Texas: Still a Contender


A couple of months ago, when the Mississippi Supreme Court’s clerk refused to file a dissenting opinion in a nursing home wrongful death action, I thought, “thank you, Mississippi, for providing Texas with some solid competition in the ‘worst courts anywhere’ contest.”

This week Texas is coming back strong. We have reports (WSJ Law Blog [H/T SHG], Burnt Orange Report) that the clerk of Texas’s Third Court of Appeals (the intermediate appellate court in Austin) has refused, on orders of Republican Chief Justice Ken Law (Austin American-Statesman), to accept for filing Democratic Justice Jan Patterson’s dissent in the criminal money-laundering case of two of Tom DeLay’s associates. Patterson has asked the (all-Republican) Texas Supreme Court, which is Texas’s court of last resort for civil cases, to intervene; I wish her good luck with that.

Dissenting opinions are important because they are one half of the only public record of the decision-making in appellate courts. Publishing dissenting opinions is important because it reveals that dialogue to lawyers and judges in future cases. Suppressing dissenting opinions conceals the court’s deliberations needlessly from the public, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the judicial process and creating an appearance of impropriety.

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