The Senate Jurisprudence Committee will take up SB 11 by Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which reorganizes the intermediate appellate courts at its hearing tomorrow, April 1, at 9 a.m. in the Betty King Room (2E.20). Senator Huffman is expected to lay out a substitute for SB 11, as well as SB 1529, which creates a statewide intermediate appellate court for administrative appeals (those appeals currently go to the Austin Court of Appeals).
CSSB 11 does the following:
- Restructures the existing 14 courts of appeals into 7 districts by combining existing districts, eliminating overlapping jurisdiction, and removing split district courts;
- Retains all 80 appellate justices with their chambers at a particular location, keeps all existing courthouses open, and adds courthouses in Midland and Lake Jackson;
- Assigns each justice to one of the 7 new districts effective 1/1/23;
- Designates 5 of the 80 justices to a different courthouse than currently, with their terms expiring in 2022 and filled by a districtwide election in 2022;
- Sitting chief justices remain chiefs through the end of their terms, but if a new COA has two chiefs, they must coordinate their responsibilities with the CJ of SCOTX resolving differences;
- Takes effect 9/1/21.
The new map establishes new districts with the following seats:
- District 1: Amarillo and Lubbock covering the Panhandle region;
- District 2: Combines El Paso and Midland in a huge district running east through the Hill Country;
- District 3: Combines San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Edinburg;
- District 4: Combines Texarkana, Fort Worth, Eastland, and Waco;
- District 5: Combines Dallas and Austin;
- District 6: Keeps the 2 Houston courts, adds a Lake Jackson court, and expands the district to extend westward right up to Austin and San Antonio;
- District 7: Combines Tyler and Beaumong in a Deep East Texas district.
The counterpart bill, SB 1529, would create a statewide court of appeals for cases of statewide significance, including administrative law, sovereign immunity, and constitutional law. The committee substitute for SB 1529 is expected to contain the following provisions:
- Creates the Texas Court of Appeals with exclusive intermediate appellate jurisdiction over civil cases brought by or against the state or a state agency, board, or commission, or an officer of one of those entities;
- Provides for 5 justices elected statewide, with first seats filled in the 2022 election;
- Transfers pending litigation within the court’s jurisdiction to the court;
- Applies the same administrative procedures as other courts of appeals, binds the court to SCOTX precedent, sites the court in Austin but allows it to hear cases and transact business in any county that the court determines necessary and convenient;
- Excludes cases brought under the Family Code.
SB 11 is one of Lt. Governor Patrick’s top 31 priorities this session, so we can expect these bills to move forward in the process fairly quickly. On the House side, Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) and Rep. Andy Murr (R-Junction) have filed shell bills, HB 339 and HB 2613, respectively. Those bills have been referred to the House Redistricting Committee. The proposed map may be viewed below.