Texas does well in annual judicial checkup

The SE Texas Record Dec. 30, 2013, 11:27am

If you’re a cancer survivor, you know what a relief it is -- after agonizing over the possibility of a life cut short and enduring the trauma of treatment and its aftermath --  finally to learn that the disease is in remission and you’ve got a chance to live a normal life again. 

Fear of recurrence lingers, however, and you remain alert to signs of the cancer’s return.

The body politic is subject to disease, too, and demands constant vigilance to prevent unhealthy concentrations of power and ward off outbreaks of corruption.

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) provides annual checkups for the 50 laboratories of democracy in America, to let each of us know what condition our body politic is in. For years, Texas was ranked among the most sickly states, one of the “judicial hellholes” where favoritism foils fairness.

There was a kind of cancer eating away at us and we needed to take radical steps to get it under control. Over the course of a decade, as we committed ourselves to tort reform and restored our judicial system to health, Texas moved from the Hellhole list to the Watch list and, finally, off the lists altogether. Last year, we were even recognized as a “Point of Light,” a model for other states to follow.

This year, Texas is barely mentioned in ATRA’s report on Judicial Hellholes.

We’re cited as one of 14 states that have enacted “significant, positive civil justice reforms,” specifically our “automatic mechanism for state courts to dismiss long dormant asbestos and silica claims.”

The report also notes a “steady migration of asbestos lawyers to California from states like Texas.”

The only major areas of concern for us are the continuing status of our Eastern District as “the most popular venue for patent trolls” and some sly efforts in Nueces and Hidalgo Counties to finesse the Class Action Fairness Act.

All in all, a clean bill of health. But let’s stay vigilant.

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