The Texas Observer has a nice bio of Supreme Court candidate Linda Yanez, who if elected this November would be the first Latina on the Texas Supreme Court. She’s got an interesting life story that’s worth your time to read, but I think the bit that most caught my eye was this:
A majority of the court has swung so far to the right that even some of its own judges have recoiled at recent rulings. On May 16, the court ruled 6-3 in favor of McAllen Medical Center in a long-running malpractice lawsuit. The hospital was asking the court for a writ of mandamus–a seldom-used judicial maneuver that allows the defendant to do an end run around the appeals process. Rather than wait for a decision in the lower courts before appealing, McAllen Medical Center asked the higher court to dismiss the case.
The 13th Court of Appeals, where Yañez sits, had already denied the hospital’s request for mandamus. The Supreme Court approved it, saying the problems associated with medical malpractice lawsuits were too costly to be delayed with a trial.
The ruling is an extraordinary departure from precedent. So big, in fact, that it warranted a reply based on a cartoon fantasy. State Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright opened his dissenting opinion with lyrics from the theme song to the 1992 Disney animated film Aladdin.
A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we’re only dreaming …
It’s crystal clear
That now I’m in a whole new world with you.
The dissent continued: “A whole new world in mandamus practice, hinted by opinions in the last few years, is here. The Court’s heavy reliance on costs and delay to support its conclusion that the hospital has no adequate remedy by appeal marks a clear departure from the historical bounds of our mandamus jurisprudence.”
Signaling that the decision could make it harder for plaintiffs to make lawsuits stick, the dissent continued: “Such cases should be the exception; they may now have become the rule.”
Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Justice Harriet O’Neill joined Wainwright in the dissent. Justice [Phil] Johnson signed on with the majority, in favor of the hospital.
Justices Jefferson and Wainwright are on the ballot this fall, along with Justice Johnson, who is Yanez’s opponent. It’ll be interesting to see if this ruling, and in particular Wainwright’s sarcastic dissent, is a part of any campaign coverage we get of the Supreme Court races, or if any newspaper bases endorsement decisions in part on it. It’s awfully hard for judicial races to break through into the news, even those at the top and even when there are known issues, but that kind of disagreement among ballotmates is an easy hook for a story line. Anyway, check it out.