George W. Bush 2000 On The Issues
Governor Bush believes that the
litigation explosion clogging America’s courts imposes significant and
unnecessary costs on U.S. high-tech companies, small businesses, and
consumers. Governor Bush believes that it is possible to deter and
punish bad-faith frivolous litigation without compromising access to the
courts for legitimate lawsuits. Although the Clinton-Gore
Administration and the trial lawyers’ lobby have consistently opposed
reform efforts in Congress, as President, Governor Bush will fight to pass
federal civil justice reform, just as he fought for and achieved civil
justice reform in Texas.
Governor Bush’s Approach
As President, Governor Bush will prioritize comprehensive civil justice
reform. His reform plan will be aimed, not at lowering awards for
victims, but on raising standards for lawyers. In Texas, Governor
Bush has shown that – despite the powerful influence of the trial
lawyers’ lobby – leadership can prevail over special interests. Governor
Bush’s plan for federal civil justice reform will ensure a civil justice
system that is swift, efficient, predictable, and fair, and that deters
Governor Bush’s Reform Proposals
To protect the innocent against frivolous suits, Governor Bush will:
- Strengthen Federal Rule 11 to require stiffer penalties for
frivolous suits, and impose a “Three Strikes, You’re Out” rule
on attorneys who repeatedly file frivolous claims.
- Limit “fishing expeditions” by amending federal discovery rules,
and curb the use of “junk science” by raising the federal standard
for admission of scientific testimony.
- Eliminate the much-abused private cause of action under the RICO
- Enact the “Teacher Protection Act” to shield teachers from
meritless lawsuits arising out of efforts to maintain classroom
To encourage reasonable settlements, Governor Bush will:
- Enact a “Fair Settlement Rule,” requiring parties who reject a
pre-trial settlement offer, and who ultimately lose their case or
receive substantially less at trial, to pay the other party’s costs,
including legal fees.
To curb forum shopping and improve access to federal courts,
Governor Bush will:
- Allow large cases to be removed from state to federal court where
only “minimal diversity” exists – i.e., where any plaintiff is
from a different state than any defendant.
- Raise the amount in controversy for removal where there is complete
- Expand class-action removal rules so that national cases are heard
in a federal forum.
To protect clients against unscrupulous lawyers, Governor Bush
- Enact a “Client’s Bill of Rights” to allow federal courts to
hear challenges to attorneys’ fees, and require attorneys to
disclose their ethical obligation to charge reasonable fees and the
potential range of those fees.
To ensure that private lawyers do not profit unreasonably at public
expense, Governor Bush will:
- Require private lawyers who contract to represent states or
municipalities to return any excessive fees to their governmental
- Issue an Executive Order prohibiting federal agencies from paying
The Texas Record
Governor Bush made Tort Reform one of four central themes of his first
gubernatorial campaign in 1994, despite the entrenched power of the
trial lawyers’ lobby in Texas politics. During Governor
Bush’s first legislative session, he fought for and signed seven
significant pieces of tort reform legislation, over the vehement
opposition of the trial lawyers. In the second session, Governor
Bush signed more tort reform legislation, including restrictions on
out-of-state lawsuits, which helped to unclog the Texas courts. And,
in the first session of his second term, Governor Bush signed yet
another piece of tort reform legislation, Y2K protection.
The specific reforms signed by Governor Bush include the following:
- Limited punitive damage awards. Texas placed a real cap
on punitive damages: two times economic damages plus
non-economic damages of no more than $750,000. Legislation also
increased the evidentiary standard for punitive damages from a
“preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing
evidence,” ensuring that punitive damages are awarded only when
harsh punishment is truly warranted.
- Made joint-and-several liability fairer. Texas
curtailed lawsuits against marginally responsible defendants. The
new law allows one party to be held responsible for another’s
negligence only if that party is found at least 51 percent at fault.
Under the old law, a party could be held jointly liable if it
was as little as 11 percent responsible.
- Reformed the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Texas
Deceptive Trade Practices Act was reformed to restore it to its
original intent – protecting consumers, not creating endless
commercial litigation – by holding those persons who intentionally
deceive a consumer liable for triple damages.
- Limited judge and court shopping. To prevent plaintiffs
from manipulating venue laws to find a judge and jury more friendly to
their case, Texas passed legislation placing reasonable limits on
where a plaintiff may file suit by requiring suits to be brought in
venues with a substantive connection to the injury or where the
defendant keeps his principal place of business.
- Curbed frivolous lawsuits. Texas strengthened a
judge’s ability to sanction parties bringing frivolous lawsuits and
increased the severity of the sanctions that can be imposed. Those
filing frivolous lawsuits can now be forced to pay the court costs,
attorneys’ fees, and out-of-pocket expenses of the opposing party.
- Restricted out-of-state lawsuits. Texas gave judges
more power to dismiss certain out-of-state lawsuits from Texas courts,
sending them back to their states of origin under a tightened forum
non conveniens law. This prevented Texas from continuing to be a
“dumping ground” state for the hundreds of thousands of lawsuits
that were previously clogging Texas courts.
- Reformed medical malpractice. Texas discouraged
frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits by increasing bond requirements
and requiring expert medical reports to certify the legitimacy of a
- Protected public servants from frivolous lawsuits. Texas
limited the personal liability of public servants – including
volunteers – who are sued for good faith actions performed in the
line of duty.
- Curbed inmate lawsuits. Prison inmates are now required
to exhaust internal grievance procedures before filing suit, and they
face the deduction of good time credits for frivolous actions.
- Protected "Good Samaritan" medical volunteers.
Medical professionals acting in good faith can now provide charitable
care to needy Texans without fearing lawsuits.
- Reformed judicial campaign finance laws. For the first
time, Texas limited contributions to judicial campaigns by
individuals, law firms, PACs and political parties. Year-round
fund-raising by judges and judicial candidates is now banned.
- Provided Y2K lawsuit protections. Enacted lawsuit
protections by limiting the legal liability for companies that make
good faith efforts to address Y2K-related problems.
- Restricted use of contingency fee lawyers by state agencies.
Any state agency entering into a significant contract with a
contingency fee lawyer must now obtain express approval from the
Legislative Budget Board before entering into the agreement.
Results of Governor Bush’s Efforts in Texas
- $2.9 billion in tort reform savings. As a result of the
1995 overhaul of Texas’ civil justice system, Texans and Texas
businesses have received $2.9 billion in savings through insurance
- Lawsuits are down in Texas. Cases filed for injuries or
damages not related to motor vehicle accidents decreased 30 percent.
The number of personal injury cases filed decreased from 13
percent of all civil cases in 1994 to 10 percent of all civil cases in
Source: George W. Bush for President 2000 Web Site