Texas Supreme Court advisory

Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson told Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislative Budget Board in a letter Friday that the Texas Supreme Court left the lowest number of argued cases pending from one term to the next since the Court began tracking carryover cases more than 20 years ago. 


Answering a legislative charge, Chief Justice Jefferson said the Court had four causes that were argued and pending on its docket from the 2010-11 term that ended August 31. That compares with 38 causes carried over from the previous term that were argued but not decided and 57 pending at the end of the 2006-07 term. Of the four causes pending when the Court’s new term started in September, three have been decided.

The Court’s yearlong term follows the state’s September-through-August fiscal year.

Chief Justice Jefferson noted the Court last term issued 162 opinions, 112 of which decided cases. Of those, 74 were majority opinions in causes that had been argued and 38 were “per curiam” decisions without oral argument. Last term marked the fifth year in the last 10 the Court issued more than 160 opinions. 

“The Court worked hard to achieve its objective of disposing cases in the most efficient manner, but without deciding them prematurely,” Jefferson said.

The chief justice also reported that the Court as a whole missed only 17 internal benchmarks –guidelines for circulating opinions regardless of their complexity – during the last fiscal year. “These benchmarks necessarily yield to the greater goal to produce thorough and accurate declarations of the law,” Jefferson wrote in his report.  “Some cases, because they are complex or because the record is extensive, require more time than is allotted.” 

The Legislature requested the report in a rider to the Court’s budget.