Updated on October 3, 2016
A few days ago, frustration over my case again began to creep in. After all, I’m stuck in legal limbo until the 3rd Court of Appeals issues a ruling on my appeal. Self Defense Fund filed the appeal in March 2014, almost exactly a year after my false arrest and shortly after the second trial that resulted in a corrupt “conviction.” On February 23 of this year (seriously, 2.23), the court heard my appeal and just needed to release an opinion.
It is now October and we still haven’t heard anything. I wanted to know if this was normal or if something was going on. Meanwhile, I’m still “convicted” of a crime I didn’t commit, which is putting a lot of my life on hold. I have been wanting to start teaching LTC classes while I’m going to school, but under Texas law if I don’t qualify for a license to carry, I can’t teach the class either. Texas has an unconstitutional law that strips Texans “convicted” of minor, non-violent offenses of their right to keep and bear arms. It is illegal to carry a firearm outside the home or office (unless in a vehicle) without a license. So anyone that is “convicted” in a Texas court for any misdemeanor offense loses their rights for five years – just like a felon. The only other option is to get a nonresident permit from a reciprocal state to carry “legally.” Ironically, I got a letter from DPS about two weeks ago reminding me that my license to carry is set to expire in March and that I need to renew it! Texas has had my license suspended longer than I’ve been able to use it! Regardless, I’ll never get another Texas license until it pass constitutional carry, then I’ll only get it for convenience if they reduce the outrageous 2nd amendment tax.
I knew that the appellate process could take some time working its way through the courts, but I never really knew what “time” meant in legal terms. So, I headed over to the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals website to see if I could ease my mind a little and convince myself to be a little more patient.
In doing my research, I did not include civil cases, nor did I include cases that were dismissed or limited in scope to deciding on motions. I only considered cases with a final determination where the court either affirmed or reversed a conviction or remanded a case back to the trial court. For brevity, I confined my initial search from June 1 to September 30, the last day they have published opinions. Eventually, I’ll all the back to the date my appeal was filed. While looking at the dates of the appeals, I didn’t think it was necessary to add another 120 lines since many of the appeals were filed after mine anyway. Plus, it’s monotonous reading through court documents!
The research sample ended up consisting of 70 separate criminal cases that were ruled on by the court. The cases ranged from “failure to maintain a drivers license” to “assault” to “capital murder.” This was important because I was thinking that maybe the reason my case was taking so long was because it was a minor Class B misdemeanor case. Surely, the court has much more pressing matters to attend to and I would just have to wait. I found that there were many convictions for more minor offenses that the court had disposed of.
So, was my case unique and I just need to be patient and let the process work? Here’s what I found:
The average time between when an appeal is filed to the time the 3rd COA hears the case is about 444 days. The shortest time between filing and hearing was 85 days for an “evading arrest” conviction, a Class A misdemeanor. The longest time was 1,112 days for “aggravated assault,” a 2nd degree felony. The time it took the court to hear my case after we filed the appeal was 719 days – the fourth longest time among the cases since July and well above the average.
Obviously, once the court has heard a case, they need time to discuss and deliberate about whether the appeal is valid for a reversal or whether the trial court did everything right and the conviction should be affirmed. So, the next number I delved into was how long it took the court to issue an opinion once the case was before them.
The average time it took the court to issue an opinion after a case was brought before it was about 15 days. The shortest time between hearing and opinion was same day and the longest time was 221 days. Assuming that my case was decided today, it currently stands at 221 days!! So, of the cases that the have been decided since July, mine is already taking the longest and it’s still pending a judgment. The next longest time between hearing and opinion was 51 days. In other words, my case has taken 4.5 times longer than the next longest case and it still hasn’t been resolved. Look at how long it took the court to issue an opinion after they heard the case for those top three cases that took longer than mine to go before the panel. They received an opinion within a week.
So this begs the question: what makes my case so special, different, or challenging that it is taking so long to issue an opinion? It can’t be because this is a complicated case. It’s hard to imagine by any stretch of the imagination than an “interference” case would be more complicated than a “fraud,” “murder,” or “organized criminal activity” case. Is it because of the constitutional implications? Many of the DWI and traffic cases involved constitutional issues as well.
One can only infer that the reason this particular case is taking so long is because it is the only case involving a second amendment issue of all the cases I saw through June. The 2A has become a very hot topic in Texas politics and this is an election year. I’m not going to go any further down that line of thinking because I don’t want to make any assumptions one way or the other about elected judges. I just can’t help but think something smells fishy.
All I know is that for SOME reason my case stands alone on the timeline.