Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the court of appeals in this dispute over the continuing validity of an interest in a mineral lease, holding that a reserved overriding royalty interest (ORRI) in a lease that includes an anti-washout provision extending the interest to new leases is a real property interest that violates the rule against perpetuities (the Rule).The court of appeals held that the ORRI violated the Rule and was no subject to reformation under the Property Code. The court further held (1) the indemnity agreement in this case was not invoked, and (2) sufficient evidence supported the appellate attorneys' fees awarded. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' judgment on the issues of indemnity and attorneys' fees and otherwise reversed and remanded for the court of appeals to consider whether the ORRI in new leases may be reformed to comply with the Rule, holding that the ORRI in question must be reformed, if possible, in accordance with Tex. Prop. Code 5.043. View "Yowell v. Granite Operating Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendants in this breach of contract and fiduciary duty action, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding that Defendants failed properly to authenticate uncertified copies of a prior jury verdict and judgment - documents upon which the motion for summary judgment relied.Approximately four thousand plaintiffs sued their former attorney and his law firm, alleging breach of contractual and fiduciary duties. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the documents at issue were not properly authenticated and thus were not competent summary judgment evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court properly exercised its discretion by finding the documents authentic and competent as summary judgment evidence. View "Fleming v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Relators' petition for writ of mandamus directing the Texas Secretary of State to conduct the November 3, 2020 general election according to the statutory provisions suspended by the Texas Governor's July 27, 2020 proclamation suspending two provisions of the Texas Election Code as they relate to the general election, holding that Relators did not act diligently to protect their rights, and therefore, mandamus relief was not available.Under the July 27 proclamation, early voting by personal appearance begins six days earlier, and early voting ballots may be delivered to the clerk's officer prior to and including on Election Day. Relators, including the Republican Party of Texas and current and former state officials, initiated this original proceeding, arguing that the proclamation was not authorized by the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, and if it was, that the Act violates Tex. Const. art. I, 19 and 28. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that Relators' delay in challenging the proclamation for more than ten weeks after it was issued precluded the consideration that their claims required. View "In re Steven Hotze" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court held that the Election Code did not authorize the Harris County Clerk to mail unsolicited ballot applications to all registered voters under sixty-five years of age, only some of whom were eligible to vote by mail, and remanded this case to the trial court to issue a temporary injunction prohibiting the clerk from mass-mailing unsolicited ballot applications to voters.Chris Hollins, the Harris County Clerk, announced on August 25, 2020 that he would send an application to vote to every registered voter in the county under age sixty-five, only a fraction of whom were eligible to vote by mail. The State sued Hollins, alleging that mass mailing applications would be an ultra virus action. The trial court denied the State's request for a temporary injunction. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the State had not demonstrated that it would be irreparably injured by Collins mass mailing applications. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Election Code does not authorize an early-voting clerk to send an application to vote by mail to a voter who has not requested one; and (2) the State satisfied the requirements for a temporary injunction in this case. View "State v. Hollins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court held that three candidates for the Green Party of Texas were improperly denied access to the ballot for failure to pay a filing fee and that the court of appeals erred in declaring the candidates ineligible.Democratic candidates for office sought mandamus relief to remove three Green Party candidates from the November general election ballot, asserting that the candidates were ineligible because they failed to pay the filing fee required by Tex. Elec. Code 141.041. The court of appeals agreed and granted mandamus relief. The Supreme Court directed the court of appeals to vacate its conditional grant of mandamus relief, holding that because the deadline to remove a candidate from the ballot due to ineligibility has passed, removal from the ballot was no longer an available remedy. View "In re Green Party of Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed for want of jurisdiction the petition for writ of mandamus brought by Republican Party of Texas (Party) directing the City of Houston and Houston First Corporation "to perform their obligations" in connection with the 2020 State Convention after Houston First terminated the parties' agreement to license the George R. Brown Convention Center to the Republican Party for the convention, holding that the petition did not properly invoke the Supreme Court's mandamus authority.Houston First's termination letter invoked a force majeure clause in the parties' agreement and cited the COVID-19 epidemic in Houston. The Party sought to compel the City and Houston First to perform their "duty imposed by law" in connection with he holding of a political party convention under Tex. Elec. Code 273.061. