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New Judicial District Courts - S.B. 20

by Senator Ratliff

House Sponsor: Representative Thompson, et al.

§ Creates 15 new district courts to be located in Fort Bend, Tarrant, Bexar, Harris, Galveston, Travis, Tom Green, Cameron, and Smith counties.

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Lawsuits Arising Out-of-State - S.B. 220

by Senator Bivins, et al.

House Sponsor: Representative Junell

§ Amends Texas forum non conveniens law to provide that a claim may be stayed or dismissed in whole or part if:

§ an alternative forum exists in which the claim may be tried;

§ the alternate forum provides an adequate remedy, and can exercise jurisdiction over all defendants;

§ maintaining the claim in Texas would work a substantial injustice to the moving party;

§ the balance of the parties' private interests and the state's public interest favor the claim being brought in the alternative forum; and

§ the stay or dismissal would not result in unreasonable duplication or proliferation of litigation.

§ Authorizes a court to set the terms and conditions for staying or dismissing a claim.

§ Bars a court from staying or dismissing a claim when a plaintiff is a Texas resident. Requires the court to dismiss a claim if the court finds that a party was joined solely for the purpose of obtaining Texas jurisdiction and the party's claim would be more properly heard in another forum.

§ Makes provisions applicable to civil actions commenced on or after January 1, 1999, brought under certain federal acts or concern air transportation operating in or traveling to or from Texas; and all other civil actions brought on or after the Act's effective date.

§ Limits the ability to bring civil actions for personal injury or wrongful death suits in Texas in which the plaintiff was not a Texas resident at the time the claim arose; the plaintiff's claim arose outside of Texas; and the claim alleges harm caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.

§ Requires a court, on the defendant's motion, to dismiss claims filed in Texas on or after August 1, 1995, but before January 1, 1997, unless the plaintiff files a written statement to abate the claim for 180 days, after which time the court must dismiss the claim, or retain the claim and limit any exemplary damages against the defendant to a maximum amount set by statute.

§ Bars a court from abating or dismissing a claim unless that defendant waives any statute of limitations defense in all other states in which the claim was not time-barred at the time the claim was filed in Texas.

§ These provisions apply to civil actions alleging harm caused by asbestos exposure pending on the Act's effective date. The law in effect before the effective date applies to actions tried before the effective date or in trial on that date and to subsequent new trials or retrials.

§ Authorizes a citizen of another state or country to bring a personal injury or death claim in Texas if the action is filed in Texas within the time provided by the laws of the other jurisdiction.

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Hearings on Protective Orders - S.B. 299

by Senator Ratliff

House Sponsor: Representative Ramsay, et al.

§ Requires a court, on the request of the prosecuting attorney in a multi-county judicial district, to set the hearing on a protective order for a date and time not later than 20 days after the date the application is filed or 20 days after the date a request is made to reschedule a hearing.

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Certain Judicial Salaries - S.B. 310

by Senator Brown, et al.

House Sponsor: Representative Goodman, et al.

§ Increases the annual salary of a justice of the Texas Supreme Court to at least $102,463, notwithstanding existing law.

§ Provides that the salary of a local administrative judge in a county of more than six district courts is entitled to an annual state salary that is $5,000 more than the salary to which the judge is otherwise entitled under law.

§ Provides that if at least 40 percent of the functions that a county court judge performs are judicial, that judge is entitled to an annual salary supplement of $5,000. Sets out the procedure for claiming the supplement.

§ Provides that, notwithstanding existing law, the salary from the state of a retired or former judge or justice assigned to a district court is determined pro rata on the sum of the regular judge's salary from the county, plus the greater of: the regular judge's salary from the state on August 31, 1997; or 85 percent of the regular judge's salary from the state.

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Fraudulent Public Records - S.B. 424 (Died in the House)

by Senators Bivins and Carona

§ Adds a definition of "court record" to Chapter 37 of the Penal Code (Perjury and other falsification).

