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We are strong supporters of tort reform. However, this appears to be a well-intentioned bill that would result in foreseeable unintended adverse consequences for citizens who have been wronged by the state.
While this bill seeks to prevent outlandish fees from being awarded to a plaintiff's attorney in the case of a declaratory judgement against the state, the actual result of SB 1600 would likely be to make it much more difficult for citizens to seek relief after having been wronged by the state.
Due to sovereign immunity limitations preventing suits against the state, the Texas declaratory judgment act is one of the few vehicles through which a person or entity can challenge state action in excess of its lawful authority, e.g. agency rule making beyond legislative authority. A hard cap on attorney's fees may serve as an economic bar to certain persons or entities who could not afford to challenge the state without the potential for fee recovery.
Under existing law (CPRC 37.009), award of "reasonable and necessary" attorney fees as part of a declaratory judgment action is not mandatory and is already at the court's discretion. The potential of the court not awarding all or part of ones attorney fees already self-limits excessive litigation.
One way to help ensure limited government is to allow the citizens to enforce constitutional and statutory provisions designed to limit government. The net result of limiting these attorney's fees would be to limit the ability of citizens to limit government.
For these reasons we oppose SB 1600 and encourage members of the legislature to do the same.