Mississippi court-watchers collectively turned their radars toward New Orleans on Monday, when -- as Clay Chandler of the Mississippi Business Journal reported -- the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals set a new briefing schedule in Sears, Roebuck, & Co. v. Learmouth. You'll recall that Learmouth's big issue is whether Mississippi's cap on non-economic damages -- a central feature of the state's "Tort Reform" movement -- violates the Mississippi Constitution. You'll also recall that, in August, the Mississippi Supreme Court declined the Fifth Circuit's invitation to answer the question after holding that the trial-court record forbade it from reaching the ultimate issue.

As Philip Thomas put it, "seems like the 5th Circuit was not persuaded."

The case is due to be fully briefed and back before the Fifth Circuit before the end of the year, barring any extensions -- but that's quite an assumption. Either way, it seems safe to expect a decision by mid-2013.