Supreme Court of Texas Blog: Legal Issues Before the Texas Supreme Court

No. 14-0453
TAMES

COTI MATTHEWS, ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR CHILD M.M., ET AL. v. KOUNTZE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Court requested full merits briefing on January 30, 2015. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on January 29, 2016. File Closed

In the news...

Tracking 3 articles about this case.

January 29, 2016

Cheerleader Case Can Proceed, State Supreme Court Rules

from Texas Tribune

The Court has issued opinions:

January 29, 2016

Challenge to school religious policy not moot; two oil and gas cases; timing is crucial in arguing for an easement to a roadway [Jan. 29, 2016]

from SCOTXblog

This article also mentions 5 other cases.

January 29, 2016

Court reinstates Kountze cheerleader religious-message lawsuit

from SCOTXblog

Opinions

January 29, 2016

Devine
Hecht
Green
Johnson
Willett
Guzman
Lehrmann
Brown

Justice Devine delivered the opinion of the Court. PDF

Willett

Justice Willett delivered a concurring opinion. PDF

Guzman

Justice Guzman delivered a concurring opinion. PDF

Court of Appeals

Appellate District:9th Court of Appeals
Outcome Below:Aff/Pt and Rev & Rem/Pt
COA Docket No.:09-13-00251-CV
Opinion Author:Honorable Charles Kreger

Trial Court

Trial Court:356th District Court
County:Hardin
Trial Judge:Honorable Steven Ray Thomas
Trial Docket:53526

Entries on SCOTX Orders Lists

Docket Entries

Date Event Outcome  
2016-03-10 Mandate issued  
2016-01-29 Concurring Opinion issued.   Issued
2016-01-29 Concurring Opinion issued.   Issued
2016-01-29 Petition for Review granted under TRAP 59.1
2016-01-29 Court approved judgment sent to attorneys of record Issued
2016-01-29 Petition for Review disposed Petition granted pursuant to TRAP 59.1
2016-01-29 Opinion issued   Court of Appeals' judgment reversed; remanded to Court of Appeals
  This case was pending on merits briefs between November 16, 2015 and January 29, 2016.  
2015-11-16 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
  This case was pending on merits briefs between September 25, 2015 and November 16, 2015.  
2015-09-25 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
2015-08-27 Reply Brief (Petitioner)  
2015-08-20 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
2015-08-17 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2015-08-17 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2015-07-27 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2015-07-24 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
2015-07-24 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2015-07-22 Brief on the Merits (Respondent)  
2015-06-15 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2015-06-15 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2015-05-07 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2015-05-07 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2015-05-01 Brief on the Merits (Petitioner)  
2015-03-13 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2015-03-13 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2015-02-11 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2015-02-11 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2015-02-03 Case Record Filed  
2015-02-02 Record Requested in Petition for Review  
2015-01-30 Brief on the Merits Requested  
2015-01-09 Reply to Response (Petitioner)  
2014-12-15 MET to file reply disposed of   Filing granted
2014-12-15 Motion to Extend Time to File Reply filed  
2014-12-10 Response to Petition (Respondent)  
2014-11-05 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response disposed   Filing granted
2014-11-05 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response  
2014-10-10 Supreme Court of Texas Requested Response  
2014-09-09 Case forwarded to Court
2014-09-02 Response Waiver filed  
2014-08-15 Amicus Curiae Letter Received  
2014-08-06 Petition for Review (Petitioner)  
2014-07-03 Second Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review disposed   Filing granted
2014-07-03 Second Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review filed  
2014-06-09 Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review disposed   Filing granted
2014-06-09 Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review filed  

Parties

Party Counsel Role
Matthews, Coti
Mr. Prerak Shah
Mr. David W. Starnes
Mr. Jeffrey C. Mateer
Mr. James C. Ho
Mr. Kelly J. Shackelford
Mr. Hiram S. Sasser III
Mithun Mansinghani
Mr. Bradley G. Hubbard
Petitioner
Kountze Independent School District
Mr. Thomas P. Brandt
Mr. Joshua A. Skinner
Respondent

Amici Curiae

Amicus Curiae Counsel
Cornyn, John
Mr. Sean D. Jordan
Cruz, Ted
Mr. Sean D. Jordan
American Civil Liberties Union
Ms. Rebecca Robertson
American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
Ms. Rebecca Robertson
American Jewish Committee
Mr. Robert M. Cohan
Jillian Harris
The State of Texas
Mr. Richard B. Farrer

A school cannot moot a student's lawsuit merely by announcing a policy change

mootness religion clauses

A group of middle school cheerleaders sued when their school prohibited them from displaying banners containing religious messages. The school district filed a plea to the jurisdiction and, eventually, an interlocutory appeal.

After the suit was filed, the school district adopted a new policy stating, in somewhat elliptical terms, that it was “not required to prohibit messages on school banners . . . that display fleeting expressions of community sentiment solely because the source or origin of such message is religious,” but “retains the right to restrict the content of school banners.” Although that policy does not provide a definitive answer on whether future banners will be permitted, it purports to change the rules under which district officials might consider a request. The school district argued on appeal that this policy change mooted the case, depriving the courts of subject-matter jurisdiction, and the court of appeals agreed.

The Texas Supreme Court reversed, stating that it was unpersuaded that the controversy had been resolved. The opinion notes that, in suits brought to challenge public policy, a defendant cannot moot the challenge merely by stating that it has changed its mind: "If it did, defendants could control the jurisdiction of courts with protestations of repentance and reform, while remaining free to return to their old ways. This would obviously defeat the public interest in having the legality of the challenged conduct settled."

In framing the test to be applied, the Court focused on the risk that the conduct would recur. It quoted language from past decisions saying that the defendant arguing for mootness bears "a 'heavy' burden" to show that "subsequent events make 'absolutely clear that [the conduct] could not reasonably be expected to recur."

The Court held that this situation fell short of mootness. It noted, in part, the district's continued position that, while "it does not have any current 'intent' or 'plan' to reinstate that prohibition," it was reserving the right to do so. Because the case was not moot, the Texas Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the court of appeals so that it could consider the other issues raised by the district in its plea.

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