by Leah Nicholls
Today, in Heckman v. Williamson County, No. 10-0671, the Texas Supreme Court followed federal standing and mootness doctrine in permitting a 1983 class action alleging that a Texas county routinely fails to appoint counsel to represent indigent defendants to go forward. First, the Court held that not every named plaintiff must have standing at the time of suit as to every claim---as long as the plaintiffs, taken together, have standing as to each claim, the case can proceed. Second, the Court rejected the county’s argument that the suit was moot because all the named plaintiffs eventually obtained counsel and their criminal proceedings are complete. The Court reasoned that the claims were inherently transitory, and, thus, even though the named plaintiffs’ claims were now moot, that did not make the class action moot. The county also argued that it had changed its policies in the interim, and, for that reason also, the case was moot. The Court remanded for a determination of whether the changed policies actually changed the facts on the ground or whether the problems persist despite the new policies.