December 21, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 4:05:51 pm
Often forgotten in divorces where children are involved is the pain suffered by grandparents. For them, emotional trauma is multiplied by the fact that grandparents are typically shut out of the legal process and have little or no control over visitation agreements.
Like many other states, custodial parents in Texas have a fundamental right to raise children any way they want, and that means being able to choose who can see their children. “For grandparents to remain in the lives of their grandchildren after divorce everyone has to remain on good terms,” says San Antonio family lawyer Amber Liddell Alwais of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing. “Otherwise, their chances for visitation are severely hampered.”
If relationships with the child’s parents are strained, a grandparent’s chances for visitation are greatly eroded. Absent an invitation by a child’s caregiver, grandparents may try to petition the court to secure visitation. However, to be successful, grandparents must prove a child’s health or emotional well-being will be impaired without the time together, she adds.
“There is a lot out of your control, but it’s much easier to just stay close to your children and their former spouse so that they will want to keep you involved.”
December 20, 2011 by Dave Moore at 3:46:51 pm
The last time the U.S. auto industry saw major new safety standards put into place, the floppy disc was just coming into vogue and “Pong” was considered a cutting-edge video game.
Because science and engineering have advanced considerably in the years since then, Dallas personal injury attorney Frank Branson says it’s time for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to revamp its safety standards for automakers.
The most recent example of the NHTSA’s complacency centers around reports of battery fires in the hybrid Chevrolet Volt. News reports indicate that the agency knew of a fire involving the car’s battery pack as early as the spring of 2011, but didn’t report the incident until November.
Even in the late ’80s, the organization responsible for publishing Consumer Reports magazine documented the agency’s reluctance to correct industry shortcomings:
In 1988, NHTSA granted a CU petition in which we urged the adoption of a minimum stability standard to protect against unreasonable risk of rollover in all vehicles. The agency said at the time that the petition was "consistent with the Agency’s steps to address the rollover problem." But NHTSA backed away from setting a standard. In fact, in 1994 NHTSA halted rulemaking on a universal minimum-stability standard, concluding that a standard applicable to all vehicles would require the redesign of nearly all SUVs, vans and pick-up trucks – at an unacceptably high cost.
Frank Branson’s take on the agency:
“The problem with NHTSA is that no one wants to rock the boat,” Branson says. “And the auto industry doesn't want to update safety standards, many of which were written in the 1970s or before.”
The solution that Branson proposes is that consumer advocates step to the fore and take part in leadership at the safety administration.
This would reverse the current trend of individuals with ties to the auto industry stepping into that role.
December 16, 2011 by Dave Moore at 5:22:38 pm
Too often, news organizations trumpet allegations, then emit hardly a peep when charges turn out to be unsubstantiated.
Earlier this month, Port of Houston CEO Alec Dreyer was formally vindicated on charges that he improperly used a port tour boat and altered a government document to hide the fact. What’s more, the local media picked up on his exoneration and gave the news the attention that it deserved.
In a letter dated Dec. 9, 2011, Bill Moore, chief of Public Integrity Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s office, writes:
The Texas Water Code allows the Port of Houston to spend funds for promotion and development activities. Our investigation revealed that the April 27, 2009, special tour in question included a promotional presentation about the Port of Houston, and was requested and approved pursuant to normal guidelines in place at the Port.
The letter also stated that Dreyer didn’t improperly alter governmental records.
Houston lawyer Steven Mitby of the complex commercial litigation firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., said such letters clearing suspects are rare.
“This kind of letter is virtually unprecedented in Harris County,” says Mitby. “Because of the district attorney’s thorough and fair investigation, the public now knows that Mr. Dreyer has been vindicated and the false allegations against him have been put to rest.”
Dreyer worked with Mitby to encourage Moore to write the letter, so that the public could know the truth of his innocence.
The accomplishment reinforces why Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C. – or AZA – is one of only 32 firms in the U.S. to be recognized as “awesome opponents” in a nationwide poll of corporate general counsel who were asked to name the law firms they hope their companies never have to face in court.
December 5, 2011 by Dave Moore at 5:16:41 pm
When the Delcom Group struck a $40 million deal with the Dallas Independent School District, the district put into motion plans to equip nearly 6,000 classrooms with cutting-edge audio visual tools.
After those plans took an odd left turn, a Dallas TV station and the Dallas Observer began digging a little deeper into why the school district pulled that contract from Delcom.
WFAA reporter Brett Shipp recently visited the Houston location of the company that ended up with the audio-visual contract, and he came away with some pretty interesting audio-visuals of his own. Included in his reporting is the allegation that former DISD Trustee Ron Price contacted the school district with a tip that a Delcom employee was convicted of a felony – information that the district used to cancel its contract. However, as Delcom has pointed out, the 15-year-old conviction of a non-managerial employee is hardly grounds for severing a contract.
The Dallas Observer has also picked up on the story, noting the peculiarities of the businesses that operate at the street address of Delcom’s Houston competitor, Prime Systems:
See, Shipp actually went down to Houston to see Prime's facilities for himself. No wonder Doug Busey, director of AV services for Delcom, told trustees to take their own peek when he spoke to them in early November. Guess they never did, or else they might have wondered how the district wound up handing $40 million to a company that sells refurbished computers and remote-control cars out of a tattered storefront done up in Star Trek font.
While a copy of Delcom’s initial complaint is online, the Lewisville, Texas-based firm says it expects that further discovery and depositions will shed more light on what appears to be a conspiracy to undercut Delcom’s bid and to invalidate a legitimate contract.
December 5, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 11:07:41 am
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram updates the plight of Avery, an 8-year-old lab mix: Spooked by a late-night thunderstorm, Avery escaped from his family's back yard in Fort Worth and was picked up by the city's animal control.
The Medlens found him at the shelter the next day, but through a series of slip-ups and errors -- from not having enough cash on hand to pick him up that day to having to wait until the vet could install a microchip in Avery's ear -- their dog was added to the euthanasia list and put to sleep. "It was a horrible time for us," said Katherine Medlen, who got Avery years ago from a homeless man giving away puppies. "I've never lost a family member or a pet before."
They took their case to court, saying they hoped to prevent something like this from happening to anyone else's pet, and landed a groundbreaking court ruling this month. A state appeals court in Fort Worth ruled for the first time that a pet's value is greater than its price tag. It has sentimental value as well.
That's the right result, says Ryan Clinton, a Dallas appellate attorney at the boutique Hankinson LLP. "In this decision, the court of appeals has recognized what all Texans already know: if someone intentionally poisons, shoots, or simply mistakenly euthanizes your pet, you are damaged by more than the mere monetary cost to replace the animal," he says. "The court got it exactly right based on Texas Supreme Court precedent recognizing that when something irreplaceable is destroyed, we should be compensated."
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