Monday, November 04, 2013

House Panel Reports Out Legislation Reforming Federal Litigation

The House Judiciary Committee has reported out legislation designed to reform the federal litigation system by reducing frivolous lawsuits. Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, H.R. 2655, was reported out of the Committee by a vote of 17-10. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said that H.R. 2655 is an important step in reducing unnecessary and abusive litigation in the judicial system. Attorneys should not be rewarded for filing baseless lawsuits, he noted, and the Act would provide sanctions against such abuse. The bill now heads to the floor for a full vote by the House of Representatives.

According to Rep. Smith, the measure would restore accountability to the legal system by imposing mandatory sanctions on attorneys who file meritless suits in federal court. Specifically, the bill would reinstate sanctions for the violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which was originally intended to deter frivolous lawsuits by sanctioning the offending party. H.R. 2655 would reverse the 1993 amendments to Rule 11 that allow parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions for making frivolous claims by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served. The legislation would also ensure that judges impose monetary sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits, including the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the victim of the frivolous lawsuit. 

Senate companion bill. There is a companion bill in the Senate, S. 1288, sponsored by Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Grassley noted that federal rules mandating sanctions for frivolous suits were watered down in 1993, resulting in widespread lawsuit abuse. The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act restores the mandatory sanctions which hold attorneys accountable for lawsuit abuse.