We have passed the halfway point of the special session. As of Friday, August 4th, 544 bills and resolutions have been filed. The Senate and House have passed their respective versions of the sunset legislation filed in response to Governor Abbott’s initial call. The House State Affairs Committee has considered (and left pending) one of the Senate’s sunset bills (SB 20) while the Senate has yet to consider the House version (HB 1). Bills related to every other item on Governor Abbott’s supplemental special session agenda have been filed, but are moving through the process at various rates—some more slower than others. The plot will continue to thicken as we get closer to the end of the session.
The handful of civil justice system-related bills that I’m monitoring have not moved, primarily because they are unrelated to any items on the call. As such, not even the chicken bill (SB 98) has gotten very far down the road. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)
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.
The watch continues. In the interim, if you have any questions about these topics or any other matter that comes to mind, feel free to contact me.
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