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The Unusual Suspects

In the name of “tort reform,” Republicans are trying to close the door to the courthouse.

And who’s helping them?

You might be surprised.

The civil justice debate that took place in the Texas House of Representatives last month will long be remembered at the Capitol. Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) admitted that it was the most emotional exchange he had seen in his 35 years in the House. A number of Democrats who supported HB 4 and HJR 3–the most sweeping effort in any state to limit the right of citizens to present their case to a jury–are hoping the voters in their districts either weren’t paying attention or will forget about it before the next election. Since the possible consequences of these bills are so enormous, we thought it might be instructive to note how members voted.

Together, the two bills will cap noneconomic jury awards in medical malpractice suits at $250,000, pave the way for future caps, and impose a host of other restrictions on civil liability cases. “Non-economic damages” include present, past and future physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and physical impairment. The change would strip fundamental power away from juries, a foundation of our democracy and the Texas Constitution. If the Senate passes HJR 3 in its current form, the constitutional amendment, will go to the voters in a costly special election next September. The proposed amendment includes ballot language that is likely to confuse the voters.

House Bill 4 passed the Texas House of Representatives 94-46 in the early morning hours of Friday March 28, 2003.

No Republicans voted against it.

Democrats voting for HB 4:

Jaime Capelo (D-Corpus Christi)

Robert Cook (D-Eagle Lake)

Dan Ellis (D-Livingston)

David Farabee (D-Wichita Falls)

Kino Flores (D-Mission)

Mark Homer (D-Paris)

Charles Hopson (D-Jacksonville)

Jesse Jones (D-Dallas)

Jim McReynolds (D-Lufkin)

Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs)

House Joint Resolution 3 Passed the Texas House of Representatives 102-45 Friday March 28, 2003

No Republicans voted against it.

Democrats voting for HJR 3:

Jaime Capelo (D-Corpus Christi)

Norma Chavez (D-El Paso)

Robert Cook (D-Eagle Lake)

Dan Ellis (D-Livingston)

David Farabee (D-Wichita Falls)

Kino Flores (D-Mission)

Timoteo Garza (D-Eagle Pass)

Helen Giddings (D-Dallas)

Roberto Gutierrez (D-McAllen)

Mark Homer (D-Paris)

Charles Hopson (D-Jacksonville)

Allan Ritter (D-Nederland)

Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs)

Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio)

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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