debt Collection Practices Acts by using the words “credit bureau” in its name when attempting to collect a water bill of $107.29.  Davis also alleged that the defendant misrepresented itself in a phone call she recorded.  No actual damages were claimed.  The district court granted summary judgment and awarded her $1,000 in statutory damages under the federal act.  Davis then filed a motion seeking $130,410 in attorney fees under 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3), which provides that a person who violates the Act is liable for actual and statutory damages and a reasonable attorney’s fee as determined by the court.

The attorney-fee motion was referred to the magistrate judge, who refused to award any fees finding that the case involved “special circumstances” that would render an award of fees unjust.  He found that the claim “was created by counsel for the purpose of generating, in counsel’s own words, an ‘incredibly high’ fee request.”  Davis, who lived in Louisiana, was also found to have created a false claim under Texas law.  While employed at her lawyer’s law firm, she requested Defendant to mail her water bill to her parents’ address in Texas.  Davis’ recorded phone call with the Defendant was made using the law firm’s recorder and in the presence of her attorney.  The magistrate judge found that Plaintiff’s counsel believed that  prevailing  on a simple claim  under  the  FDCPA  “gives rise to a  blank  check for attorney’s  fees” and had treated the fee request as an opening bid.  The magistrate judge was “stunned” by the request for $130,000 in fees for a simple case governed by a Fifth Circuit opinion directly on point.  He found substantial duplicative and excessive fees by multiple counsel, and that the requested hourly rate of $450 was “excessive by orders of magnitude” for such a straightforward matter.  The district judge overruled objections to the magistrate’s ruling and Davis appealed.

The Fifth Circuit acknowledged that attorney fees in a successful FDCPA action are mandatory and that no Fifth Circuit opinion had allowed zero fees where the Plaintiff recovered actual or statutory damages.  However, it cited numerous cases that deny fees in similar contexts.  The Fifth Circuit has found that “special circumstances” can justify not awarding fees in civil rights cases.  Romain  v.  Walters, 856 F.3d 402, 407 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983)).  The Third and Fourth Circuits permit outright denial of fees under the FDCPA in “unusual circumstances.”  Graziano v. Harrison, 950 F.2d 107, 113 (3d Cir. 1991); Carroll v. Wolpoff & Abramson, 53 F.3d 626, 628 (4th Cir. 1995).  The First Circuit has upheld the denial of fees under the Truth in Lending Act under “the most unusual of  circumstances” such as bad faith, obdurate conduct, unjust hardship, or other special circumstances.   de  Jesus  v.  Banco  Popular  de  Puerto  Rico,  918  F.2d  232,  234  &  n.4 (1st  Cir. 1990).  The concurring opinion in a D.C. Circuit case suggests that even though a  reasonable fee is required under FDCPA, “the statutory text does not preclude a court from deciding — consistent with its inherent authority  to protect the integrity of its proceedings, Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 42–51 (1991)—that a ‘reasonable’ fee in response to an exorbitant request is a nominal  amount  approaching zero.”  Baylor  v.  Mitchell  Rubenstein  &  Assocs.,  P.C. ,  857  F.3d  939,  958  (D.C.  Cir.  2017)  (Henderson,  J.,  concurring).

The Fifth Circuit concurred with the magistrate judge’s findings.  It criticized the requested hourly rate noting that the pleadings and brief on appeal  were replete  with  grammatical errors, formatting issues, and  improper citations.   It agreed that no incentive for bringing claims under the FDCPA was needed in this case since the plaintiff’s counsel “essentially created her claim.”  It disapproved of  “utilizing technical violations  of  the  FDCPA  solely as a means for generating attorney’s fees” and concluded: “This simply cannot be tolerated.   Bottom-line:   the   FDCPA   does   not support avaricious efforts of attorneys seeking a windfall.”  It held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Davis was not entitled to attorney’s fees, or that the reasonable attorney’s fee was $0.

Davis v. Credit Bureau of the South, No. 17-41136 (Fifth Cir. Nov. 16, 2018).

Texas Supreme Court Finds No Cause of Action for Intentional Interference with Inheritance

The Texas Supreme Court resolved a longstanding debate and an unusual split in lower courts by declaring that there is no cause of action for intentional interference with inheritance.

One issue for those victimized by persons taking undue advantage of the elderly is what remedies are available when an inheritance is interfered with.  Last year the Texas Supreme Court held that neither the Legislature nor the Supreme Court had recognized a tort for interference with an inheritance but left open whether the court might do so in the future.  Kinsel v. Lindsay, 526 S.W.3d 411, 423 (Tex. 2017).

