By state law, Texas lawmakers who are also attorneys in cases in state courts are allowed to delay proceedings in those cases for a period of time that begins a month before a legislative session starts until a month after the session ends. As a result of reforms the Texas Legislature passed in 2003, lawmakers must disclose publicly their requested continuances in reports to the Texas Ethics Commission.
According to a Jan. 7 email from Tim Sorrells, the general counsel of the TEC, “[T]here have been no legislative continuances filed since 2011.”
Historically, many lawmaker-litigators sought legislative continuances. According to the most recent report on the topic — issued in 2006 by the Austin-based nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice — between September 2003 and September 2005, 32 lawmakers sought 431 legislative continuances in Texas court cases.
Since TPJ issued that report, however, Craig McDonald, the group’s executive director, says his organization has found in unpublished studies that the number of legislative continuances has dropped. McDonald says he therefore is not surprised to learn that no lawmakers have yet reported continuance requests to the TEC for the upcoming session.
But, McDonald cautions, an absence of reports to the TEC does not rule out the possibility a lawmaker or two have sought legislative continuances in cases but failed to report their actions to the TEC.
-- Miriam Rozen