Best Remedy for Frivolous Lawsuits? A Judge
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Tort reformers in Texas and elsewhere love to describe the “crisis” caused by frivolous and ridiculous lawsuits, many of which they are happy to list. While their goal seems to be to restrict access to the courthouse or limiting remedies – which would inevitably ensnare many legitimate claimants – they never mention the highly-effective remedy for frivolous lawsuits that already exists.
Judges all have the ability to deal with bad legal filings right out of the box, as exemplified by the recent high-profile ruling of U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by professional cyclist Lance Armstrong in Austin. Armstrong’s lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency seeks to protect the cyclists’ reputation, his seven Tour de France titles and related prize money by countering the agency’s charges that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs for years. Within hours of Armstrong filing his lawsuit, it was dismissed without prejudice based in part on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires “short and plain” statements about the claim, and Rule 8(d)(1), which requires allegations to be “simple, concise and direct.”
The original filing contained what Judge Sparks described as “eighty mostly unnecessary pages” of allegations that were “wholly irrelevant to Armstrong's claims” that the judge found were “included solely to increase media coverage of this case, and to incite public opinion against” the defendants. The judge allowed Armstrong to amend and resubmit the lawsuit within 20 days, and the famed cyclist’s lawyer has told reporters that he will do so.
Lost in the media coverage is the fact that judges can literally throw out a flawed lawsuit almost as soon as it is filed, as was done here. And who would you rather decide whether a lawsuit is frivolous or otherwise unsuitable? A bunch of politicians who may never have been in a courtroom but still believe they can presciently determine that restricting your access to the courthouse won’t unintentionally bar your legitimate lawsuits? Or a judge whose job it is to evaluate legal claims every single day?
For anyone who has ever been in a courtroom, the answer is pretty easy.
Posted: 7/19/2012 2:37:31 PM by
TCLE Editor | with 1 comments
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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.
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