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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 12:00:00 am

From the state’s first same-sex marriage to the international fallout over a student-built homemade clock mistaken as a bomb, the past 12 months have marked another eventful year for Texas legal news. Here are the Top 10 Texas Legal News Stories of 2015 as determined by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing, which specializes in public relations and marketing for law firms and legal clients from offices in Dallas and Houston.

10. US Supreme Court to Hear Texas Abortion Lawsuit 
Since 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which was based on a Dallas case, Texas has been intrinsically linked to the abortion rights debate. That includes the 2013 passage of Texas HB 2, which established stringent regulations on abortion procedures, providers and facilities. Under the bill, nearly all of the state’s 44 abortion clinics would be forced to close, leaving some women more than 300 miles away from the nearest qualified doctor. One Texas lawsuit challenging the law worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which announced in November that it will hear the case, Whole Woman’s Health, et al. v. Cole, Comm’r, Texas DHS, et al. The ruling is expected to have repercussions for similar state laws across the country.


9. Rocky First Year for Dallas DA
Susan Hawk’s inaugural year as the first woman to be elected district attorney in Dallas County got off to a rocky start when she fired several key staff members; later, news broke that she had sought help for prescription drug use. Additional staff firings preceded a highly publicized leave of absence that lasted nearly two months while Hawk dealt with depression. Hawk returned to work in October and, despite litigation aimed at removing her from office, began fulfilling campaign promises, including personally trying and winning a murder case and holding regular public meetings. She also announced plans to create an assistance program for mentally ill offenders and to develop one of the largest pre-trial diversion programs in the nation for young offenders.

8. Jail Protocols Scrutinized after Sandra Bland Death
What started out as a simple traffic stop in the college town of Prairie View quickly spiraled out of control in a videotaped confrontation between Sandra Bland, a black woman, and state Trooper Brian Encinia, who is Hispanic. The officer had stopped her for failure to signal a lane change. An argument over Bland’s unwillingness to put out her cigarette ended with Encinia pulling her from her car as he threatened to “light (her) up” with a Taser. Booked into the local jail for resisting arrest and reportedly unable to find family or friends to post her bail, Bland was found dead in her cell three days later following an apparent suicide. Under a national media spotlight, her death raised obvious questions about law enforcement treatment of African-Americans. And it also led to an assessment of jail operators’ methods of spotting defendants at risk of suicide, as well as bail bond requirements. Bland’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit; a criminal investigation continues.

7. Same-Sex Marriage Legalized
Diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, Sarah Goodfriend needed to provide her longtime partner Suzanne Bryant with the protections that only a marriage license can deliver. On the morning of Feb. 19 following a state judge’s order, they became the first legally married same-sex couple in Texas. Attorney General Ken Paxton’s fight to void the union was mostly rendered moot in June with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry. After Paxton issued a written opinion that county clerks with religious objections could opt out of issuing same-sex marriage licenses, a few initially heeded his advice while others resigned in protest as the vast majority of Texas counties quickly began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

6. Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance Derailed
Although designed to protect 15 different classes of people in matters of employment, housing and public accommodations, the opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) assured its defeat in the November elections by focusing on just one small aspect of the ordinance – the rights of transgendered citizens to use public bathrooms. Opponents of the law ignored the protections that would be granted to other citizens based on race, age, military status, national origin and disability under HERO, instead claiming that male sexual predators could misuse the ordinance to enter women’s restrooms. Enlisting civic and religious leaders, sports heroes and citizens to campaign against passage, the opponents defeated HERO with 61 percent of the vote, leaving Houston as the largest city in the country without guaranteed nondiscrimination protections for all citizens.

5. Blue Bell Contamination
There may be no more iconic Texas-made food than Blue Bell ice cream. But love for the “little creamery in Brenham” was put to the test when listeria contamination was discovered in March following the deaths of three people in Kansas. Eight million gallons of ice cream were recalled as manufacturing plants in Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas were shut down. Even as reports of unsanitary practices and a long history of violations came to light, many supporters eagerly counted down the days until Blue Bell’s return to grocery shelves in August. But not everyone was so eager to forgive and forget. Blue Bell currently faces several lawsuits filed by those who claim to have contracted listeria, and the company also must answer a federal class-action claim regarding how customer refunds were handled.

4. Open Carry Set to Take Effect
Another Texas culinary institution, Whataburger, made headlines in July when it announced that customers would not be allowed to openly carry guns in its restaurants when the state’s open carry law takes effect on Jan. 1. Championed by defenders of the Second Amendment, the new law expands the scope of a concealed handgun license to allow licensees to carry handguns in a belt or shoulder holster while in public places. Prior to the law’s passage, Texas was one of only five states with an outright ban on open carry, but the rollback of the 140-year-old ban has helped Texas bolster its reputation as a pro-gun state. Only a bare minimum of restrictions have been placed on open carry. Locations that can ban guns include bars, large sporting events, school grounds and courthouses, with private businesses such as Whataburger being allowed to determine for themselves how to respond to the new law.

3. Student’s Homemade Clock Creates Firestorm
A clock made by a 14-year-old Irving MacArthur High School student of Sudanese descent set off a firestorm when a teacher reported that she thought it resembled a bomb. After bringing the clock to class, Ahmed Mohamed was sequestered, questioned and taken into police custody before being released with no charges filed against him. The boy and his family say he was the victim of racial profiling, and Ahmed has earned worldwide fame as a result of the incident. In November, the Mohamed family’s attorneys sent letters to the city of Irving and the school district outlining their grievances and demanding $15 million to resolve the dispute. No lawsuit has been filed as yet.

