St. Mary's Law Journal
A trial court’s broad discretion in granting a new trial has been one of the mainstays of Texas jurisprudence since early statehood. Historically, this discretion was not subject to review through the ordinary appellate processes. This principle remains inviolate today, as the granting of a new trial is an interlocutory order from which the appellate courts of Texas do not have jurisdiction. Furthermore, the use of an original mandamus proceeding to compel a trial court to set aside the granting of a new trial has had only limited application.
However, in response to the case of In re Columbia Medical Center of Las Colinas, Subsidiary, LP, a sharply divided Texas Supreme Court held that the failure of the trial court to disclose the reasons for disregarding the jury’s verdict and entering a new trial was arbitrary and an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court then conditionally granted a mandamus to direct the trial court to state reasons for the granting of the new trial.
The Texas Supreme Court’s decision was a dramatic rejection of the then-existing discretionary authority of the trial judge to grant new trials. Furthermore, the decision was a radical shift in Texas mandamus jurisprudence. It is therefore worthwhile to examine and evaluate whether the Columbia case is in the best interest of Texas jurisprudence.
A thorough review of district court discretion for granting new trials, mandamus jurisprudence, and the Columbia case supports the argument that the court should reject the Columbia case and its progeny as an improper intrusion on the discretion of the trial court and as an unnecessary expansion of the appellate courts’ mandamus authority. Additionally, legislation should therefore be enacted to stop this growing mandamus intrusion.
Richard E. Flint, Mandamus Review of the Granting of the Motion for New Trial: Lost in the Thicket, 45 St. Mary’s L.J. 575 (2014).