After passing the required sunset bills during the first week of the special session, the Senate spent the second week plowing through virtually every item on Governor Abbott’s special session agenda. The House, on the other hand, is moving at a slower, more deliberate pace. As of July 30th, 496 bills and resolutions have been filed for the special session.
As stated in last week’s update, I am monitoring only a handful of civil justice system-related bills. I have added two more bills (HB 287 and HB 323) to this update. [Note: I have intentionally chosen not to include any of the high-profile bills (e.g., those related to the local regulation of mobile communication devices; the use of multi-occupancy showers, locker rooms, and restrooms; and various property tax proposals) because they are already generating enough publicity as it is. However, if requested to do so, I can certainly track some of those bills as well.]
HB 250 - Civil Liability for Injury of a Protestor by the Operator of a Motor Vehicle
· Summary: HB 250, filed by Rep. Pat Fallon (R – Little Elm), would add Chapter 72A to the Civil Practice & Remedies Code (CPRC) and provide that a person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person with the vehicle is not liable for the injury if, at the time of the injury: (1) the person operating the vehicle was exercising due care; and (2) the person injured was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration. However, the vehicle operator would remain liable for an injury caused by grossly negligent conduct.
· Bill Status: Referred to Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on July 21, 2017.
HB 287 - Relating to Payment of Costs Associated with Certain Assignments of a Statutory Probate Court Judge
· Summary: HB 287, filed by Rep. Andrew Murr (R - Kerrville), would add section 352.054 to the Estates Code and authorize a court in a county in which there is no statutory probate court or county court at law with original probate jurisdiction to require an estate to reimburse the county for compensation and expenses paid by the county under sections 25.0022(o) and (p) of the Government Code when a party to a probate proceeding files a motion to assign a statutory probate court judge to hear a contested matter.
· Bill Status: Referred to Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on July 25, 2017.
HB 323 - Eligibility of a Retired or Former Judge for Assignment in Certain Proceedings
· Summary: HB 323, filed by Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez (D - Eagle Pass), would amend section 74.055(c)(4)(A) of the Government Code to modify one of the requirements for a retired or former judge to be eligible for assignment to hear cases. Specifically, under HB 323, a retired or former judge would be required to certify under oath that the judge has not, in the preceding 10 years, been publicly reprimanded or censured by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct related to behavior on the bench or judicial duties. Currently, retired or former judges must certify only that they have never been publicly reprimanded or censured by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
· Bill Status: Referred to Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on July 27, 2017.
SB 54 - Award of Court Costs and Attorney’s Fees in Certain Actions Challenging an Order, Ordinance, or Similar Measure of a Political Subdivision
· Summary: SB 54, filed by Sen. Don Huffines (R - Dallas), would add Chapter 38A to the CPRC and require a court to award court costs and attorney’s fees to a person who prevails on a challenge to an order, ordinance, or measure of a political subdivision if the court determines that the order, ordinance, or measure is unenforceable because it is preempted by the Texas Constitution or a state statute. Also, if a court determines that an officer of a political subdivision has failed to perform an act of the office required by the Texas Constitution or a state statute, the court must award court costs and attorney’s fees to the party challenging the officer’s acts or omissions. SB 54 would not apply to a municipality or county with a population of less than 25,000.
· Bill Status: Filed on July 17, 2017.
I will continue to keep everyone informed of developments, if any, as I become aware of them. In the interim, if you have any questions about these topics or any other matter that comes to mind, feel free to contact me. If I do not know the answer to your questions, I’ll do my best to find someone who does.
Co-Chair, Legislative Liaison Committee
State Bar of Texas Appellate Section
Jerry D. Bullard*
Adams, Lynch & Loftin, P.C.
3950 Highway 360
Grapevine, Texas 76051
* Board Certified - Civil Appellate Law
Texas Board of Legal Specialization