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Fed bill to toughen Rule 11 attorney sanctions advances

By: BridgeTower Media Newswires//July 12, 2011

Fed bill to toughen Rule 11 attorney sanctions advances

By: BridgeTower Media Newswires//July 12, 2011//

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Sanctions against attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits in federal court would be toughened under legislation advanced by the House Judiciary Committee.

The “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act,” H.R. 966, was advanced by the committee on a 20-13 vote.

The measure would make monetary sanctions against attorneys mandatory rather than discretionary if a suit is determined to be frivolous. Sanctions include the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the opposing party.

The bill also would eliminate 1993 amendments to Rule 11 that allow parties to avoid sanctions by withdrawing claims within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the committee and sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would “prevent the filing of hundreds of thousands of pages of frivolous legal pleadings in federal court.”

“Plaintiffs’ lawyers can file frivolous suits, no matter how absurd the claims, without any penalty,” Smith said in a statement after the measure was advanced out of committee.  “Meanwhile defendants are faced with the choice of years of litigation, high court costs and attorneys’ fees or a settlement. Many of these cases have cost innocent people and business owners their reputations and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

But Gibson Vance, president of trial attorney group the American Association for Justice, said the measure would “undermine the rights of American workers and consumers.”

“This bill imposes rules that were in place from 1983 to 1993, which judges and legal scholars ruled a complete failure,” Vance said in a statement. “With this legislation, Congress forces our courts to turn back the clock to a rule that did not work and that judges themselves have found to be unnecessary and ineffective.”

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