Clients frequently ask appellate lawyers, “How long until the court makes a decision?” It’s a question we all struggle with because the number of variables is too great to allow anything but a semi-educated guess. The period is measured in months, if not years.
The fiscal year for Texas appellate courts ends on August 31. The courts usually release a large number of opinions in August to avoid having those dispositions carried over to a new budgetary and measurement cycle. So, if you have a case you’ve been wondering about, now is the time to keep your eye on the orders lists or register for CaseMail (which everyone should already be doing under e-filing rules). As part of the ongoing transition to TAMES, several courts have implemented an e-mail notification system that notifies the user the day of the event, a substantial improvement over CaseMail’s next-day notice.
My oldest case was docketed in 2009 and submitted on briefs in September 2010. You read that right: We’re coming up on the third anniversary of the case being fully briefed and ripe for decision without oral argument. Some of the delay can be attributed to court turnover—we are now on our third assigned panel—and some may have resulted from the case being one of first impression, but this sort of time lag is difficult to explain to the client. The only educated guess I have left is that the panel is split, and it is taking time for the majority and dissenting opinions to address each other. Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping an eye out this month. If we don’t get a decision before September 1, I might just file a motion for oral argument.