Writing at the Center for Individual Freedom, Quin Hillyer previews the upcoming Congressional debate over the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, seeing in the legislation an extension of the procedural restraint marked by the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the Iqbal and Twombly rulings.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) of the House Judiciary Committee introduced H.R. 966 (called LARA for short) in March and the committee is expected to take up the bill early next month. The legislation seeks to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits in federal court by amending the sanctions provisions in Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require the court to impose sanctions who misrepresent their claims to the court. The sanction will compensate the injured parties. The bill also ends to so-called "safe harbor" provision, which now allows an attorney to escape sanctions if withdraws his complaint with 21 days after serving it.
Hillyer writes in "Beating Rattlesnakes and Bottom Feeders: Congress Fights Frivolous Lawsuits":
In two recent cases, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009), the Supreme Court recognized that frivolous lawsuits are problematic. Before Twombly, a case could be dismissed for "failure to state a claim" only if it were "beyond doubt" that "no set of facts" could support it. In Twombly, seven justices overturned that standard. Former Justice David Souter wrote that a valid complaint must assume facts that are not merely "conceivable" or "speculative, but actually "plausible." Otherwise, he wrote, "The threat of discovery expense will push cost-conscious defendants to settle even anemic cases before reaching those proceedings."
The Twombly and Iqbal cases set the predicate for Chairman Smith's LARA proposal, which well complements those decisions. Just as the high court ruled that what constitutes "anemic" cases must be more broadly defined so as to make it easier to dismiss such cases, so should the penalty for filing those suits in the first place actually act as a deterrent (and as relief to unfairly targeted defendants).
Earlier Point of Law on LARA with background.
And we're glad to see Quin continuing his reporting on civil justice issues in his new gig as Senior Fellow with CFIF, which he joined in April. The strength of The Washington Times' editorials on tort reform, election law, and the politicized Justice Department were largely due to Quin's insights and reporting, and it looks like he's still on the beat -- just from a base of operations in Mobile, Ala.