Lawmakers ordered court to make rules guiding judges to dismiss frivolous lawsuits
When Gov. Rick Perry accepted Texans for Lawsuit Reform"s re-endorsement, he also called for a four-point plan to limit what he called frivolous lawsuits.
"Texans and Texas employers are still hit with frivolous lawsuits that cost thousands or even millions of dollars in legal fees to defend,” he said in a Sept. 15, 2010, press release. "It is time to introduce a higher degree of balance and accountability into our legal system.”
Perry proposed a "four-point approach that will limit unfounded claims and bring greater accountability and efficiency to our judicial system.” We tracked each point as an individual promise. (See the other three here, here and here.)
"Forty-two states and the federal courts already have this mechanism in place for the early dismissal of clearly frivolous lawsuits,” he said. "If a lawsuit is frivolous, Texas judges should be able to dismiss the case immediately before the legal bills pile up and the trial court should award attorney fees to the defendant.”
On March 14, 2011, Perry revisited his call to action with state Rep. Brandon Creighton of Conroe and state Sen. Joan Huffman of Houston, Republicans sponsoring legislation in Perry"s vision. SB 13, which was referred to the Senate Committee on State Affairs on March 14, amends the Civil Practice and Remedies Code so that "all civil actions shall be disposed of fairly, promptly and with the least possible expense to the litigants and to the state... The Supreme Court shall adopt rules to provide for the fair and early dismissal of non-meritorious cases.”
While that measure did not progress, Alex Winslow of Texas Watch, a consumer advocacy group, pointed out that a comparable House proposal authored by Creighton passed into law, amending the state"s Government Code to direct the Texas Supreme Court to adopt rules providing for the dismissal of lawsuits "that have no basis in law or fact.” The law also says the rules must require judges to grant or deny motions for such dismissals within 45 days of receiving them.
By telephone, a staff attorney for the Supreme Court, Osler McCarthy, told us the rules carrying out the law are under development.
Perry signed the measure into law. His promise is a Promise Kept.
Office of the Governor, Press release: Gov. Perry: Lawsuit reforms will expedite justice for legitimate claims and help strengthen Texas" economic climate, March 14, 2011
Office of the Governor, Speech: Gov. Perry: Lawsuit reforms will expedite justice for legitimate claims and help strengthen Texas" economic climate, March 14, 2011
S.B. 13 relating to the reform of certain remedies and procedures in civil actions, filed March 10, 2011
Legislation, House Bill 274, relating to attorneys" fees, early dismissal, expedited trials and the reform of certain remedies and procedures in civil actions, 2011 Texas Legislature (accessed Aug. 21, 2012)
Telephone interview, Osler McCarthy, staff attorney/public information, Texas Supreme Court, Aug. 21, 2012