Yesterday (August 15th), the House and Senate adjourned sine die, thereby formally ending the special session. 560 bills and resolutions were filed. Only 12 bills passed both chambers. Of the 20 items on Governor Abbott’s special session agenda, nine (including the sunset items) were addressed by bills that made it across the finish line. None of the civil justice system bills that I monitored (i.e., those listed below) passed.
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.
It’s too early to tell whether a second special session will be called. Of course, I will keep everyone informed of developments, if any, as I become aware of them.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions. If I do not know the answers, I’ll do my best to find someone who does.
Until next time,
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