Court Watch—January 26th, 2012
The Texas Supreme Court has a long history of favoring corporate defendants over families and small businesses, according to a decade-long review of the Court’s decision making by Court Watch
, a project of the non-profit Texas Watch Foundation.
Court Watch reviewed the 624 cases involving consumers decided by the Court between 2000 and 2010. The report, “Thumbs on the Scale: A Retrospective of the Texas Supreme Court, 2000-2010,” finds that the state’s high court for civil matters “has marched in lock-step to consistently and overwhelmingly reward corporate defendants and the government at the expense of Texas families.”
“The Texas Supreme Court is an activist, results-oriented body that over the last 10 years has developed into a safe haven for corporate defendants at the expense of individuals, families, and small business owners,” said Alex Winslow, director of Court Watch. “The statistics speak for themselves. The court’s pro-defendant ideology can not be disputed.”
Among the report’s findings are:
- Corporate and government defendants prevail in an average of 74% of cases annually.
- Consumers have lost 79% of cases in which they were pitted against a corporate or government defendant.
These findings lead Court Watch to conclude: “The Texas Supreme Court has become a reliable friend to those who seek to escape the consequences of their actions; its justices are the ultimate guardians for the moneyed and powerful who wish to shirk responsibility.”
The report focuses on the decade beginning in 2000 because it reflects a paradigm shift. In 2000, Rick Perry became governor. His appointees to the Court have taken it in a decidedly activist and ideological turn.
- Justices appointed to the Court by Governor Rick Perry have sided with consumers an average of just 29% of the time.
Despite a constitutional provision limiting its jurisdiction to questions of law – not fact – the Court has routinely overturned decisions made by local juries. Even Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson admonished the Court in a 2004 dissenting opinion, writing: “This Court is constitutionally bound to conduct only a legal – not factual – sufficiency review.”
- Texas Supreme Court has overturned local jury decisions in consumer cases an average of 74% of the time since 2004.
Court Watch writes that “The jury is our smallest, most direct, and least corrupted form of government. … However, the Texas Supreme Court has displayed a fundamental disregard for juries.”
Court Watch has been monitoring and reporting on the Texas Supreme Court and the impact its decisions have on Texas families since 1996. During that time, Court Watch has issued an annual list of the most anti-consumer cases of a given year. In keeping with that tradition, this report includes a “Dirty Dozen of the Decade,” a representative sampling of the most dangerous, far-reaching decisions made by the Texas Supreme Court during the last decade.