As U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack plans her impending retirement in June 2011, local and national tort reform groups praise the impact she had behind the bench during her 17 year career as a federal judge.
Judge Jack, 64, announced her retirement in late September, telling the Southeast Texas Record in a recent interview that she wishes to spend more time with her husband and grandchildren.
One of the judge's more defining moments came in 2005, when she made headlines for exposing bogus evidence supporting 10,000 silicosis claims, openly rebuking the trial lawyers who brought them, and then booting the cases back to their courts of origin.
The action drew national interest, prompting a congratulatory phone call from an unexpected plaintiff's attorney.
"An old friend, the 'King of Torts' Joe Jamail, was the first one to call and congratulate me," Judge Jack said. "That meant a lot to me."
Judge Jack's 2005 decision also "laid a corner stone for future investigations of abuse of the civil justice system," according to Darren McKinney, spokesperson for the American Tort Reform Association.
"We here at ATRA ... are admiring of Judge Jack's impact in Texas, which has long been known to be a judicial hellhole," McKinney said. "Her decision reverberated throughout the nation."
On the local level, legal watchdog groups, such as Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, are also quick to praise the judge's accomplishments.
"We commend Judge Janis Jack for her role as the federal MDL judge in silica cases, when she exposed egregious abuses in silica claims," said TLR spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester. "Judge Jack accurately noted that thousands of silica cases 'were manufactured for money.'"
Stephanie Gibson, executive director of CALA Central Texas, further pointed out that while Texas has made great strides in reforming our civil justice laws, not too long ago Texas courts were among the worst in the nation, attracting junk lawsuits from around the world.
"Judge Graham Jack, who led her courtroom with integrity and honor, is the epitome of justice," Gibson said.
"She is vigilant about common sense and fairness and demands testimony based on proven fact, not baseless claims. We credit Judge Graham Jack with much of the improvement in the South Texas civil justice system and this is a great loss to our state. She is proof that good judges matter."
Judge Jack, who is eligible for senior status in May, says she will stay on a reduced capacity for "as long as I can," and will continue to shoulder around a third of the court's docket.