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Reading is difficult. As a writer, I help the reader every way I can think of. As a reader, I work hard not to miss the big things in the middle of the road.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Federal Court of Appeals Decisions without a Trial Court Judgment

There are very few exceptions to the general rule that you cannot have an appeal without a prior trial court dispute. 
One apparent exception is that the Supreme Court of the United States is not merely an appellate court. The United States Constitution says in Article III, Section 2 in the second paragraph says that "[i]n all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction." In these cases, the Supreme Court commonly appoints a master to take the facts in a case and then renders a legal decision on those facts. thought it need not according to Supreme Court Rule 17 and other law.
In order to understand the one ordinary exception to this rule, you have to understand the difference between courts that are created under Article III of the United States Constitution, the main ones being the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Courts of Appeals and the United States District Courts and non-Article III tribunals. Article III courts are the courts which are the models for America's judicial independence. The judges' pay cannot be reduced during their time in office and Article III judges cannot be removed except by impeachment of the House of Representatives and conviction by two-thirds of the Senate. Non-Article III judges lack these protections- they are chosen for fixed terms and are easier to remove. Non-Article III courts are generally decision-making bodies for specialized agencies, for example, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or the Environment Protection Agency. Federal statutes often provide that the final administrative decisions of such bodies may receive their first Article III proceeding in a court of appeals instead of a district court. E.g. Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Schor,  478 U.S. 833 (1986)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Texas Supreme Court Changes a Common-Law Rule

In the beginning was Carnation Co. v. Wong, 516 S.W.2d 116 (Tex. 1974) holding that evidence of use or nonuse of seat belts would not affect plaintiffs' recovery in auto negligence suits.  Eleven years later the legislature enacted a law that evidence of use or nonuse of seat belts was not admissible in a civil trial, then swept that pro-plaintiff rule away in 2003. So the Carnation rule sprung up again, but the Texas Supremes reverse it now, arguing that the rule was to protect plaintiffs from the old rule that any responsibility of the plaintiff would cause the plaintiff a total loss. Now that rule is gone, and seat belts are required by law. Justice Jeff  Brown wrote for a unanimous court.  Well Services v. Romero, No. 13-0136 (Tex. Feb. 13, 2015)