Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Texas: serious litigation reform, serious results

“How tort reform helped ignite the Texas boom”:

Over the last two decades, Texas engaged in a conversation as to the purpose and role of its civil courts. When that conversation began, the state’s courts had become virtual fiefdoms of trial lawyers. Texas recognized few limits on damages claims and imposed minimal accountability on plaintiffs. The state’s litigation environment was, unsurprisingly, toxic for business. The pushback came in the early 1980s. Lawmakers started to ask whether the Texas constitution’s commitment, spelled out in Article 1, Section 13, that “all courts shall be open, and every person for an injury done him . . . shall have remedy by due course of law” precludes putting reasonable limits on liability. The state legislature’s decision to strike a balance and roll back tort excesses marked a turning point in the state’s economic rise. Together with competitive tax and regulatory policies, tort reform sowed the field so that Texas’s pro-growth policies could take root.

Comprehensive backgrounder covers such topics as the putting up of justice for sale at the pre-reform version of the elected Texas Supreme Court (the anecdote from businessman Henry J.N. Taub is especially alarming), the Texaco-Pennzoil case and the generosity to judges of the late Joe Jamail, America’s richest lawyer; early statutory enactments, struck down by the state’s high court; the turning point that came when “the general electorate finally began taking an interest in judicial elections”; the Rio Grande Valley doctor’s revolt; comprehensive reforms beginning under then-Governor George W. Bush and continuing under his successors including Rick Perry; elements of loser-pays; and the general success of tort reform, both in economic climate generally and specifically in the encouraging climate for the state’s medical sector, which includes many nationally prominent institutions. [Kathleen Hunker, City Journal]

Liability roundup

  • Recent easing of lawsuit crisis in U.S. owes much to rise of arbitration. Now organized litigation lobby is intent on taking that down, and Obama administration has helped with steps in labor law, consumer finance, and nursing-home care [James Copland, Manhattan Institute, related op-ed]
  • SCOTUS should grant certiorari to clarify lawyers’ obligation to clients in class settlement, argues Lester Brickman [amicus brief courtesy SCOTUSBlog; earlier on Blackman v. Gascho]
  • St. Louis, California, NYC asbestos litigation, south Florida and the Florida Supreme Court, and New Jersey are top five “winners” in latest annual “Judicial Hellholes” report, which also includes a focus on qui tam/whistleblower suits [American Tort Reform Association, report and executive summary]
  • Deep pocket lawsuits remain systemic problem in America for political branches to address [David Freddoso, Washington Examiner investigation]
  • Florida insurers struggle with secondhand suits under assignment of benefits doctrine [Insurance Journal]
  • Storm lawsuits in Texas: “All Hail Breaks Loose” [Mark Pulliam, City Journal]

September 7 roundup

  • Bad Texas law requiring breweries to give away territorial rights for free violates state constitution, judge says [Eric Boehm]
  • California’s identity theft statute bans so many more things than just identity theft [Eugene Volokh]
  • Cato Unbound symposium on Indian Child Welfare Act/ICWA, to which I contributed, wraps up [Timothy Sandefur on sovereignty and fixes] Minnesota’s Indian foster care crisis [Brandon Stahl and MaryJo Webster, Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
  • If you want to hear me translated into Arabic on bathroom and gender issues, here you go [Al-Hurra back in May]
  • Asset forfeiture: “New Mexico Passed a Law Ending Civil Forfeiture. Albuquerque Ignored It, and Now It’s Getting Sued” [C.J. Ciaramella] “IRS Agrees to Withdraw Retaliatory Grand Jury Subpoena Against Connecticut Bakery” [Institute for Justice] “California Asset Forfeiture Reform Heading to Approval” [Scott Shackford]
  • Evergreen: “‘I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.” [Adrian Bott]

Behind on your child support? Texas won’t renew your vehicle registration

Some will lose their jobs for lack of transportation, while others will gain a first-time criminal record after taking chances on a no-longer-legal ride. Are you sure you’ve thought this through, Texas? [Houston Chronicle] Related earlier on tying driver’s licenses to issues of legal compliance unrelated to road safety here, here, here, etc.