§ Makes it a Class A misdemeanor or, if the person has two or more previous convictions under this section, a third degree felony, to make, use, or present any document or record with:

§ knowledge that the document or record is not a genuine court record; and

§ intent that the document or record be given the same effect as a genuine court record.

§ Provides that a clerk of the supreme court, court of criminal appeals, or a court of appeals, or a district clerk, county clerk, or municipal clerk may give written notice of any document that the clerk has reason to believe is fraudulent.

§ Requires clerks to post a warning sign visible to the public that it is a crime to intentionally or knowingly file a fraudulent court record or instrument.

§ Sets out the procedure for filing a motion for judicial review of a document purporting to create a judgment lien or a lien or claim on real or personal property.

§ Requires the court's conclusion of law and finding of fact to be filed in the same class of records as the original document. If the purported lien or other claim is one that is authorized by law to be filed with the secretary of state, a certified copy of the finding of fact and conclusion of law may be filed with the secretary of state.

§ Provides that a county or district clerk or a person against whom a claim or lien is asserted in a recorded document may seek judicial review of a recorded document to determine whether that document is fraudulent.

§ Sets out the procedure for filing a motion for judicial review.

§ Requires a court order granting relief from a fraudulent document to be recorded in the same manner as the original document.

§ Requires the court to award a prevailing party all costs and related expenses of bringing or defending against the action.

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Adoption of the Uniform Transfer on Death Security Registration Act - S.B. 504

by Senator Harris

House Sponsor: Representative Thompson

§ Adopts the Uniform Transfer on Death Security Registration Act.

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Exemption of Certain Persons From Jury Service - S.B. 551

by Senator Brown

House Sponsor: Representative Thompson

§ Raises the age of elective exemption from jury service for elderly persons from over 65 years to over 70 years of age.

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Amending Durable Powers of Attorney Act - S.B. 620

by Senator Harris

House Sponsor: Representative Hilbert

§ Amends the Durable Power of Attorney Act in the Probate Code.

§ Provides that if a person (principal) executes a durable power of attorney (POA) appointing his or her spouse as an attorney in fact or agent, the POA terminates on the date a court grants a divorce or an annulment of the marriage.

§ Provides that, as to a POA appointing a spouse as an attorney in fact or agent, a divorce or annulment of the marriage does not revoke or terminate the agency as to a person, other than the principal's former spouse, who acts in good faith in reliance on the POA.

§ Allows a principal to make special instructions granting an agent or attorney in fact the power to apply the principal's property to make gifts.

§ Defines disability or incapacity for the purposes of the POA, if not defined in the POA, as certification by a physician, at a date later than the date that the POA was executed, that, based upon the physician's medical examination of the principal, the principal is mentally incapable of managing his or her financial affairs. Authorizes a physician making the examination to disclose the principal's physical or mental condition to a third person for the purposes of the POA.

§ Includes management and supervision of a mineral estate in the POA relating to real property.

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Prohibiting Deceptive Trade Practices Against Elderly Consumers - S.B. 1007

by Senator Ellis

House Sponsor: Representative Hirschi

§ Provides for a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 per violation, not to exceed a total of $100,000, if the consumer protection division of the Attorney General's Office determines that the deceptive act or practice was calculated to acquire money or other property from a consumer who was 65 years of age or older when the act or practice occurred.

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Judicial Efficiency - S.B. 1417

by Senator Ellis, et al.

House Sponsor: Representative Gallego

§ Requires the clerk of a district court, statutory county court, county court at law, or justice of the peace court to collect a $25 fee from persons who seek to pay a fine, court costs, or restitution over a period of time.

§ Requires the judges of the Texas Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, and courts of appeals to encourage the recruitment of judicial law clerks and staff attorneys that reflect the state's gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. Requires the Office of Court Administration (office) to publish an annual report of the demographic profile of such clerks and attorneys.

§ Requires the office to annually publish a performance report regarding the efficiency of state courts. Requires the office to adopt rules and forms for obtaining information and administering this requirement.

§ Requires the office to report the aggregate clearance rate (number of cases disposed of divided by the number of new cases) for district courts.

