Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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The Supreme Court accepted a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit by answering that Texas law does not authorize certain state officials to directly or indirectly enforce the state's new abortion restriction requirements.Plaintiffs, who provided and funded abortions and support for women who obtain them in Texas, requested a declaration that Senate Bill 8, the "Texas Heartbeat Act," Tex. Health & Safety Code 171.201-.212, unconstitutionally restricted their rights and injunction prohibiting Defendants, state agency executives, from enforcing the Act's requirements. After a remand, the Fifth Circuit certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered answered that Texas law does not grant the state agency executives named as defendants any authority to enforce the Act's requirements, either directly or indirectly. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's denial of SprayFoamPolymers.com LLC's special appearance contesting personal jurisdiction, holding that the court of appeals erred in dismissing SprayFoam from Plaintiffs' suit for lack of jurisdiction.Plaintiffs built a home in Texas, purchased spray foam insulation services from a Texas-based installation company, and suffered injuries in Texas allegedly arising from the insulation. Plaintiffs sued several defendants, parties in the chain of distribution, seeking to hold them liable for their alleged injuries. SprayFoam, the manufacturer of the insulation, filed a special appearance contesting personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied the special appearance. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to establish either general or specific personal jurisdiction over SprayFoam. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that SprayFoam had sufficient minimum contact with Texas such that the exercise of specific jurisdiction over SprayFoam will not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. View "Luciano v. SprayFoamPolymers.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that "a governmental unit's copyright infringement is not a taking" and that, therefore, the trial court erred in denying a plea to the jurisdiction, holding that the violation of a copyright, without more, is not a taking of the copyright.Plaintiff, a professional photographer, sued the University of Houston, alleging that the University's publication of his photograph was an unlawful taking. The University filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting immunity under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. After the trial court denied the plea, the University brought this interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals vacated the trial court's order denying the plea and dismissed the cause for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that a governmental unit's copyright infringement is not a taking. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) factual allegations of an infringement do not alone allege a taking; and (2) the court of appeals did not err in sustaining the jurisdictional plea and dismissing the case because the State retained its immunity in the absence of a properly pled takings claim. View "Jim Olive Photography v. University of Houston System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that claims pleaded under 42 U.S.C. 1983 that were asserted against a state mental health facility and its employees arising from the death of a patient are health care liability claims subject to the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA) and that section 1983 does not preempt the TMLA's expert report requirement.Plaintiff sued Rio Grande State Center (RGCS) and ten individual defendants after his son died in RGSC's care. As to RGSC, Plaintiff alleged negligence, and as to the individual defendants, Plaintiff asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims for failure to serve an expert report under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 74.351(b). The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and Plaintiff nonsuited the negligence claim against RGSC. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the expert report requirement of the TMLA was preempted by section 1983. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff's claims were health care liability claims subject to the TMLA; and (2) section 1983 does not preempt the TMLA's expert-report requirement. View "Rogers v. Bagley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief in this arbitration dispute, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in determining that pre-arbitration discovery was warranted in this case.After Plaintiff's employment was terminated she sued Defendant, her former employer, claiming discrimination and retaliation. Defendant moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the company's employee handbook acknowledgment and agreement, which contained an arbitration agreement. At issue was Plaintiff's second motion to compel pre-arbitration discovery claiming that an enforceable arbitration agreement did not exist. After the trial court granted the motion Defendant sought mandamus relief. The court of appeals denied the motion. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding that the trial court clearly abused its discretion in ordering pre-arbitration discovery because Plaintiff failed to provide the trial court with a reasonable basis to conclude that it lacked sufficient information to determine whether her claims were arbitrable. View "In re Copart, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court denying the plea to the jurisdiction filed by Defendant, a governmental employer, and dismissed Plaintiff's age-discrimination claim for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act did not waive Defendant's sovereign immunity from this suit.Plaintiff sued for age discrimination. Defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court denied the plea, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to submit legally sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of discrimination; and (2) because the legislature has not waived governmental immunity in the absence of such evidence, Plaintiff's age-discrimination claim must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. View "Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-El Paso v. Flores" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the trial court's grant of summary judgment without addressing its legal merit, holding that the trial court's recital in its final summary judgment order that it considered "the pleadings, evidence, and arguments of counsel" included a late-filed response and attached evidence.Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging that she had been sexually assaulted at work. Defendant moved for summary judgment, presenting traditional and no evidence grounds. The trial court granted the motion. On remand from the Supreme Court, the court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiff failed to file a timely response to the no-evidence motion and that the trial court did not consider the late-filed response. The court of appeals declined to consider the evidence that Defendant had attached to its combined motion because no timely response pointed out a fact issue raised by that evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court's recital that it considered the "evidence and arguments of counsel," without limitation, was an "affirmative indication" that the trial court considered Plaintiff's response and the evidence attached to it; and (2) therefore, the court of appeals should have considered that evidence as well in its review of the trial court's summary judgment. View "B.C. v. Stake N Shake Operations, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case examining whether the former version of the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) applies to certain counterclaims alleged in a dispute over an oil and gas lease the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing all the counterclaims in this case, holding that the court of appeals properly dismissed one counterclaim but erred in dismissing the remaining counterclaims.At issue was whether each counterclaim was "based on, relates to, or is in response to" the "exercise of the right of free speech" or the "exercise of the right to petition," as defined by the governing statutory text. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 27.003(a). The Supreme Court held (1) certain communications to third parties about an oil and gas lease allegedly involving the exercise of free speech, on which some of the counterclaims were based, were not covered by the TCPA because they did not relate to a matter of public concern under the TCPA, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in dismissing these counterclaims; and (2) the court of appeals correctly disposed of the "right to petition" counterclaim. View "Creative Oil & Gas, LLC v. Lona Hills Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over an administrative order because E.A. did not move for rehearing before the administrative law judge and rejecting E.A.'s due process challenge based on the agency's misrepresentation of the proper procedure for judicial review, holding that E.A. was denied due process under the circumstances of this case.In Mosley v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. 2019), the Supreme Court held that, under the Administrative Procedures Act, a party seeking judicial review of an administrative order must first move for rehearing before the administrative law judge unless another governing statute provides otherwise. This appeal presented the issues decided in Mosley. The Supreme Court (1) agreed with the court of appeals that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because E.A. did not seek rehearing of the order she challenged before the administrative law judge, but (2) held that the agency misrepresented the proper procedure for judicial review in a letter to E.A., thus denying E.A. due process. View "E.A. v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over an administrative order because Roderic Horton did not move for rehearing before the administrative law judge and rejecting Horton's due process challenge based on the agency's misrepresentation of the proper procedure for judicial review, holding that Horton was denied due process.In Mosley v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. 2019), the Supreme Court held that, under the Administrative Procedures Act, a party seeking judicial review of an administrative order must first move for rehearing before the administrative law judge unless another governing statute provides otherwise. This appeal presented the issues decided in Mosley. The Supreme Court (1) agreed with the court of appeals that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because Horton did not seek rehearing of the order she challenged before the administrative law judge, but (2) held that the agency misrepresented the proper procedure for judicial review in a letter to Horton, thus denying Horton due process. View "Horton v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services" on Justia Law