Texas: Bill would mandate state supreme court & court of appeals render decisions in civil cases within certain deadlines; prohibit justices from sitting on bench until deadlines met

Earlier this year Kansas’ legislature set deadlines for that state’s supreme court to render decisions, in 2015 it appears Texas may attempt to do something similar.

Under SB 64 of 2015 as prefiled the state’s Supreme Court in handling civil cases (the state’s other court of last resort, Court of Criminal Appeals, handles criminal) would be required to grant or deny petitions for review within effectively 300 days of filing (there would be 90 and 180 deadlines based on whether a response was filed and/or briefing occurred). Oral argument would have to occur within 120 days of the final merits brief, and a decision would have to come down 90 days after oral argument. SB 64 also mandates a decision on a case once accepted/petition for review granted be decided within the same term the petition was granted.

The enforcement mechanisms for failure to meet the deadlines would compel the supreme court to name and identify individual justices who were not meeting the deadlines/writing opinions. The enforcement would include

  1. Prohibiting a justice from sitting on bench for oral arguments
  2. Reassigning opinions away from the non-compliant justice
  3. Prohibiting a justice from participating in any way with additional cases
  4. Referring a justice to state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct

Similar provisions would also apply to the state’s Court of Appeals, although interestingly those judges would not be subject to item #4, reference to the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct. However, if the Court of Appeals itself is out of compliance, the court’s budget would be cut and the judges would not accrue retirement service credits.

SB 64 has been prefiled and not yet assigned to a committee.