§ Sets out reporting requirements for courts of appeals, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Texas Supreme Court concerning cases filed, cases disposed of, and other information.

§ Creates the Judicial Committee on Information Technology (committee) to implement the recommendations of the Information Task Force of the Texas Commission on Judicial Efficiency and develop programs or standards for the use of computer, voice storage, and other technology by the courts. Sets out the committee's membership, members' compensation, and the powers and duties of the committee.

§ Creates a judicial technology account in the judicial fund administered by the committee to provide technological support to the judiciary as approved by the committee. This account may be supplemented by local or federal money, or private or public grants.

§ Requires the committee to file an annual report with the Legislative Budget Board regarding disbursements from this account.

§ Provides that provisions barring a governmental entity from imposing a charge for access to information in an electronic medium do not apply to the collection of a fee set by the Texas Supreme Court, after consultation with the committee, for use of a computerized electronic judicial information system.

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Supreme Court Business Transactions Location - S.J.R. 19

by Senator Wentworth

House Sponsor: Representative Gallego

§ Amends the Texas Constitution, which requires the Texas Supreme Court to sit at the seat of government, to grant the court the discretion to sit at any other location. Ballot Date: November 4, 1997.

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Municipal Court Judges to Hold More than One Office - S.J.R. 36and S.B. 1173

by Senator Duncan

House Sponsor: Representative Clark

§ Proposes a constitutional amendment to allow a person to hold the position of municipal court judge in more than one municipality. Ballot Date: November 4, 1997.

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Granting of Bills of Review - H.B. 506

by Representative Dutton

Senate Sponsor: Senator Luna

§ Authorizes a court to grant a bill of review of a court order or judgment in a civil case only if the applicant meets certain criteria.

§ Sets forth regulations regarding the time period in which the applicant must apply for a bill of review, the venue, and the contents of the application.

§ Provides that any party affected by a court order or judgment that is the subject of an application for a bill of review is a necessary party to the action.

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Civil Liability of Neighborhood Crime Prevention and Patrol - H.B. 546

by Representative Bosse

Senate Sponsor: Senator Whitmire

§ Expands the definition of "charitable organization" under the Charitable Immunity and Liability Act of 1987 to include neighborhood crime prevention or patrol organizations.

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Notice that Entry on Property is Forbidden - H.B. 793

by Representative Merritt, et al.

Senate Sponsor: Senator Harris

§ Expands the definition of notice under the criminal trespass law to include the placement of purple marks, meeting certain size and location requirements, on trees or posts.

§ Provides that such marks do not constitute notice unless there is a sign meeting certain size and lettering requirements placed at each entrance for vehicles to the property stating that the presence of such marks indicates entry is forbidden. This provision expires September 1, 1998.

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Solicitation of Employment by Professionals (Barratry) - H.B. 1327

by Representative Nixon

Senate Sponsor: Senator Duncan

§ Extends the laws regarding barratry (solicitation of employment) to chiropractors, physicians, surgeons, private investigators, or any other person licensed, certified, or registered by a state agency that regulates a health care profession.

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Enforcement of Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination - H.B. 1453

by Representative Sylvester Turner, et al.

Senate Sponsor: Senator Barrientos

§ Provides for the enforcement, by the Office of the Attorney General, upon authorization by the Commission on Human Rights (commission), of certain laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

§ Requires the attorney general to review the commission's request and determine, within 20 days, if the commission's reasonable cause findings are well-grounded in fact and warranted by law.

§ Requires the attorney general to commence legal action within 30 days if the commission's reasonable cause findings are well-grounded in fact and warranted by law.

§ Authorizes the commission to overrule an attorney general decision not to commence legal action, in which case the attorney general must file suit within 30 days of the commission's decision to overrule, or authorize the commission to retain outside legal counsel.

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Confidentiality of Communications with an Advocate for Survivors of Sexual Assault - H.B. 1990

by Representative Naishtat, et al.

Senate Sponsor: Senator Barrientos

§ Requires an individual who is an advocate for survivors of sexual assault to have completed a certified sexual assault training program and to be employed by a sexual assault program; or to provide services through a sexual assault program as a volunteer supervised by an advocate.