Liability roundup

  • For thee but not for me? Lawprof proposes immunizing mass tort litigators from RICO liability [Mass Tort Litigation Blog]
  • Some reasons, even aside from PLCAA, the Sandy Hook lawsuit against gunmakers is so weak [Jacob Sullum]
  • One welcome, overdue development that deserves more attention than we’ve given it: federal courts adopt rules curtailing pretrial discovery [Institute for Legal Reform interview with former Colorado justice Rebecca Love Kourlis; Joe Palazzolo and Jess Bravin, WSJ]
  • Cloudy in Texas, with a chance of $1 million lawsuits blaming broken floor tiles on falling objects [Southeast Texas Record via Texans for Lawsuit Reform; Hidalgo County]
  • Billboards hawked Kentucky disability practice: “the law has finally caught up with ‘Mr. Social Security.’” [Louisville Courier-Journal]
  • Wall Street Journal covers trend of big plaintiff’s firms teaming up with more city governments to file “affirmative litigation” [WSJ] We were on this trend as early as the year 2000 [San Francisco and Philadelphia launch such operations in wake of tobacco settlement). On county governments as cat’s-paws for trial lawyers in lead paint, opioid, and other mass tort cases, see coverage of California’s Santa Clara County here, here, etc., and on Orange County here, here, etc.

Politics roundup

  • Disparage at thy peril: three Democratic lawmakers demand FTC investigation of private group that purchased $58,000 in ads disparaging CFPB, a government agency [ABC News] So many politicos targeting their opponents’ speech these days [Barton Hinkle]
  • A pattern we’ve seen over the years: promoting himself as outspoken social conservative, trial lawyer running for chairman of Republican Party of Texas [Mark Pulliam, SE Texas Record]
  • Some of which goes to union political work: “Philly Pays $1.5 Million to ‘Ghost Teachers'” [Evan Grossman, Pennsylvania Watchdog via Jason Bedrick]
  • “However objectionable one might find Trump’s rhetoric, the [event-disrupting] protesters are in the wrong.” [Bill Wyman/Columbia Journalism Review, earlier]
  • Hillary Clinton’s connections to Wal-Mart go way back, and hooray for that [Ira Stoll and column]
  • I went out canvassing GOP voters in Maryland before the primary. Here’s what they told me. [Ricochet]

“I’m a lawyer. And lawyers write letters.”

Dwain Downing, an attorney in Arlington, Texas, says he is suing a Mansfield diner that ran out of soup at 2 p.m. during a Saturday lunch special. The server and on-site manager told Downing that while he didn’t have to order the sandwich, two sides, and soup special at all if the lack of soup made it unattractive to him, the restaurant’s policy was not to discount the $7.95 price or offer a third side dish as a substitute. “Downing demands $2.25 – the cost of an additional side at Our Place – plus $250 in legal fees.” Why didn’t he handle it through an online review, calling the owner on the phone or simply not coming back? “‘I’m a lawyer,’ Downing said Friday by phone. ‘And lawyers write letters.'” [Marc Ramirez, Dallas Morning News]

“US Marshals arresting people for not paying their federal student loans” (P.S.: Really?)

[Note: updated Friday 9:30 a.m., an hour and a half after publication, after it became clear that the original reporting was gravely flawed] According to KRIV, “the US Marshals Service in Houston is arresting people for not paying their outstanding federal student loans. Paul Aker …says seven deputy US Marshals showed up at his home with guns and took him to federal court where he had to sign a payment plan for the [$1500] 29-year-old school loan. Congressman Gene Green says the federal government is now using private debt collectors to go after those who owe student loans. Green says as a result, those attorneys and debt collectors are getting judgments in federal court and asking judges to use the US Marshals Service to arrest those who have failed to pay their federal student loans.”

But see: Scott Riddle with plenty of evidence that KRIV’s version of the story omits material facts (h/t commenter Matthew: Aker “wasn’t arrested for the debt itself. He was arrested for evading service and failing to show up for mandatory court dates.”) As for the guns, the marshals’ office said it sent reinforcements when an attempt to arrest Aker failed and the situation escalated. As Riddle notes, the original report had spread rapidly around news outlets, but corrections and clarifications are often slow to catch up.

An article V convention? Wrong idea, wrong time

Some serious constitutional conservatives, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Rob Natelson for the American Legislative Exchange Council, have been promoting the idea of getting two-thirds of the states to call for an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio recently made headlines by endorsing the notion. But I don’t think it’s a good one, as I argue in this new piece for the Daily Beast (the clickbait headline is theirs, not mine). It begins:

In his quest to catch the Road Runner, the Coyote in the old Warner Brothers cartoons would always order supplies from the ACME Corporation, but they never performed as advertised. Either they didn’t work at all, or they blew up in his face.

Which brings us to the idea of a so-called Article V convention assembled for the purpose of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution, an idea currently enjoying some vogue at both ends of the political spectrum.

Jacob Sullum at Reason offers a quick tour of some of the better and worse planks in Abbott’s “Texas Plan” (as distinct from the question of whether a convention is the best way of pursuing them). Much more: Thomas Neale, Congressional Research Service report, 2014. (cross-posted, with some additions, at Cato at Liberty).