Subsequent to Kinsel the two Houston Courts of Appeal entered opposite holdings.  The First District held that a cause of action for intentional interference with an inheritance exists.  Yost v. Fails, 534 S.W.3d 517, 529-30 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2017, no pet.).  Within weeks, the Fourteenth District rejected Yost and declined to recognize such a cause of action.  Rice v. Rice, 533 S.W.3d 58, 62-63 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2017, no pet.).  Both Houston courts have appellate jurisdiction over the same ten-county districts.  Cases are randomly assigned between them, meaning that parties and judges in those counties were subject to simultaneous and opposing rules.

Jack Archer executed a will in 1991 that left the bulk of his estate to his brother Richard and his children (the Archers) and the rest to charities.  In 1998, Jack suffered a stroke and became delusional and sometimes disoriented.  Jack’s friend, Ted Anderson, hired a lawyer and had Jack sign new wills and trust documents leaving his entire estate to the charities.  While Jack was still alive, the Archers sued seeking a declaration that Jack lacked mental capacity to execute the new wills and trusts.  The charities agreed not to probate the new wills in exchange for the Archers’ agreement to give them Jack’s coin collection worth $588,000 and pay their attorney fees.

After Jack died, his 1991 will was probated and the Archers received their bequests.  They sued Anderson’s estate for intentional interference with their inheritance.  Unlike many elder abuse cases, Anderson never personally profited from his actions and the Archers received their inheritance under Jack’s prior will.  But they alleged damages consisting of the $588,000 they had to give the charities in settlement plus $2.8 million in attorney fees incurred in avoiding Jack’s post-1991 wills and trusts.

In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court rejected the claim.  “Because existing law affords adequate remedies for the wrongs the tort would redress, and because the tort would conflict with Texas probate law, we hold that there is no cause of action in Texas for intentional interference with inheritance.”  The court reasoned that probate law protects a donor’s right to freely dispose of his property as he chooses, while a prospective beneficiary has no right to a future inheritance only an expectation that is dependent on the donor.  Recognizing a tort of intentional interference with inheritance would give a beneficiary a right he or she does not otherwise have and one that might conflict with the interests and private motives of the donor.  The court agreed with commentators that tort law “is ill-suited to posthumous reconstruction of the true intent of a decedent.”  John C.P. Goldberg & Robert H. Sitkoff, Torts and Estates: Remedying Wrongful Interference with Inheritance, 65 Stan. L. Rev. 335 (2013).  Probate doctrines like undue influence and duress distinguish between legitimate persuasion and overbearing influence on a testator.  If these remedies are inadequate, establishing new remedies is better suited to the legislature than through “judicial adventurism.”

The dissenters agreed with the majority that the Archers had adequate remedies without a claim for intentional interference with inheritance.  But they argued forcefully that it was too soon to reject such a tort for all time, citing statistics on elder abuse including abuse within guardianships.  The dissenters argued that the Court could not state that current law affords adequate remedies for all situations where elderly persons are wrongfully relieved of assets intended for others.  They would have withheld a decision about whether to recognize or reject the tort until the full effects of Kinsel could be seen and evaluated.

Archer v. Anderson, No. 16-0256 (Tex. June 22, 2018)

The Texas Supreme Court’s Docket, Part 3

There’s a perception in some appellate circles that if the court of appeals has issued a “memorandum opinion,” the chances of getting review by the Supreme Court of Texas are minuscule.   A look at the supreme court’s statistics might change a few minds.

To give some perspective, first consider what it means to have a “memorandum opinion.”  The Texas rules of appellate procedure allow intermediate courts of appeals to designate written opinions as an “opinion” or a “memorandum opinion.”  In general, if the issues decided by the court are settled under existing law, the court should use the “memorandum opinion” designation.  But the “opinion” label should be used when the court (1) establishes a new rule, alters an existing rule, or applies an existing rule to a novel set of facts; (2) addresses issues of constitutional law or other legal issues important to the jurisprudence of the state; (3) criticizes existing law; or (4) resolves an apparent conflict of authorities.   Faithful application of this test to each appeal results in a sorting of cases into those that are mundane because they don’t plow new ground (memorandum opinions) and those that are significant because of the nature of the issues resolved (opinions).  The Texas Supreme Court accepts only cases that are important to the state’s jurisprudence, so one would expect to see a strong bias in favor of the “opinions” over “memorandum opinions.”

The breakdown of granted petitions for the 4-year period from 2014 through 2017 shows that approximately 1/3 of the petitions granted involved memorandum opinions.   In 2016, the percentage was approximately 40% of the total petitions granted.  Those percentages are strikingly high if memorandum opinions are supposed to be reserved for mundane settled legal questions.   The percentages may give practitioners hope that an opinion labelled as a “memorandum opinion” is not the end of the appellate road.

