The U.S. House Judiciary Committee could vote as soon as this week on legislation that would restore a system of mandatory sanctions on lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairman of the committee, gave notice today of a possible vote on Thursday. He’s the primary sponsor of the legislation, which he’s called the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act. The proposal has drawn enthusiastic support from business groups who say it would eliminate wasteful litigation, while opponents say it would lead to costly side battles that will consume judges’ time.
The legislation (PDF) would create a system similar to one that existed between 1983 and 1993. It would make sanctions mandatory once a judge has found a lawsuit to be frivolous under Rule 11 of the rules of civil procedure, and it would remove a 21-day “safe harbor” under which lawyers can now withdraw a lawsuit to avoid threatened sanctions.