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Attorney’s Fees in a Texas Anti-Slapp case

Written by Robert Ray

I am a Texas attorney. I am Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. My principle office is in Lantana, Texas in the DFW area. I am a past chair of the Texas State Bar Computer & Technology Section. I was appointed by the Chief Justice to serve one year as and ex-officio member on the Judicial Committee on Information Technology.

Background

The Texas Anti-Slapp statute (TCPA) allows “reasonable” attorney’s fees to a person who brings a successful Texas Anti-Slapp motion.

In Sullivan v. Abraham, 488 S.W.3d 294 (Tex. 2016) the trial judge had granted the motion to dismiss but had reduced the attorney’s fees requested based on “justice and equity.” The Supreme Court reversed.

Holding

The court, after going on for pages about a comma, ruled that the Texas Anti-Slapp statute did give the trial judge some discretion in awarding attorney’s fees but that it did not allow that discretion to be based on “justice and equity.”

“A ” reasonable” attorney’s fee ” is one that is not excessive or extreme, but rather moderate or fair.” That determination rests within the court’s sound discretion, but that discretion, under the TCPA, does not also specifically include considerations of justice and equity. The trial court accordingly erred by including these considerations in its attorney’s fee award, and the appellate court likewise erred in recognizing them as part of its standard of review.”

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