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house Bill H.R. 720

Do Federal Courts Need to be More Active Against Frivolous Lawsuits?

Argument in favor

Frivolous lawsuits cost the U.S. billions of dollars and diminish the public’s faith in the legal system. This bill deters meritless lawsuits from being filed in the first place.

MattVDZ's Opinion
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03/07/2017
Yea, if this also applies to accusations by the Commander in Chief that may be considered as harassment. (By definition of 'Frivolous' within this bill)
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Tafinzer's Opinion
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03/10/2017
It's about time for a bill like this. The billions and billions of dollars that frivolous lawsuits have cost needs to be deterred. I hope this bill passes. please vote yea.
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Jennifer's Opinion
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03/07/2017
As long as frivolous is well defined and standardized,,,and this is not just a ploy to protect BIG MONEY
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Argument opposed

The deterrents against frivolous lawsuits in this bill could lead to people not filing legitimate lawsuits for fear that they will face punishment if something goes wrong.

Gabrielle's Opinion
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03/10/2017
This is a waste of time. What should be instated are penalties for lawmakers who refuse to listen to the majority of their constituents, are you hearing me, Cory Gardner!
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Mary's Opinion
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03/06/2017
Let the judges have the freedom to choose if sanctions should be imposed. Don't limit the judges ability to do their job.
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ElliottSabino's Opinion
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03/10/2017
The myth of frivolous lawsuits has been debunked over and over. Do not let this policy intimidate citizens into silence about the corporations that may have wronged them.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
  • The house Passed March 10th, 2017
    Roll Call Vote 230 Yea / 188 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
    IntroducedJanuary 30th, 2017

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What is House Bill H.R. 720?

This bill would reinstate punishments for attorneys, law firms, and parties involved in frivolous lawsuits filed in federal court. In general, a "frivolous" lawsuit is considered to have no basis in fact or existing law and has been filed simply to harass a defendant.

Specifically, it would restore sanctions covered by Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under current law, courts can, but are not required to, impose such sanctions intended to deter frivolous lawsuits.

If passed, this bill directs Judges to put monetary sanctions on lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits. These sanctions could include attorney’s fees and the costs incurred by the victim of the frivolous lawsuit. The court could also deal with the problem by dismissing the case or striking the pleadings.

This bill would also remove an amendment to Rule 11 that currently allows parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions if they withdraw or correct their frivolous lawsuit within 21 days of filing.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) — the sponsor of this legislation — described the legal situation that his bill attempts to remedy like this: 

“Every day, innocent Americans face the scourge of frivolous lawsuits. Their reputations and livelihoods are jeopardized by attorneys who have everything to gain and nothing to lose by filing baseless lawsuits. LARA fights this legalized extortion. I look forward to working with Chairman Goodlatte and Senator Grassley to get this commonsense bill to President Trump’s desk.”

This bill was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on a vote of 17 to 6. A similar version passed in the House in September 2015 by a margin of 241 to 185, but didn’t see a vote in the Senate.

The previous version of this legislation was opposed by Democrats — only three of whom voted for the bill — including Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who said it would:

“Turn back the clock to a time when federal rules of civil procedure discouraged civil rights cases, limited judicial discretion, and permitted satellite litigation to run wild.”

Of Note: According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, lawsuits cost the U.S. economy about $264 billion each year. That comes to about $850 per person. As a percentage of a country’s economy, the annual legal liability in the U.S. is twice the rate of the UK, three times higher than France’s rate, and five times higher than Japan’s.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Beinecke Library)

AKA

Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017

Official Title

To amend Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to improve attorney accountability, and for other purposes.

