Senator-elect Don Huffines (R-Dallas) has filed legislation prescribing deadlines for the Texas Supreme Court and 14 courts of appeals to act on civil appeals. SB 64 gives the SCOT 90 days from the date of filing to deny a petition for review if the court does not request a response and 180 days if it does not request briefing. The Court must grant or deny the petition within 301 days if the court requests briefing. If the Court determines that the issues presented in a petition are related to issues in another case for which a petition has been granted and a decision pending, it may place the petition on hold until the Court decides the prior case. Once a decision has been issued, the Court has 30 days to grant or deny the petition.
The bill further requires the SCOT to issue a decision for all cases in which the courts grants a petition during the term of court (a state fiscal year beginning September 1 and ending August 31) in which review was granted. If a petition is granted in June or later, the Court may carry over the case under extraordinary circumstances. In that event, the Court must issue a decision by December 31 of the next term.
The Court must adopt and publish written procedures that allocate responsibilities to individual justices. The Chief Justice must enforce the procedures and deadlines against individual justices. Such enforcement may prohibiting a justice from participating in future oral arguments, reassigning opinions, prohibiting a justice from participating in a new case, or referring a justice to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
With respect to the Courts of Appeals, SB 64 requires the court to announce whether oral argument has been granted in a civil appeal within 61 days after the final brief is filed. Oral argument must be held within 121 days after the date the final brief allowed by rule has been filed, and the court must issue its decision not later than 90 days after oral argument or, if oral argument is denied, the date the court announces the denial. The chief justice of each court of appeals must enforce the deadlines in the same manner as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as well as submit a quarterly report to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court regarding the compliance of the court with the deadlines. If a court of appeals fails to comply, the Chief Justice may prohibit the filing of additional appeals in that court and order the transfer of appeals to other courts. If a court of appeals is prohibited from accepting new appeals, justices of the court are not credited with state service for that period, and the LBB and governor must reduce the non-complying court’s budget and shift money to courts receiving transfers. By January 31 of each year, the Chief Justice shall submit a compliance report with the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house.