With support from SJI, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the Texas Office of Court Administration partnered to evaluate the impact of the Texas Expedited Actions Rules, which were enacted in 2013 to reduce expense and delay in civil litigation. The rules are mandatory for almost all civil cases involving monetary damages of $100,000 or less (“expedited actions”), and damages awarded for expedited actions cannot exceed $100,000.
The evaluation compared characteristics and outcomes of civil cases filed both before and after the expedited actions rules were enacted. It also surveyed attorneys about the expedited actions rules and the impact on civil case management. Students from Baylor University School of Law interviewed judges and attorneys to provide a more nuanced context about how the rules impacted strategic decision-making and calendar management in individual cases. Analysis of the case-level data indicated that the Expedited Actions Rules had a positive impact on civil case processing. In contract cases, settlements increased at the expense of summary judgment and trial outcomes, while trial rates grew in tort cases, replacing summary judgments. The new rules also decreased time to disposition for cases that settled. Cases disposed by trial or summary judgment experienced some initial delays, presumably due to the relative complexity of those cases, but cases lasting longer than 9 to 12 months resolved more quickly under the new rules. It has already been observed that the apparent impact of the new rules appears to be a function of routine communications about the new deadlines and restrictions by court administration, rather than conscious decisions by judges and attorneys to change case management practices, which tends to highlight the importance of including court administration in educational programs about civil justice reforms.