    Yea, if this also applies to accusations by the Commander in Chief that may be considered as harassment. (By definition of 'Frivolous' within this bill)
    Like (134)
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    This is a waste of time. What should be instated are penalties for lawmakers who refuse to listen to the majority of their constituents, are you hearing me, Cory Gardner!
    Like (419)
    Follow
    Share
    Let the judges have the freedom to choose if sanctions should be imposed. Don't limit the judges ability to do their job.
    Like (267)
    Follow
    Share
    The myth of frivolous lawsuits has been debunked over and over. Do not let this policy intimidate citizens into silence about the corporations that may have wronged them.
    Like (221)
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    Share
    The President should NOT be competing with the private sector and yet Trump is in clear violation (still/again) of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The clause bars elected leaders from taking anything of value from foreign countries, unless approved by Congress. With newly approved Chinese trademarks, with his hotel deals overseas, and with every crap product his family brand manufactures ABROAD he stands to gain financially. Appearance of impropriety? No. This is CLEARLY IMPROPER. When you systematically remove ALL opposition from government while simultaneously enacting legislation limiting legal recourse, what becomes of checks and balances? Trump has deliberately undermined the ability of anyone within the government to challenge him. The only venue left is in court. Make no mistake, there is method in his madness. The President aims to enrich himself, his family, and all the other billionaires (Russian or otherwise) in his administration, at taxpayer expense. Not so sure? Well, let's see... Who appoints Federal judges? Why, the President of the United States, of course! Federal judges are appointed FOR LIFE. They must be confirmed by the Senate, but we've seen how well those Senate confirmation hearings have been going (I'm still amazed by the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions committing unrepentant perjury during his hearing...) And the rest of us? We should just shut our mouth and rot in the hell Trump leaves in his wake? I don't think so.
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    Who defines frivolous.
    Like (112)
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    I think this is just a way to intimidate those who have legitimate reasons to file. I oppose this bill! It is too subjective in determining what is considered frivolous! This won't stop our POTUS and his wife from filing frivolous law suits!
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    Defining "Frivolous" could easily deprive someone of Due Process.
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    This is a cover up to try and intimidate people from bringing legitimate lawsuits!
    Like (59)
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    It's about time for a bill like this. The billions and billions of dollars that frivolous lawsuits have cost needs to be deterred. I hope this bill passes. please vote yea.
    Like (52)
    Follow
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    As long as frivolous is well defined and standardized,,,and this is not just a ploy to protect BIG MONEY
    Like (44)
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    Frivolous lawsuits are not nearly the problem they're painted to be (http://tortreformtruth.com/fact-vs-fiction/frivolous-lawsuits/). This bill would further limit the amount of people holding others responsible for their actions.
    Like (35)
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    "According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, lawsuits cost the U.S. economy about $264 billion each year. That comes to about $850 per person. As a percentage of a country’s economy, the annual legal liability in the U.S. is twice the rate of the UK, three times higher than France’s rate, and five times higher than Japan’s" Let's begin with that important fact. "Every day, innocent Americans face the scourge of frivolous lawsuits. Their reputations and livelihoods are jeopardized by attorneys who have everything to gain and nothing to lose by filing baseless lawsuits. LARA fights this legalized extortion." I agree. Liberals love frivolous lawsuits. Just read some of their comments on Countable opposing this bill and you'll have a clue. With all of the liberal judges on Federal courts and courts like the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, we need to reverse this trend. These frivolous lawsuits and Judicial activism need to be restrained.
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    This is disgraceful
    Like (31)
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    Not needed. Leave it to the discretion of the courts.
    Like (24)
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    Frivolous is a very subjective term. I am sure all companies consider every lawsuit brought against them to be frivolous. But the fact remains that we have a constitutional right to have claims of harm done to us by other individuals or organizations to be heard in court of law. Corporations may find that inconvenient but it should not be curtailed in any way.
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    Frivolous lawsuits create a horrible culture in the landscape of our country... any time you have people solely determined to get a big pay check for little to no reason. We as a country waste resources. It should come with a punishment or fine, if it is deemed frivolous.
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    While I'm against truly frivolous lawsuits that clog the court systems, I have concerns that if applied without enough caveats, this law will be used to discourage legitimate lawsuits for fear of reprisal. I think judges should have discretion to impose reasonable penalties against both attorneys and plaintiffs who indulge in frivolous lawsuits, and the frequency with which the same attorneys and/or plaintiffs who bring these types of lawsuits would be an important criterion for a judge's discretion.
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    Keep it at the judge's discretion. Some cases are not black and white, and require an attorney to argue for a a different interpretation of the law. An attorney who does this may be found to make a frivolous claim, but if done in good faith, the judge need not sanction him. If it's blatantly obvious that an attorney filed a frivolous lawsuit to harass the other party, the judge will almost always level sanctions on them.
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    This bill strips the judge of the current discretion to impose sanctions. The judge should continue to be empowered to assess the facts in the specific case before the bench. This bill is not necessary and could have the effect of discouraging legitimate lawsuits.
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