The House Judiciary Committee has approved the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2011” (H.R. 966, S. 533), which would require that courts impose sanctions on lawyers or parties found to have filed lawsuits without merit. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 currently allows courts to impose an appropriate sanction for frivolous lawsuits or pleadings, but the proposed bill would require the payment of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs while allowing additional sanctions, such as “striking the pleadings, dismissing the suit, or other directives of a nonmonetary nature.”

Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who introduced the legislation, reportedly said, “Federal rules mandating sanctions for frivolous lawsuits were watered down in 1993, resulting in the current crisis of widespread lawsuit abuse. The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act is just over a page long, but it would prevent the filing of hundreds of thousands of pages of frivolous legal pleadings in federal court.” The U.S. Judicial Conference apparently opposes the measure, objecting that it would reinstate a rule in effect in the 1980s that “was abused by resourceful lawyers, and an entire ‘cottage industry’ developed that churned tremendously wasteful satellite litigation that had everything to do with strategic gamesmanship and little to do with underlying claims.” See BNA U.S. Law Week, July 12, 2011. n