March 24, 2002
Court shopping

Girls in Texas who want an abortion but are required to get parental consent have been looking to courts in Austin and San Antonio for judicial bypass. Houston and Dallas have had almost no such reviews filed since the law took effect in January, 1999 - in fact, Houston has had exactly one case since last September and 19 overall, compared to 191 in San Antonio and 110 in Austin. Dallas has had 13 such cases.

It's somewhat hard to say why this is, because the rulings are sealed and the Texas Supreme Court does not keep statistics. It's understandable to a point in that the judges in Dallas County and Houston's Harris County are all Republican, while the judges in Austin's Travis County are largely Democrat. It's not hard to believe that the petitioners think they're more likely to get a favorable ruling in Austin because of this. The curiosity is San Antonio's Bexar County, where the judiciary is mixed. Houston judges tend to be tied to local uber-conservative activist Stephen Hotze, who brooks no disagreement on issues like this and has no qualms about endorsing someone else in the primary if he doesn't like how you rule. Maybe the Bexar County judges have more freedom to actually interpret the law, I don't know.

In any event, I was surprised that no one was quoted expressing outrage at the prospect of court shopping. Maybe the usual suspects were all out of town. Oh, and one more thing: Go to the Chronicle home page and see how they headline this story there. (For those who don't read this until Monday, the link is entitled "Girls turning to liberal courts to avoid parental notice of abortion".) What would Bernard Goldberg say?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 24, 2002 to Legal matters