Thursday, October 9, 2008

Republican Dominated Texas Supreme Court Fails Texans

All nine justices on the Texas Supreme Court received an “F” on a new scorecard released by Court Watch, a non-profit consumer project that monitors the state’s highest court.

What is the Texas Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court of Texas is composed of a Chief Justice plus eight Justices and it is the court of last resort for civil matters in the State of Texas. The Supreme Court has statewide appellate jurisdiction in most civil cases, which include contract, personal injury, family and juvenile cases. A different court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is the court of last resort for criminal matters.

The Justices of the Supreme Court are elected to staggered six-year terms in state-wide elections. When a vacancy arises the Governor of Texas may appoint Justices, subject to Senate confirmation, to serve out the remainder of an unexpired term until the next general election. Five of the current Justices, a majority, have been appointed by Governor Rick Perry (R) and all the current Justices, like all the Judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, are members of the Republican party.

All justices are elected to a "court place position" in state-wide general elections. Other than Place 1, which is reserved as the Chief Justice place position, the Supreme Court place numbers have no special significance. Graphical Guide to the Court System of Texas.

Graphical Guide to the Court System of Texas.
“The Texas Supreme Court has failed Texas families,” said Alex Winslow, Executive Director of the Texas Watch Foundation, which operates the Court Watch project. “Sadly, this is not surprising. The Texas Supreme Court has become a safe haven for corporate defendants seeking refuge from accountability.”

Court Watch reviewed each of the 110 opinions issued by the Court during the 2005-2006 term, 69 of which are classified as consumer cases. Court Watch determined how often each justice sided with consumers. With just a 39% record of voting in favor of consumers, Justice Harriet O’Neill had the Court’s highest consumer score. Meanwhile, Justice Don Willett had the lowest rate with a minuscule 11%. The average pro-consumer score was a paltry 22%.

Winslow points out that it is not surprising that the Court would find in favor of insurance, medical, governmental, and other corporate interests over individual consumers. In the 10 years that Court Watch has been monitoring and reporting on the Court’s decisions, the Texas Supreme Court has consistently and overwhelmingly ruled against Texas families.

“Year in and year out, the Texas Supreme Court distinguishes itself as an activist, pro-defendant Court,” said Winslow.

The report also found the following results:

  • The Court ruled against consumers a whopping 84% of the time. This is the highest consumer loss rate in Court Watch’s 10-year history.
  • The Court tied its highest defendant win rate at 82%.
  • The Court voted in lockstep. With an average rate of agreement with the majority of 90%, the Court lacks any real dissenting voices.
  • The Court overturned citizen juries in consumer cases a staggering 81% of the time.
Every voter in Texas will have the opportunity to replace three of the Republican Texas Supreme Court Justices with three highly qualified Democratic Justices.

For Texas Supreme Court, Chief Justice

For Texas Supreme Court, Place 7

For Texas Supreme Court, Place 8

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