Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Rights
Silguero v. CSL Plasma, Inc.
The Supreme Court answered questions certified to it by holding that a plasma collection center is a "public facility" under Tex. Hum. Res. Code (THRC) 121.002(5) and that a plasma collection center may reject a person with a disability without committing impermissible discrimination under THRC 121.003(a) when two conditions are met. Appellants were not allowed to donate plasma to CSL Plasma, Inc., a plasma collection center, and filed suit, alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability. The district court granted summary judgment for CSL, concluding that the ADA did not apply and that a plasma collection center could not be considered a public facility under the THRC. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certified questions to the Supreme Court as to whether the THRC governs plasma collection centers. The Supreme Court answered that a plasma collection center is a public facility under section 121.002(5) and that the center may reject a person with a disability without discriminating when (1) the center's rejection does not meet the THRC's definition of "discrimination" or satisfies an exception to the definition of "discrimination," and (2) the center establishes that allowing a person with a disability use of the public facility would pose a threat to the health or safety of others. View "Silguero v. CSL Plasma, Inc." on Justia Law
In re State of Texas
Relator, who was designated a sexually violent predator and civilly committed pursuant to the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act, was not entitled to appointed counsel in proceedings on the State’s motion to amend his civil commitment order to conform to the Act’s 2015 amendments. The trial court denied Relator’s request for appointed counsel on the State’s motion to modify Relator’s civil commitment order. The court of appeals granted mandamus relief to Relator, ordering the trial court to vacate its orders and appoint counsel to represent Relator in further proceedings on the State’s motion to modify. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the State’s petition for writ of mandamus, holding that Relator was not entitled to appointed counsel on the State’s motion to amend his civil commitment order to conform to the amended Act, and therefore, the court of appeals abused its discretion in granting Relator mandamus relief. View "In re State of Texas" on Justia Law
Alamo Heights Independent School District v. Clark
At issue in this appeal was whether the Alamo Heights Independent School District was immune from Employee’s suit alleging Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) claims. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment dismissing Employee’s TCHRA claims in which she alleged same-sex harassment and bullying by female coaches in the girls athletic department at a San Antonio middle school. The Court held (1) the record bore no evidence that the inappropriate conduct alleged was gender motivated, and therefore, the evidence did not raise an inference of gender-motivated discrimination; (2) Employee did not produce evidence to support her retaliation claim when no presumption of unlawful retaliation existed under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework; and (3) governmental immunity was not waived in this case, and subject-matter jurisdiction was lacking. View "Alamo Heights Independent School District v. Clark" on Justia Law
Green v. Dallas County Schools
Paul Green, a former bus monitor for Dallas County Schools (DCS), was terminated because he admitted to “urinating on [himself] and in a water bottle while onboard [a] school bus[.]” Green filed this lawsuit, alleging that DCS terminated his employment because he was disabled. During trial, the jury heard testimony about Green’s heart condition and the drug he was taking that purportedly caused urinary incontinence. The trial court rendered judgment for Green. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that there was no evidence that DCS fired Green “because of” his disability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred by treating Green’s heart condition as his only disability; and (2) the evidence supported a finding that Green was terminated because of a different disability - urinary incontinence. View "Green v. Dallas County Schools" on Justia Law
B.C. v. Steak N Shake Operations, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a complaint against her former employer (Defendant), claiming assault, sexual assault, and battery, among other causes of action. Defendant moved for summary judgment on all claims, arguing, in part, that the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act’s (TCHRA) statutory cause of action preempted Plaintiff’s common law claims. The trial court granted the motion without providing a basis for its ruling. Plaintiff appealed only the trial court’s ruling on her assault claim against Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed on the ground that the TCHRA preempted Plaintiff’s assault claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) where the gravamen of a plaintiff’s claim is not harassment, but rather, assault, the TCHRA does not preempt the plaintiff’s common law assault claim; and (2) because the gravamen of Plaintiff’s complaint in this case was assault, Defendant did not establish, as a matter of law, that Plaintiff’s claim was preempted by the TCHRA. Remanded. View "B.C. v. Steak N Shake Operations, Inc." on Justia Law
Paxton v. City of Dallas
