The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court issued rulings during the first decade of this century which overwhelmingly favored insurance, business interests, and government, at the expense of individual citizens. This is the finding of a report recently issued by Texas Watch, an organization which monitors governmental activities, including the Supreme Court.
The study, entitled Thumbs on the Scale: A Retrospective of the Texas Supreme Court, 2000-2010, revealed that defendants averaged a 74% victory rate, while the Court’s average for ruling in favor of plaintiffs was a mere 22%. In particular, consumers have lost 79% of their cases since 2005, with the Court reversing jury findings 74% of the time.
Although the rulings of the Supreme Court control all Texans, unlike proposals of the governor or laws passed by the Legislature, they largely escape public notice. That is because the issues are often complex, and the number of parties directly involved is low. Yet, the Court’s rulings establish justice for the entire state.
Many justices are initially appointed to the Court by the governor, before they run for election. Interestingly, the gap favoring defendants and big businesses was narrowing until Governor Perry was elected. Since then, the Court’s decisions, rendered in part by judges he appointed, has moved widely in the opposite direction. For instance, six justices appointed by Gov. Perry have consumer scores from 35% (Justice Guzman) down to 19% (Justice Willett), and rulings for the defense have reached as high as 84% (2006-2007 term).
The overall results have eviscerated the rights of individuals, such as workers, patients, insurance policyholders, and motorists. The effect has been to reduce the obligation for businesses and governments to provide safety to workers, citizens, and consumers. The bottom line is that Texas is more dangerous and less fair to individual citizens.