AUSTIN – Four bills passed by the Texas Legislature this spring and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott take effect on Sept. 1, strengthening the state’s civil justice system, say tort reform groups.
Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse groups from across the state are currently raising awareness about the new laws and the benefits for Texans.
“Smart-minded lawsuit reforms are widely credited with helping to create and retain jobs, and new laws passed during this year’s regular legislative session will further improve our civil justice system,” said Robert Wood, spokesperson for TALA.
“The Texas Legislature also ensured those performing their civic duty by serving on juries are better compensated for their time.”
The new laws that take effect Sept. 1 will:
– Increase judicial training and transparency (HB 2384) by:
– Requiring a judicial candidate’s ballot application to include the candidate’s bar number and disclosure of any public sanction, censure or disciplinary sanctions in Texas or another state.
– Ensuring a judicial candidate clearly states, for a previous five-year period, the nature of the candidate’s practice, any legal specialization, the candidate’s professional courtroom experience and any final conviction for a Class A or Class B misdemeanor in the past 10 years. Candidates for appellate court seats would go a step further, describing appellate court briefs and oral arguments for the past five years.
– Directing the Texas Supreme Court to adopt rules on judicial training required of judges and set a one-year timeframe for completion. New judges would be required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of instruction on the administrative duties of the office and substantive, procedural and evidentiary law, with an additional 16 hours of continuing education annually. The measure also establishes a process and action to hold these candidates and judges accountable should they fail to complete the required disclosures and training.
“We all want our judges to demonstrate the highest level of skill and competence,” said Daniel Silva, executive director of Rio Grande Valley CALA. “This new law (HB 2384) brings uniformity and accountability to our courts and greater transparency for voters who elect Texas judges.”
– Help ensure fair access to our courts (HB 19 and SB 1045) with the creation of a specialized business court and specialized appeals court in Texas, providing the type of consistency and clarity in large commercial cases that could help deliver faster resolution to lawsuits with fewer litigation costs. A new intermediate appellate court to hear appeals from the new specialized business court and appeals involving the State of Texas will further strengthen our civil justice system.
“These new business courts will help ensure business-to-business cases and board governance matters receive the expertise of specialized judges to hear these complex cases,” said Roger Borgelt, board chair of CALA of Central Texas. “These new courts will also help ensure Texans continue to have access to courts for cases of personal injury, wrongful death, family law and other non-business matters.”
– Boost juror pay (HB 3474) to $20 for the first day of service, up from $6. If selected for a jury, pay increases to $58 per day. The state will increase its reimbursement to counties to partially cover the pay boost.
Previous research from TALA shows that while many Texans say it’s important to serve on a jury, many still don’t respond when summoned, which may be attributable to the financial burden.
“Serving on a jury is fundamental to our democracy, and we are hopeful this new pay boost will encourage more of us to respond when called for jury service,” Wood said.
“We know lawsuit reform works, and these new laws are further evidence that state leaders value a civil justice system that is fair, accessible and focused on jobs, not lawsuits,” said D’Anne Buquet, trustee of Bay Area CALA in Corpus Christi.