Supreme Court Justice Boyd: Hopeful Sign?

There was an interesting analysis in today’s Dallas Morning News about Jeffrey Boyd, the newest member of the Texas Supreme Court:

Some legal observers say Boyd is a right-wing conservative.They contend he would continue the trend of pro-business decisions for which the Texas Supreme Court is known.

Legal experts say Boyd, 51, could possess enormous sway. Plaintiff’s lawyers think he could even be the swing vote they need to reverse a landmark decision issued last year that eliminated the ability of injured workers to sue insurance companies for acting in bad faith.

“The Texas Supreme Court is split between justices who are conservative and those who are very conservative,” said Mike Hatchell, a partner at Locke Lord who has monitored the state’s highest court for several decades.

Boyd is concerned about the declining number of jury trials. The Texas civil court system is “facing a relevance challenge” when it comes to serving the public, he said. Boyd said that the “perception of judges as political operatives, due primarily to our practice of choosing judges through partisan elections” is undermining public confidence in the justice system.

A recent study conducted by Texas Watch reviewed lawsuits filed by individuals between 2004 to 2010 and found the Supreme Court overturned jury verdicts in favor of the plaintiff most of the time (74%). Texas Watch observed that “the Texas Supreme Court is expected to respect reasonable jury verdicts, but in the final analysis, the court fails this test, impermissibly usurping the authority of juries and demonstrating contempt for their verdicts.”

Let’s hope that Justice Boyd can help level the playing field so that injured people and consumers don’t have their verdicts reversed on appeal.

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