Secrecy in the Texas Supreme Court?

Several Texas newspapers ran stories regarding a report from Texas Watch that criticizes the Texas Supreme Court for issuing a growing number of opinions anonymously. The Houston Chronicle’s article on the report notes:

The report by judicial watchdog group Texas Watch shows that 57 percent of the opinions issued in the court’s 2006-07 term were anonymous and unsigned. In contrast, 5 percent of the opinions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court were anonymous in a similar time period.

Anonymous opinions, known as per curiam, are typically used for opinions that are not controversial, brief and for relatively obvious legal answers.
“All too often, the Texas Supreme Court uses per curiam opinions as a shield to hide behind when they render decisions that are controversial, leaving them unaccountable to voters,” the group wrote in the report. “By relying too heavily on unsigned per curiam opinions, the court operates in the shadows, allowing little public scrutiny and failing to light the way for future jurists.”

Justice Wallace Jefferson responded to the allegations by saying they were a mere peculiarity of the docket, but doesn’t really give a reason for the rapid rise.  I’m not prepared to say that there’s an ill motive from the Court, but I do think it’s a trend worth watching.

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