A suit against the state can be a suit against the taxpayer

By Southeast Texas Record | Apr 21, 2015

When a fellow citizen has a legitimate beef against city or state government – say, a challenge to an abusive use of the power of eminent domain or the arbitrary action of a licensing board – it's easy to feel sympathetic and to support the effort to rectify an apparent injustice.

When a claim made against lawful authorities seems weak or spurious, however, that's another story. When a lawsuit appears to have been filed against a government entity for the sole purpose of enriching plaintiff and lawyer at taxpayer expense, all who pay taxes should be outraged – because we're the ones whose pockets are being picked.

All who work for government or benefit from its services should be outraged, too, when dubious claims are made against the funds that compensate public employees and sustain public services.

When the persons making such doubtful claims engage in forum shopping in the hope of securing a judge willing to facilitate their plundering of government and taxpayer, we the intended victims should be infuriated and emboldened to stand up for ourselves.

If a bill proposed by State Rep. Mike Schofield of Katy becomes law, we will have an excellent weapon for fighting back against thinly disguised efforts to use the courts to raid the public larder.

House Bill 1091 would discourage forum shopping by allowing a specially created three-judge panel to take over a case filed against the state in any district court. The bill would authorize the state attorney general to petition the chief justice of the state Supreme Court to establish the panel to hear any case that could affect the finances or operations of the state or is “otherwise of exceptional statewide importance such that the case should not be decided by a single district judge.”

Texans with legitimate complaints against the state will still get their day in court, and so will the forum shoppers – but not in the favorable forum they were counting on.

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