When presenting House Bill 1711 to the Texas House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee on March 11, Fletcher explained that his bill will “close the loophole.”
Under Government Code §82.065, a person can sue an attorney who secured any legal contract by violating barratry-related state laws or barratry-related rules in the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. A client who prevailed in voiding a contract could recover attorney fees and expenses already paid to the lawyer, as well as actual damages and attorney fees. The law also allows a barratry victim who didn't sign a legal contract to sue “any person who committed barratry” and win a $10,000 penalty from each violator, actual damages and attorney fees [See, “Battling Barratry: Lawyers Publicize New Law, Predict Its Impact,” Texas Lawyer, Sept. 12, 2011, page 1].
Fletcher, a former police officer, told committee members, “Effectively, under current law, this penalty only applies when there is no contract signed. House Bill 1711 will close this loophole and hold lawyers accountable for their actions by saying a penalty can be enforced even if the contract is voided voluntarily.”
William R. “Bill” Edwards Sr., founder of The Edwards Law Firm in Corpus Christi, testified in favor of the bill.
“The $10,000 penalty that we are talking about is more a deterrent for the people who think about violating the law than it is about making money for anybody. It’s got enough juice in it for a client to maybe be interested in cooperating. Without the cooperation of the client, there’s really nothing you can do,” said Edwards, who lobbied for the 2011 law [See, “Overhaul Obstacles Overcome; THE IMPACT PLAYERS; William R. ‘Bill’ Edwards Sr.; Barratry Battle,” Texas Lawyer, Dec. 19, 2011, p. 15].
The committee left the bill pending.