After the Texas Supreme Court adopted appellate rules eliminating the old publish/unpublish designations, the debate I heard from some members of the judiciary and practitioners was "how short can a Memorandum Opinion be?" The Dallas Court of Appeals’ Memorandum Opinion in In re Gullatt, appears to test the limits on brevity.
Appellate Rule 47.1 requires that a court of appeals hand down a written opinion. It further requires that the opinion must be "as brief as practicable" but it must "address every issue raised and necessary to final disposition." Rule 47.4 allows the writing of a brief memorandum opinion "no longer than necessary to advise the parties of the court’s decision and the basic reasons for it," but the condition on using a memorandum opinion is that the issues must be settled.
Gullatt is a mandamus proceeding. The opinion recites that "Relator contends the trial judge erred in not acting on his Application to Determine Heirship." It represents that "all dispositive issues are clearly settled in law" and no facts are presented because they are "known to the parties." And the court grants the petition. So what’s the precise legal issue? Does a written opinion that gives only a thumbs up or thumbs down address every issue and give the basic reasons for the decision? From a practitioner’s standpoint, I can’t tell what this opinion is deciding and what issue the court declares to be "clearly settled in law."
The court’s opinion may be found at this link.