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Archive for January, 2010

Case Backlog at the Appellate and Trial Levels

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I’m not sure what makes a court, appellate court or trial court for that matter, “chronically late,” but the Austin American-Statesman has labeled the Third Court of Appeals just that in an article published today.

The Court, which covers Caldwell, Hays, Burnet, Comal and Travis counties, among others, is chided by the publication for the delay in opinions while noting that “[a]ppellate law is nuanced, subtle, arcane and complex; the workload is heavy.

The article also notes, “Holding individual appellate judges accountable for delays is difficult.  Annual court reports show how many opinions each judge has written, but no tally is kept on how many opinions came from very old cases, and no appellate court discloses whether any justices are running a backlog.”

In this election year, many Bexar County and District Court judges will be brought to task by opponents for docket congestion.  It remains to be seen whether the perceived problem will affect voters who head to the voting booths to decide many of the down-ballot races.  It is my considered opinion that the judges care more about the perceived backlog than the average voter.

“Will my case go to trial?”

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

In most every new client meeting, I am asked “Do you think my case will actually go to trial?”  I always tell people the same thing:  I have no way of knowing whether or not your case will go to trial, but there are factors which will increase the likelihood.”  I go on to explain my experiences with the particular judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials involved in the client’s case.

I recently came across a report by the Texas Judiciary Committee that sheds more statistical light on criminal trials in Texas in general.  The report is published by the Office of Court Administration.

The blog Grits for Breakfast goes inside the numbers and uncovers some interesting facts about criminal trials in Texas.  The blog notes,

“In district courts, ‘Less than 2 percent of all cases (excluding transfers and motions to revoke probation) went to trial in 2009. Trial rates were significantly higher, however, in capital murder and murder cases, which went to trial in 24.3 percent and 20.2 percent of cases, respectively.’ In county courts, which handle misdemeanors, only one percent of cases went to trial.”

Legal Frictions: Homeland Security and Child Pornography Laws?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Interesting bit on Wired.com about the potential conflict between body scanners used in airports and legal bans against images of naked children.  Seems like there would be a defense in American law due to the lack of intent on the part of those officially permitted to view the body scans, but interesting friction in two bodies of law, nonetheless.