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.