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding (1) the "duty imposed by law" in section 273.061 is limited to a duty imposed by a constitution, statute, city charter, or city ordinance; and (2) because Houston First's only duty to allow the Party use of the Center for its Convention is under the terms of the parties' agreement, the Party's petition did not properly invoke the Supreme Court's mandamus authority. View "In re Republican Party of Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court that VIA Metropolitan Transit, a governmental entity, breached its duty to act as a "very cautious, competent, and prudent person" would act under similar circumstances to a passenger who was injured while riding a VIA bus, holding that VIA was liable for the passenger's injuries in this case.Curtis Meck was injured while riding a VIA bus. Meck sued VIA, alleging that VIA was a common carrier and thus owed a duty to exercise a high degree of care. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Meck. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal, VIA argued (1) the high-degree-of-care duty did not apply in this case, and even if it did, the Texas Tort Claims Act does not waive governmental immunity against suits for breach of that duty; and (2) there was no evidence showing that VIA breached the high-degree-of-care duty to Meck. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) VIA is a common carrier; (2) the Tort Claims Act waived VIA's governmental immunity against Meck's claim; and (3) sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding that VIA breached that duty. View "Via Metropolitan Transit v. Meck" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court that Petitioners pay $7,000 from a supersedeas bond over losing the underlying appeal and ordering Petitioners to pay $114,280 from the bond, holding that the court of appeals erred in calculating the amount.When Petitioners were ousted from land upon which their cattle grazed, they brought this action challenging the ouster. The trial court granted summary judgment in part for Respondents then, after a trial, rendered judgment that Petitioners take nothing. The trial court allowed Petitioners to suspend the judgment by posting a supersedeas bond, which meant Petitioners could keep their cattle on the leased land during the appeal. The trial court ruled that Respondent was entitled to $7,000 from the bond. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Respondent should recover $114,280 from the bond, basing its calculation on the expense Petitioners would have incurred if the judgment had not been superseded. At issue was how "loss or damage" is calculated on release of a supersedeas bond under Tex. R. App. 24.2(a)(3). The Supreme Court reinstated the trial court's order, holding that the proper measure is the actual loss Respondent suffered because the judgment was superseded. View "Haedge v. Central Texas Cattlemen's Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court conditionally granted Father's petition for writ of mandamus, holding that when a nonparent requests conservatorship or possession of a child, the child's best interest is rooted in the presumption that the fit parent, rather than a court, makes the determination whether to allow that request.Over Father's objection, the trial court entered temporary orders naming Jason a possessory conservator of Abigail with rights to possession of the child. Jason, who was in a relationship with Abigail's mother until she died, had exercised care and control of Abigail when she resided with Mother for at least six months preceding Mother's death. Father filed a petition for writ of mandamus, arguing that the trial court's orders violated his right to parent Abigail without government intervention. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the writ and directed the trial court to vacate its temporary orders, holding (1) the presumption that fit parents act according to the best interest of their children applies when modifying an existing order that names a parent as the child's managing conservator; and (2) because no evidence demonstrated that Father was unfit to be Abigail's parent or did not act in her best interest, the trial court abused its discretion in ordering that Jason be named Abigail's possessory conservator. View "In re C.J.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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In this cattle-feeding dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals overturning the trial court's denial of Appellees' post-judgment motion to compel arbitration, holding that a party does not forfeit its right to challenge a ruling on appeal from a final judgment simply by choosing not to pursue an interlocutory appeal of that ruling.Appellants brought this action alleging fraud, unjust enrichment, and other claims. Appellees moved to dismiss the suit and compel arbitration, arguing that the claims were subject to the agreement's arbitration clause. The trial court denied the motion, and Appellees did not challenge the court's ruling through an interlocutory appeal. After the trial court rendered judgment Appellees appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied their motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals reversed and remanded with instructions that the trial court order the parties to arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals had jurisdiction to consider the trial court's denial of Appellees' motion to compel arbitration; and (2) on the merits, the court of appeals did not err in ordering arbitration. View "Bonsmara Natural Beef Co. v. Hart of Texas Cattle Feeders, LLC" on Justia Law