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Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2655 - Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013

November 12, 2013


STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY

(House Rules)

(Rep. Smith, R-TX, and seven cosponsors)

The Administration opposes H.R. 2655, which would limit the discretion of courts by requiring monetary sanctions for violations of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 11 requires attorneys to certify that pleadings are not presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation. H.R. 2655 would change Rule 11 by requiring monetary sanctions (including court costs and attorneys’ fees) for a Rule 11 violation and by eliminating the safe harbor that now allows attorneys to correct or withdraw a filing before Rule 11 proceedings commence. The bill would circumvent the usual procedure for amending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

While H.R. 2655 is intended to curb a perceived increase in frivolous litigation, the bill would actually increase litigation. By creating an automatic financial incentive, and by removing the safe-harbor period, the proposed changes to Rule 11 could dramatically increase the number of sanctions motions, including those filed against Federal government attorneys, and correspondingly increase the risk of financial exposure for any conduct that might be considered a Rule 11 violation. In short, H.R. 2655 would raise the amount and cost of civil litigation and provide more opportunity for unnecessary delay and harassment.

The Administration is particularly concerned that the new requirements could be used to target consumer and civil rights plaintiffs. Consumer abuse and civil rights cases rely heavily on the discovery process to prove the merits of their claims. In addition, civil rights cases often seek to challenge the law or to extend existing precedents. The threat of mandatory sanctions for failure to withstand a Rule 11 challenge could chill meritorious claims by deterring worthy plaintiffs from challenging existing laws or seeking novel interpretations of them.

The bill is opposed by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the principal policymaking body for the Judicial Branch charged with proposing amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure under the careful, deliberate process outlined in the Rules Enabling Act. Congress has tasked the Judicial Conference to serve as the principal policymaking body for the Judicial Branch. Congress has thus empowered the Federal judiciary to make its own procedural rules, retaining the right to review those rules and to accept, modify, or reject them. H.R. 2655 is an attempt to amend the rules directly, over the objections of the Judicial Conference.

Barack Obama, Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2655 - Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/305262