For a case with multiple parties, a blizzard of pretrial motions or a long trial looming, lawyers could ask the trial court for extra judges, briefing clerks or e-filing technology if the Texas Supreme Court approves proposed rules that will soon head its way. However, the Legislature must also adequately fund the program.
A draft copy of rules under which lawyers and courts can request additional resources for unusually complex cases will head to the high court by Nov. 1. The State Bar of Texas Task Force on Additional Resources for Complex Cases has been working since July to meet the requirements of a 2011 law, House Bill 79, a massive judicial-system overhaul bill that included a provision calling for “rules for determining whether civil cases pending in trial courts require additional resources for efficient judicial management.”
The State Bar’s Executive Committee must approve the rules before they go to the high court. If approved by the justices, the rules would take effect May 1, 2012, in the Rules of Judicial Administration.
Task Force Chairman Dickie Hile explains the new rules will formalize a process for requesting additional resources.
Additional resources would be available for cases with a large number of parties, complex and time-consuming pretrial motions, and very long trials, among other things. Those resources could include additional judges or court personnel, information and communication technology, and more.
The proposed rules indicate lawyers would file motions with the court to ask for additional resources. “In practice, [the motion] would be a short statement of the facts of the case and what demands necessitate additional resources. And basically, a recitation that I’m requesting you provide me A, B, C and D — and that’s it. I mean, we don’t want to make a formal process,” says Hile, partner of Dies & Hile in Austin.
The rules lay out the process the trial courts would use to enter an order requesting additional resources from their region’s presiding judges or from the Judicial Committee on Additional Resources. That committee includes Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and the presiding judges of the nine administrative judicial regions.
Until the Legislature appropriates funding, the funding for additional resources must come from other budgets meant for such uses, or from grants or donations, says Hile.
-- Angela Morris