St. Mary's Law Journal


A Texas statute gave final appellate jurisdiction over cases not to the state supreme court but to the intermediate courts of appeals. After losing at the appellate level, one of the parties in Eichelberger v. Eichelberger appealed to the state supreme court despite the statute. But because the court of appeals decision conflicted with a United States Supreme Court decision, the Texas Supreme Court held its jurisdiction should be implied. Though legal commentators declared the decision an abrupt departure from standards for judicial decisions, they postulated it would be invoked so infrequently to do no lasting harm to Texas jurisprudence. This proved untrue with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit v. Amalgamated Transit Local Union No. 1338 (DART) case which confronted lack of statutory jurisdiction caused by interlocutory appeal. If the Supremacy Clause operates to confer jurisdiction, it does so not because of who made the declaration, but because of what the declaration was. Eichelberger and DART can be corrected in two ways: by amending the statutory provisions or overruling the decisions. The simplest way is to amend the conflicts jurisdiction provision in Texas Government Code § 22.001 to encompass conflicts between courts of appeals and decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Such an amendment would effectively abrogate the results of Eichelberger and DART. Alternatively, the Texas Supreme Court could overrule Eichelberger and DART. The cases are construed as decisions about the meaning of the statutes; the burden of stare decisis would be high. The Supreme Court of Texas should always retain authority to say what the law is in cases properly before it. Whenever the legislature exercises its power in a legitimate manner, the court is obligated to follow. Eichelberger and DART were wrongly decided and should be overruled.


St. Mary's University School of Law