November 15, 2013
This week, the House passed a bill to require courts to impose sanctions against lawyers who file meritless litigation, including employment claims, reinstating rules that were in place from 1983 to 1993. The bill (HR 2655) was passed by 228 to 195, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting for the bill. Under the bill, fees imposed on the lawyer would be used to compensate the injured party for expenses incurred, such as attorneys’ fees. Courts already have the option to impose sanctions if they find a suit was filed for such purposes as to harass or delay but, since 1993, have not been required to do so. The bill's sponsor Lamar Smith (R-TX) cited as an example a lawsuit filed against The Weather Channel for failing to accurately predict storms and another against television companies for airing "frightening programs." Those who file such claims have “everything to gain and nothing to lose,” Smith said. An effort to exempt Title VII and other civil rights laws from the bill was rejected by 197 to 225. With strong opposition from the White House and the American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, a companion bill in the Senate (S. 1288) is unlikely to be considered this Congress.