Presidential Candidates and Campaigns

 

George W. Bush On The Issues 2000

George W. Bush 2000 On The Issues

Civil Justice Reform

Governor Bush believes that the litigation explosion clogging America’s courts imposes significant and unnecessary costs on U.S. high-tech companies, small businesses, and consumers.  Governor Bush believes that it is possible to deter and punish bad-faith frivolous litigation without compromising access to the courts for legitimate lawsuits.  Although the Clinton-Gore Administration and the trial lawyers’ lobby have consistently opposed reform efforts in Congress, as President, Governor Bush will fight to pass federal civil justice reform, just as he fought for and achieved civil justice reform in Texas.

Governor Bush’s Approach

As President, Governor Bush will prioritize comprehensive civil justice reform.  His reform plan will be aimed, not at lowering awards for victims, but on raising standards for lawyers.  In Texas, Governor Bush has shown that – despite the powerful influence of the trial lawyers’ lobby – leadership can prevail over special interests.  Governor Bush’s plan for federal civil justice reform will ensure a civil justice system that is swift, efficient, predictable, and fair, and that deters frivolous litigation.


Governor Bush’s Reform Proposals

To protect the innocent against frivolous suits, Governor Bush will:
  • Strengthen Federal Rule 11 to require stiffer penalties for frivolous suits, and impose a “Three Strikes, You’re Out” rule on attorneys who repeatedly file frivolous claims.
  • Limit “fishing expeditions” by amending federal discovery rules, and curb the use of “junk science” by raising the federal standard for admission of scientific testimony.
  • Eliminate the much-abused private cause of action under the RICO statute.
  • Enact the “Teacher Protection Act” to shield teachers from meritless lawsuits arising out of efforts to maintain classroom discipline.

    To encourage reasonable settlements, Governor Bush will:
  • Enact a “Fair Settlement Rule,” requiring parties who reject a pre-trial settlement offer, and who ultimately lose their case or receive substantially less at trial, to pay the other party’s costs, including legal fees.

    To curb forum shopping and improve access to federal courts, Governor Bush will:
  • Allow large cases to be removed from state to federal court where only “minimal diversity” exists – i.e., where any plaintiff is from a different state than any defendant.
  • Raise the amount in controversy for removal where there is complete diversity.  
  • Expand class-action removal rules so that national cases are heard in a federal forum.

    To protect clients against unscrupulous lawyers, Governor Bush will:
  • Enact a “Client’s Bill of Rights” to allow federal courts to hear challenges to attorneys’ fees, and require attorneys to disclose their ethical obligation to charge reasonable fees and the potential range of those fees.

    To ensure that private lawyers do not profit unreasonably at public expense, Governor Bush will:
  • Require private lawyers who contract to represent states or municipalities to return any excessive fees to their governmental clients.
  • Issue an Executive Order prohibiting federal agencies from paying contingency fees.


    The Texas Record

    Governor Bush made Tort Reform one of four central themes of his first gubernatorial campaign in 1994, despite the entrenched power of the trial lawyers’ lobby in Texas politics.  During Governor Bush’s first legislative session, he fought for and signed seven significant pieces of tort reform legislation, over the vehement opposition of the trial lawyers.  In the second session, Governor Bush signed more tort reform legislation, including restrictions on out-of-state lawsuits, which helped to unclog the Texas courts.  And, in the first session of his second term, Governor Bush signed yet another piece of tort reform legislation, Y2K protection.
    The specific reforms signed by Governor Bush include the following:

  • Limited punitive damage awards.  Texas placed a real cap on punitive damages:  two times economic damages plus non-economic damages of no more than $750,000.  Legislation also increased the evidentiary standard for punitive damages from a “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence,” ensuring that punitive damages are awarded only when harsh punishment is truly warranted.

  • Made joint-and-several liability fairer.  Texas curtailed lawsuits against marginally responsible defendants.  The new law allows one party to be held responsible for another’s negligence only if that party is found at least 51 percent at fault.  Under the old law, a party could be held jointly liable if it was as little as 11 percent responsible.

  • Reformed the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.  The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act was reformed to restore it to its original intent – protecting consumers, not creating endless commercial litigation – by holding those persons who intentionally deceive a consumer liable for triple damages.  

  • Limited judge and court shopping.  To prevent plaintiffs from manipulating venue laws to find a judge and jury more friendly to their case, Texas passed legislation placing reasonable limits on where a plaintiff may file suit by requiring suits to be brought in venues with a substantive connection to the injury or where the defendant keeps his principal place of business.

  • Curbed frivolous lawsuits.  Texas strengthened a judge’s ability to sanction parties bringing frivolous lawsuits and increased the severity of the sanctions that can be imposed.  Those filing frivolous lawsuits can now be forced to pay the court costs, attorneys’ fees, and out-of-pocket expenses of the opposing party.

  • Restricted out-of-state lawsuits.  Texas gave judges more power to dismiss certain out-of-state lawsuits from Texas courts, sending them back to their states of origin under a tightened forum non conveniens law.  This prevented Texas from continuing to be a “dumping ground” state for the hundreds of thousands of lawsuits that were previously clogging Texas courts.

  • Reformed medical malpractice.  Texas discouraged frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits by increasing bond requirements and requiring expert medical reports to certify the legitimacy of a claim.

  • Protected public servants from frivolous lawsuits.  Texas limited the personal liability of public servants – including volunteers – who are sued for good faith actions performed in the line of duty.

  • Curbed inmate lawsuits.  Prison inmates are now required to exhaust internal grievance procedures before filing suit, and they face the deduction of good time credits for frivolous actions.

  • Protected "Good Samaritan" medical volunteers. Medical professionals acting in good faith can now provide charitable care to needy Texans without fearing lawsuits.

  • Reformed judicial campaign finance laws.  For the first time, Texas limited contributions to judicial campaigns by individuals, law firms, PACs and political parties.  Year-round fund-raising by judges and judicial candidates is now banned.

  • Provided Y2K lawsuit protections.  Enacted lawsuit protections by limiting the legal liability for companies that make good faith efforts to address Y2K-related problems.

  • Restricted use of contingency fee lawyers by state agencies.  Any state agency entering into a significant contract with a contingency fee lawyer must now obtain express approval from the Legislative Budget Board before entering into the agreement.


    Results of Governor Bush’s Efforts in Texas

  • $2.9 billion in tort reform savings.  As a result of the 1995 overhaul of Texas’ civil justice system, Texans and Texas businesses have received $2.9 billion in savings through insurance rate reductions.

  • Lawsuits are down in Texas.  Cases filed for injuries or damages not related to motor vehicle accidents decreased 30 percent.  The number of personal injury cases filed decreased from 13 percent of all civil cases in 1994 to 10 percent of all civil cases in 1998.


    Position Proposal

Source: George W. Bush for President 2000 Web Site

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