 

The Texas Supreme Court’s Docket, Part 2

Each calendar year, the Supreme Court of Texas agrees to hear and decide somewhere around 80 petitions for review.   This is only a fraction of the petitions for review that come knocking on the court’s door.   When the court grants a petition for review the odds are very strong that the court is going to reverse the court of appeals judgment.  Overall reversal rates range between 75% to 85% for the years 2014 through 2017, with the average reversal rate for all four years being 82.2%.

But reversal rates vary depending upon which intermediate court of appeals issued the opinion being reviewed.  Excluding courts of appeals with a statistically insignificant number of cases reviewed, the reversal rates vary from a low of 54% (Austin) to a high of 94.7% (El Paso).  The chart below shows the percentage reversals by court of appeals:

Statistically, the odds of an affirmance are better than the average if the intermediate court of appeals that issued the opinion under review is the Houston First Court of Appeals, the Austin Court of Appeals, the Amarillo Court of Appeals, or the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals.

In part 1 of this series, I pointed out that the Texas Supreme Court was granting more petitions than would be expected by random selection for the 3rd (Austin), 4th (San Antonio), 8th (El Paso), 13th (Corpus Christi), and 14th (Houston) courts of appeals, and I raised the question of whether the numbers might be higher because these courts were committing more errors than the other intermediate appellate courts.  The reversal rates in the chart above do not seem to support that theory.  The reversal rates for the Austin Court of Appeals and the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals are well below the average.  The reversal rates for the San Antonio and Houston Fourteenth Courts of Appeals is about average.  Only the El Paso Court of Appeals has a higher than average reversal rate.   Thus, it would appear that there is something more than mere error that explains why the Texas Supreme Court accepts more petitions to review opinions from some courts of appeals than others.

 

 

 

 

The Texas Supreme Court’s Docket, Part 1

For well over a decade, the Supreme Court of Texas has been presented with more than 1000 different matters each fiscal year.  These matters consist of petitions for review, petitions for writs of mandamus, certified questions, petitions for habeas corpus, direct appeals, and a handful of other miscellaneous items.  The bulk of the court’s docket consists of petitions for review, which are either denied or granted.

Understanding the make-up of the court’s docket may be enlightening.  Where do these petitions for review come from and why?  In the coming weeks, I will be presenting a number of blog posts that focus upon the make-up of the court’s docket.  It is my hope to bring a greater understanding of the court’s docket by this analysis.

In this first blog entry, I focus on the immediate source of the petitions for review–the 14 intermediate courts of appeals.  More particularly, I wanted to see what intermediate court of appeals the granted petitions for review came from.   Assuming all things being equal, one might conclude that the distributions across the 14 intermediate courts would be roughly equal.  But you have to consider that the 14 courts of appeals have different numbers of justices on them, ranging from 3 to 13.  There are a total of 80 intermediate appellate court justices statewide, and thanks to the Texas Supreme Court’s efforts to equalize the workload, the distribution of cases among the 80 justices is roughly equal.   With this in mind, based upon the total petitions granted, I was able to calculate the distribution of those granted petitions across the 14 intermediate courts that would be expected if all things were equal (random), keeping in mind the number of justices serving on each court.  I then compared the expected distribution of granted petitions with the actual distribution of granted petitions.  I performed these calculations for the calendar years ranging from 2014 to 2017.  Here’s the result:

As this graph demonstrates, the Texas Supreme Court grants more petitions than would be expected from a random selection process for the 3rd (Austin), 4th (San Antonio), 8th (El Paso), 13th (Corpus Christi), and 14th (Houston) courts of appeals.  The Texas Supreme Court grants fewer petitions than would be expected from a random selection for the 2nd (Fort Worth), 5th (Dallas), 6th (Texarkana), 9th (Beaumont), 10th (Waco), and 11th (Eastland) courts of appeals.

What explains these differences?  Could it be that the 3rd, 4th, 8th, 13th, and 14th courts of appeals are making more errors?  Could it be that these courts are deciding issues that are more important to the state’s jurisprudence–which was one of the key factors (and now the only factor) the Texas Supreme Court uses for exercising its discretion over which petitions to accept for review?  Could it be that the other courts are making fewer errors, or deciding less important issues?  The reader can draw his or her own conclusions, but the data does not in itself give any definitive answer.

Could it be that more petitions are filed from the 3rd, 4th, 8th, 13th and 14th courts of appeals?  Stay tuned to find out…

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