TCJL 2019 Legislators of the Year

TCJL 2019 Legislators of the Year

TCJL is honored to recognize the following legislators for their outstanding service to the Texas civil justice system during the 2019 legislative session.

Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano). As Chair of the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee, Representative Leach handled some of the most complex and important legislation of the session with patience, grace, and skill. Perhaps most notably, Chairman Leach spearheaded a much-needed overhaul of the Texas Anti-SLAPP statute (HB 2730), which not only aligns the statute more closely with its original intent but contains some of the most robust media protections in the country. In addition, he shepherded the judicial pay raise and omnibus courts bill through the House, passed significant construction-related legislation, authored an important campaign finance reform bill, and sponsored the first major reform of jurisdictional limits of Texas courts in decades. In short, Chairman Leach’s leadership resulted in perhaps the most productive civil justice reform session since the last major tort reform effort in 2003.

Representative John Smithee (R-Amarillo). As always, Representative Smithee continues to build his legislative legacy of improving the civil justice system for all Texans. In 2019 he authored and helped negotiate a resolution to the procedure for submitting health care and other expenses in litigation (HB 1693), a relatively arcane but critically important aspect of personal injury and other lawsuits. He also sponsored legislation protecting employees called for jury service, passed a bill addressing guardianship abuse, fraud, and exploitation, and secured passage of court security legislation. As former Chair of both the House Insurance and House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committees, Representative Smithee has earned our deepest gratitude and appreciation for his long service to the people of our state.

Representative Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth). As first-time Chair of the House Elections Committee, Representative Klick authored a much-needed reform of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. This bill eliminates unconstitutional provisions of the Act and clarifies confusing provisions that have for years bedeviled both judicial candidates and contributors alike. She likewise clarified the rules corporations must follow to solicit PAC contributions and passed legislation pertaining to ballot security and voter information. In addition to her work in election law, she authored and sponsored numerous health care-related bills and successfully passed legislation authorizing the dispensation and use of low-THC cannabis.

Representative Tom Craddick (R-Midland). Speaker Craddick needs no introduction to civil justice reform advocates. More than anyone else, he is responsible for the reforms of the early 2000’s that have made Texas a beacon state for business and a leader in the global economy. As Chair of the House Land & Resource Management Committee in 2019, Speaker Craddick presided over consideration of eminent domain legislation. Proposed eminent domain legislation passed by the Senate would have adversely affected tens of billions of dollars of investment in vitally necessary energy infrastructure in the state by introducing uncertainty and additional litigation costs into the process. Speaker Craddick developed alternative eminent domain reform legislation that achieved the stated goals of landowners for additional transparency, fairness, and accountability in the system and shepherded the changes through the Texas House. Though legislation did not ultimately pass, Speaker Craddick’s work on the issue sets a standard for workable reforms that will undoubtedly form the basis for going forward next session.

Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola). The list of important bills authored or sponsored by Chairman Hughes would take up the rest of this page, but here are a few of the highlights: anti-SLAPP reform (HB 2730), expense affidavits (HB 1693), emergency care standard of proof (HB 2362), protection for business owners from gun violence on their property (SB 772), protection against frivolous actions by state agencies (SB 27), reform of civil penalties that may be collected by the Attorney General under the DTPA (SB 2140), and nearly 100 other bills. Chairman Hughes’s unmatched experience and understanding of civil justice issues is invaluable to both to the Senate and to advocates for a fair and accessible civil justice system. We recognize him for his service to our state look forward to continuing to work with this outstanding legislator in the years to come.

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