The City of Dallas sought relief from two attorney general decisions concluding that the City must disclose confidential attorney-client communications pursuant to public-information requests the City received regarding the McCommas Bluff Landfill and a convention-center hotel. The information constituted public information under the Texas Public Information Act (PIA), but because the information was subject to the attorney-client privilege, the City argued that the information was excepted from disclosure under the PIA. This dispute arose because the City failed to timely request an attorney general decision affirming that the requested information fell within one of the asserted exceptions, as required by the PIA. The lower courts determined that the attorney-client confidences at issue need not be disclosed to the public-information requestors. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) failing to meet the PIA’s deadline to assert a statutory exception to disclosure does not, in and of itself, constitute waiver of the attorney-client privilege, and therefore, requested information is not subject to compelled disclosure under the PIA solely on that basis; and (2) there was a compelling reason to withhold information covered by the attorney-client privilege in this case. View "Paxton v. City of Dallas" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights
KBMT Operating Co., LLC v. Toledo
The Texas Medical Board disciplined Minda Lao Toledo, a physician, for unprofessional conduct and issued a press release regarding the matter. After KBMT Operating Company aired a report of the Board’s action Toledo sued KMBT and three of its employees (collectively, KBMT) for defamation. KBMT filed a motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which allows for the early dismissal of a legal action implicating a defendant’s rights of free speech unless the plaintiff can establish each element of the claim with clear and specific evidence. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that Toledo established a prima facie case of defamation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the truth of a media report of official proceedings of public concern must be measured against the proceedings themselves and not against information outside the proceedings; and (2) in this case, Toledo did not meet her burden of establishing a prima facie case that KBMT’s broadcast was false, and therefore, the Act requires that Toledo’s action be dismissed. View "KBMT Operating Co., LLC v. Toledo" on Justia Law
State v. One (1) 2004 Lincoln Navigator
After arresting Miguel Herrera, police officers seized his Lincoln Nagivator. An inventory search of the vehicle revealed drugs in the vehicle. The state filed a notice of seizure and intended forfeiture, asserting that the Navigator was “contraband” under Chapter 59 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The trial court denied the seizure, concluding that the vehicle search was unlawful and, therefore, the evidence should be excluded. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling (1) the stop leading up to the arrest was unlawful; (2) Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. 59.03(b) precludes the state from initiating a civil-forfeiture proceeding based on an illegal search; and (3) after the evidence found in the vehicle was excluded, the state was left with no evidence that the Navigator was contraband. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that an illegal seizure does not require exclusion in a Chapter 59 civil-forfeiture proceeding. Remanded. View "State v. One (1) 2004 Lincoln Navigator" on Justia Law
C.S.F. v. Dep’t of Family & Protective Servs.
In In re P.M., the Supreme Court concluded that, in government-initiated parental rights termination proceedings, the statutory right of indigent parents to counsel endures until all appeals are exhausted. In this case, the trial court terminated the parental rights of C.S.F. The court of appeals affirmed. Acting pro se and outside the time for filing a petition for review, C.S.F. filed a motion in the Supreme Court seeking an extension of time and a hand-written indigency affidavit. The Supreme Court referred the case to the trial court for appointment of counsel to represent C.S.F. in the Supreme Court, holding that C.S.F. should be able to pursue any argument regarding her case with the assistance of new counsel. View "C.S.F. v. Dep’t of Family & Protective Servs." on Justia Law
In re P.M.
After a retrial, a jury found that Mother had endangered her daughter and that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the daughter’s best interest. The court of appeals affirmed. The attorney in Mother’s second appeal moved to withdraw. The court of appeals granted the motion to withdraw without considering whether new counsel should be appointed. Mother, who was indigent, filed a motion for appointment of counsel, which motion was transferred to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court abated the case to consider the issue of Mother’s right to counsel. The Supreme Court granted counsel’s motion to withdraw and Mother’s motion for appointment of counsel, holding (1) the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion by allowing counsel to withdraw; and (2) the right to counsel under Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 107.103(a) includes all proceedings in the Court, including the filing of a petition for review, and if a court of appeals allows an attorney to withdraw, it must provide for the appointment of new counsel to pursue a petition for review. View "In re P.M." on Justia Law