As most appellate lawyers around Dallas know, the Fifth Court of Appeals has a reputation (well-earned) for disposing of petitions for mandamus in, let’s say, a summary fashion. Specifically, the mandamus denials, with few exceptions, have consisted of three-sentences memorandum opinions, two of which were reserved for the standard introduction ("The facts are well known to the parties") and the standard conclusion ("Accordingly, we deny Relator’s petition for writ of mandamus."). I have been on the "short" end of these opinions a number of times. These "opinions" make it difficult for lawyers to explain to their clients what happened, and virtually impossible to advise clients on whether or not to take the case to the Supreme Court of Texas. But those days seem to be over.
In what I see as one of the most marked improvements by the court of appeals in my time as an appellate lawyer, the Court has begun issuing a number of substantive mandamus denials. (Here, here, and here, for example). The trend even included denials for failing to comply with procedural requirements, such as here. After I noticed the phenomenon earlier this year, I began tracking mandamus denials by the Court on a daily basis, and was surprised to see that a majority of the denials were by opinions with substantive analysis, usually three to four pages, and by different justices. I was reluctant to comment on this development for fear of jinxing it. But the trend has continued to the point where I am comfortable now calling it a practice. I found only one summary denial issued in the entire month of October. And last week there were three substantive denials in one day, here, here, and here. So kudos to the Court for making this improvement in response to the bar at a time when budgets are shrinking and caseloads are increasing. As appellate attorneys here, we are fortunate to practice before the Fifth Court of Appeals. This development is another reason why we should be equally proud to do so.