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March 8th, 2011

LARA’s Theme

For those too young to remember David Lean’s 1965 epic film, “Doctor Zhivago,” it won five Oscars, including one for Best Original Score, thanks in no small measure to the hauntingly beautiful love song, “Lara’s Theme.”  Now Congress is poised to reprise its own LARA’s theme with an updated version of the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, which passed the House but died in the Senate in 2005.

ATRA general counsel Victor Schwartz will testify in support of LARA, aka H.R. 420, when the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution conducts a hearing Friday morning, March 11

The legislation, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (TX) and Senate Judiciary Committe Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (IA), focuses on federal court rules, which many state court systems routinely adopt.  Like its 2005 predecessor, the new LARA “Amends Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Signing of Pleadings, Motions, and Other Papers; Representations to Court; Sanctions) to: (1) require courts to impose sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous lawsuits [currently discretionary]; (2) disallow the withdrawal or correction of pleadings to avoid Rule 11 sanctions; (3) require courts to award parties prevailing on Rule 11 motions reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees, if warranted; and (4) authorize courts to impose Rule 11 sanctions that include reimbursement of a party’s reasonable litigation costs in connection with frivolous lawsuits.”

Of course, powerful personal injury lawyer lobbyists will seek to crush LARA — especially in the Senate where they remain strongest — as mercilessly as the Bolsheviks sought to crush the individuality and romanticism reflected in Yuri Zhivago’s poetry.  But even the tyrannical Soviet Union eventually fell to the forces of reason and freedom.

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