Texas House Committee hears testimony on bill to require cost-benefit analysis for rules of court changes

Back in December, I noted an interesting piece of legislation in Texas that would require the Texas Supreme Court conduct a cost-benefit analysis of proposed rules prior to adoption or amendment by the court. HB 352 would require the analysis for a host of rules, such as civil and criminal procedure and bar discipline.  Unlike some states which have constitutionally derived rule making authority that cannot be altered or interfered with by the state legislature, the Texas Supreme Court may  “promulgate rules of administration not inconsistent with the laws of the state as may be necessary for the efficient and uniform administration of justice in the various courts.

The House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence conducted a hearing on the bill on April 28 (video here, running from about six minutes from 2:09:00 to about 2:15:00).

The bill’s author, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, started off the testimony, citing the potential cost any change made to the state court rules on judges, attorneys, their clients, and the public in general. Rep. Rodriguez likened the measure to the  fiscal notes attached to pieces of legislation and stated it would encourage discipline on the part of the state’s courts by forcing an assessment on the “true cost of public policy.”

Next up was Julie Oliver of the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability, a group created last year “standing against those trying to weaken lawyer ethical rules” in support of the bill. Oliver started by reading a statement purportedly from Jim McCormick, a former chief disciplinary counsel for the State Bar of Texas (see this article about McCormick from Texas Lawyer, here). Like Rep. Rodriguez, McCormick’s statement again made the parallel between HB 352 and the fiscal notes associated with legislation and that such information was needed so all interested persons or those affected, beyond lawyers, would be able to assess the impact of a proposed rule. Oliver then spoke personally, noting her coalition’s support.

Kennon Peterson, a rules attorney for the Supreme Court of Texas, registered but did not testify on the bill. Although she never spoke, the committee chair identified her as “neutral on the bill” and available as a resource witness on the bill.

The chair left the bill pending in committee.