Marilyn Tennissen Jul. 16, 2013, 5:45pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- A lawmaker from Texas says meritless lawsuits are like "legalized extortion," and has introduced legislation to hold attorneys accountable for lawsuit abuse.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, filed the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, also known as H.R. 2655, July 12.

The Senate's version of the bill was filed by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

LARA would impose mandatory sanctions for lawyers who file suits without merit in federal court.

"Lawsuit abuse is common in America because the lawyers who bring these frivolous cases have everything to gain and nothing to lose," Smith wrote in his blog. "Lawyers can file meritless lawsuits, and defendants are faced with the choice of years of litigation, high court costs and attorney's fees or a settlement. This is legalized extortion."

Federal rules mandating sanctions were amended in 1993, allowing parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions by withdrawing the suit within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.

The bill would reinstate the sanctions for violations of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and ensure that judges impose monetary sanctions against lawyers who filed the frivolous suits, including attorneys' fees and costs incurred by the victim of the frivolous suit.

"The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act restores accountability to our legal system by imposing mandatory sanctions on attorneys who file worthless lawsuits," Smith wrote. "LARA encourages attorneys to think twice before filing frivolous lawsuits."

H.R. 2655 is co-sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., along with Reps. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.; Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah; Blake Farenthold, R-Texas; George Holding, R-N.C.; and Jim Jordon, R-Ohio.

In the Senate, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

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