§ Provides that communications and records on the communications between an advocate for survivors of sexual assault (advocate) and a survivor of sexual assault made in the course of providing sexual assault advocacy services are confidential, except in a court or administrative proceeding if:

§ brought by a survivor against an advocate or a sexual assault program or in a criminal proceeding or a certification revocation in which disclosure is relevant to the claims or defense of the advocate or sexual assault program; or

§ the survivor or a person authorized to act on behalf of the survivor consents in writing.

§ Makes it a Class C misdemeanor if a person intentionally or knowingly discloses a confidential communication or record.

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Voter Registration Lists - H.B. 2156

by Representative Solis

Senate Sponsor: Senator Luna

§ Deletes the provision allowing only counties with a population of less than 105,000, in which the municipality with the largest population is located in more than one county, to contract with another governmental unit or private person to combine the voter registration list with the list furnished by the Department of Public Safety.

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Criminal Court Fees - H.B. 2272

by Representative Thompson

Senate Sponsor: Senator Armbrister

§ Simplifies the procedures through which state criminal court case fees are collected in municipal, justice, county, and district courts by consolidating the majority of fees into one charge.

§ Requires a person to pay $5 upon conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor. Requires the comptroller to deposit these funds to the credit of the fugitive apprehension account. The account would be used to pay the cost of apprehending individuals for whom warrants have been issued.

§ Establishes a fee to cover court costs for special services.

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Unauthorized Attorney Compensation - H.B. 2633

by Representative Brimer

Senate Sponsor: Senator Harris

§ Prohibits an attorney, before the conclusion of all aspects of a criminal matter that gives rise to an attorney's employment, from making or negotiating an agreement with a client, a prospective client, or former client that provides the attorney literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.

§ Provides that a person commits an offense if, while acting as an attorney, the person agrees to accept, as compensation for legal advice provided by the person in a criminal matter, the right to publish, in print, film or otherwise, the account of a crime or the events associated with a crime.

§ Allows a person, including the crime victim or the estate of a crime victim, to bring suit against an attorney whose violation of attorney's compensation provisions results in damages incurred by the person bringing the suit.

§ Entitles a person to recover actual damages caused to the person exemplary damages in an amount determined by the court; reasonable attorney's fees; and court costs.

§ Provides that an administrative, civil, or criminal action brought against an attorney based on a violation of attorney's compensation provisions does not limit or restrict another action against the attorney by the same or another person.

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Salary of Certain District Judges - H.B. 2697

by Representatives Gallego and Thompson

Senate Sponsor: Senator Ellis

§ Provides that in a county with more than five district courts, a district court judge who serves as a local administrative court judge is entitled to an annual salary that is $5,000 more than the salary from the state.

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Certain Filing Fees and Statutory County Court Judges' Salaries - H.B. 2837

by Representative Thompson

Senate Sponsor: Senator Ellis

§ Effective January 1, 1998, certain statutory county court judges shall be paid a total salary annual salary amount set by the commissioners court that is at least equal to an amount that is $4,000 (currently, $1,000) less than the total annual salary received by a district judge in that county.

§ Exempts counties from this salary requirement if the county begins collecting certain additional fees and costs and the judge's salary meets certain requirements.

§ Increases from $25,000 to $30,000 the amount the state shall annually compensate counties collecting certain additional fees and costs for certain statutory county court judges.

§ Increases from $30 to $40 the amount the state comptroller shall credit of certain fees deposited in the state judicial fund by a county.

§ Increases from $30 to $40 the amount a statutory county clerk shall collect as a civil case filing fee to be used for court-related purposes for the support of the judiciary.

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Deadline for Supreme Court Action on a Motion for Rehearing - H.J.R. 55

by Representative Dutton

Senate Sponsor: Senator Ellis

§ Proposes that if the state supreme court does not act on a motion for rehearing before the 180th day after the date on which the motion is filed, the motion is denied. Ballot Date: November 4, 1997.