Law360 reporter Catherine Marfin spoke with prominent Texas lawyers, including Gravely PC’s Marc Gravely, about a controversial plan by Texas lawmakers to create a series of state courts that would exclusively preside over business disputes in which damages exceed $10 million.
The plan being pushed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan is considered a top legislative priority in the current legislative session. Proponents claim the courts would reduce docket backlogs, create consistency in business law and promote the state’s business-friendly climate.
But Mr. Gravely and other experienced litigators are skeptical.
“If the economy is the best it’s ever been, why do we need a whole new system of courts for business disputes?” Mr. Gravely told Law360, referring to Gov. Abbott’s remarks lauding the state’s economy during his State of the State address. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann attorney Michael K. Hurst told Law360 that a requirement that the new courts issue written opinions when deciding business issues could create bottlenecks in court dockets and give the new courts too much power.
“If they’re issuing an opinion on a procedural issue that would impact other courts around the state, that means that these judges have superpowers over all of the other courts,” he said.
Having the judges appointed, rather than elected, would unnecessarily inject politics into the judicial system, the trial lawyers said.
“The people of Texas have spent a lot of time, and many of us particularly in the legal profession, many of the business people, we spend a lot of time vetting, campaigning for and supporting people that we think will be knowledgeable and will be fair,” Hurst said. “If we’re saying that a business judge is going to decide big cases over $10 million, that’s essentially undermining the judiciary that we have in place.
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