H.B. 148, which appears on the Texas Senate’s intent calendar today, includes a provision that authorizes clients to bring civil suits against their attorneys who allegedly engage in barratry. In April, H.B. 3915 stalled in the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. But on May 23, the Senate State Affairs Committee amended H.B. 148, which deals with the prosecution of the offense of barratry, to include the provision creating a civil cause of action for barratry. If H.B. 148 becomes law, a client who prevails in a barratry civil suit can recoup the fees paid to a lawyer who unlawfully solicited the client. In addition, H.B. 148 gives a judge or jury the discretion to award the client up to twice the amount paid for the lawyer’s services. The Senate’s deadline for passing bills is Wednesday.
UPDATE: On a 31-0 vote, the Texas Senate today passed H.B. 148, which creates a civil cause of action by a client against an attorney who engages in barratry. The bill goes back to the House, which either must concur with the Senate changes in the bill or request a conference committee to iron out the differences. State Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, a partner in Crenshaw, Dupree & Milam, sponsored the amendment that authorizes civil suits by clients against their attorneys. Duncan says it is hard to enforce a Texas Penal Code provision that prohibits barratry. “A civil remedy provides a more effective way to remedy the problem,” he says.
-- Mary Alice Robbins