Legislation to Shift District Court District Boundaries Referred to Texas Senate Panel
By Ryan Tarinelli
Texas legislation that would tweak boundaries for certain court of appeal districts has been referred to a state Senate committee.
The bill, which was referred to the Jurisprudence Committee in the Texas state Senate on Wednesday, would change the boundaries of the Fifth, Sixth and 12th courts of appeal.
The legislation is backed by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston. She is chair of the Jurisprudence Committee.
Under the bill, Hunt County would be removed from the Fifth Court of Appeals District, Gregg and Rusk counties would be removed from the Sixth Court of Appeals District and Upshur and Wood counties would be cut from 12th Court of Appeals District.
Multiple sources have told Texas Lawyer that the current version of the bill could be modified to make additional changes to the boundaries of the appellate courts.
“I’d say there are certainly justices who are talking about it,” Chief Justice Bonnie Sudderth of Fort Worth’s Second Court of Appeals said previously. “What is there to talk about, until we see what it is?”
A tort reform advocacy group, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, has pushed for the intermediate appellate courts to be more efficient.
“Our 14 appellate courts have unequal workloads, and in some parts of our state, a district court answers to several different appellate courts,” the group has argued. “Texas should consolidate its intermediate appellate courts to achieve more efficiency and administrative rationality.”
The group says Texas has more intermediate appellate courts than the federal judicial system. It says the state’s appellate court system structure has defects that lead to confusion, inefficiencies and “unnecessary burdens on Texas’ two high courts.”
“One of the most acute defects is that the intermediate appellate courts have overlapping geographic territories,” the group argues on its website.
On a separate topic, Texas lawmakers are also considering legislation against any rules that could limit a person’s ability to get a license to practice law because of a “sincerely held religious belief.”
Under the legislation, policies would not be allowed to burden an applicant’s free exercise of religion, freedom of association or freedom of speech with respect to a religious belief.
The legislation has been referred to a state Senate committee on state affairs.
Angela Morris contributed to this report.