I ran the statistics for the Texas Supreme Court’s cause disposition for the calendar year beginning January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021, and the breakdown of broader statistics is shown below. As with prior years, I will follow up with additional data as I crunch more of the numbers.
- During the 2021 calendar year, the court disposed of 91 causes, consisting of 61 causes taken on petition for review, 28 original proceedings (27 mandamuses and one habeas corpus), and 2 certified questions. The court disposed of 97 causes in 2020, 88 causes in 2019, and 98 causes in 2018.
- Twenty of the causes were disposed of by per curiam opinion (unsigned opinion). This is a decline from last year when the court disposed of 30 causes by per curiam opinion.
- The number of petitions for writ of mandamuses accepted and disposed of rose markedly. In 2020, the court wrote opinions on 12 original proceedings, and that number was an increase over prior years. in 2020, it appeared to me that the increase may have been explained partly by election-year issues. However, this year’s number of original proceedings is more than double the number handled in 2020.
- During 2021, the reversal rate for causes taken on petition for review is 75%, which is about the average.
- As with last year’s numbers, I looked at the number of causes with unanimous opinions. Excluding per curiam opinions, there were 48 unanimous opinions, which includes 9 of 18 mandamuses decided by signed opinion, and 1 of the 2 certified questions was decided by unanimous opinion. Overall, there was some disagreement among the justices in 35.6% of the causes. This disagreement could reflect the changing make-up of the court during the past year.
Final notes on original proceedings: I looked at the substance of the mandamuses that were decided during 2021 to see if I could glean anything from that subject-matter as to why the number of writings on petitions for writ of mandamuses is up. It’s a complete mix of subjects addressed and there does not appear to be any trend or explanation on the face the petitions taken. One potential explanation for the increase could be fall-out from the fact that fewer appeals have been taken during the Covid pandemic since trial courts have been restricted in their operations. With fewer ordinary appeals taken, perhaps the petitions for writ of mandamus simply looked more important to the state’s jurisprudence.
One observation worth noting, however, is that the overall number of causes taken and addressed by the court has remained relatively fixed, which means that as the proportion of petitions for writ of mandamus taken has gone up, the proportion of petitions for review has declined.