2. Biker Shootout at Twin Peaks in Waco
On a seemingly otherwise unremarkable Sunday in May, a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco became ground zero for a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs that left nine bikers dead. A reported fight over a parking space preceded the gunfire between the warring bikers before police responded with shots of their own. Police arrested 192 bikers, confiscating hundreds of weapons of all types in the process. With each defendant initially facing a $1 million bond, many remained in jail for months and McLennan County was required to request public defender assistance from eight surrounding counties. The last of those arrested was released at the end of October, followed by the announcement of sealed indictments of nine defendants in November. Claims that police and prosecutors have mishandled the case have resulted in numerous allegations of civil rights violations and at least one negligence lawsuit filed against Twin Peaks.

1. Texas Top Politicians Face Legal Troubles
Former Gov. Rick Perry did not find much relief when the calendar flipped to 2015. Initially indicted in 2014, he continued to fight first-degree felony charges for alleged abuse of power while governor, along with an additional third-degree felony claim of coercion. Calling the charges politically motivated, his attorneys appeared before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in November to argue that the charges be dismissed. By then, however, the damage had already been done. With the charges still hanging over him, Perry suspended his presidential campaign to become the first to drop out of the crowded Republican primary field for next year’s election. Another high-ranking Texas politician, Attorney General Ken Paxton faces his own legal battles. The state’s first sitting attorney general to be indicted since Jim Mattox was hit with bribery charges in 1983, Paxton faces a potential of 99 years in prison if convicted of three felony counts of securities fraud and failure to register with state securities board. He is accused of misleading investors while serving in the Texas House of Representatives by convincing them to contribute more than $600,000 toward a technology company without acknowledging that he was earning a commission.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:00:00 am

robert-tharpAfter more than 15 years at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News – much of that tenure covering breaking news, high-profile trials and criminal cases – Robert Tharp joined Androvett Legal Media in 2007.

How do you apply that background in covering the courthouse to help your clients and reporters today?

Covering civil and criminal courts gave me the opportunity to sit in on literally hundreds of trials and witness some of the very best trial lawyers in Texas at work. This experience left me with an appreciation for how trial lawyers do their jobs and the demands they face, but also how to communicate sometimes very complicated legal matters in a way that everyday people can understand.

Was there anything that surprised you in making that transition?

As a journalist covering the courts, I thought I knew a lot about the practice of law. What I’ve learned since coming here is that what happens in the courtroom is just a small fraction of what lawyers might do in their professional lives. I’ve learned that there are many more stories to tell about lawyers involved in deal-making, transactions, compliance and advisory roles.

Is there a particular practice area that you find to be especially interesting?

I’ve found it interesting to observe how lawyers and law firms are able to adapt to market conditions. I’ve watched lawyers with a keen eye on trends pivot and successfully reinvent themselves. I’ve seen bankruptcy lawyers become dealmakers and personal injury lawyers become business or patent litigators, all based on an astute business outlook.

Are there some suggestions to offer attorneys in preparing to talk about their work or an individual case with a reporter?

As a reporter, I always appreciated it when lawyers responded quickly to my calls, even just to say that they could not comment on a case I was calling about. That’s huge. Beyond that basic advice, I tell lawyers in any situation to use plain language, avoid legal jargon and do everything they can to help reporters craft an accurate and thorough report.

How do you envision the legal profession – and individual attorneys – making a better use of the social media resources that are now available?

It’s become so clear in the last few years that an online presence is now the absolute go-to source for information of any kind. That means every lawyer and law firm should have a smart and functional website. It’s hard to believe, but we still encounter law firms that either don’t have websites or have sites that are embarrassingly outdated. Beyond that, the information revolution that has occurred creates valuable opportunities for lawyers to demonstrate their expertise and be “findable” in new ways. On the Internet and in social media, small and midsize firms have the opportunity to position themselves right alongside the largest and best-known firms, and that’s something that was very hard to do until recently.

What’s one thing that people don’t know about you?

I was part of a small team that created the definitive mobile app guide to the vanishing history related to the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, which is still available for download at the App Store. Want to talk single-bullet theory? Give me a call.

by Kaitlyn Piazza at 12:00:00 pm

The baseball world has been buzzing about the federal investigation into whether St. Louis Cardinals employees illegally gained access to a Houston Astros' database containing proprietary information on players. Last week, the Cardinals fired the team's scouting director, although he denies wrongdoing. CNN has reported that federal investigators are recommending charges against at least one St. Louis employee. "Data security is an FBI priority, so this investigation is not surprising if there is any evidence of illegal access," says Houston's Sheryl A. Falk of Winston & Strawn LLP, who has handled data breach investigations and theft of trade secrets litigation.

  • Writes The New York Times: Investigators have uncovered evidence that Cardinals employees broke into a network of the Astros that housed special databases the team had built, law enforcement officials said. Internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports were compromised, said the officials, who were not authorized to discuss a continuing investigation. The officials did not say which employees were the focus of the investigation or whether the team’s highest-ranking officials were aware of the hacking or authorized it. The investigation is being led by the F.B.I.’s Houston field office and has progressed to the point that subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence.
  • Writes Fox Sports: ST. LOUIS -- High-level executives of the St. Louis Cardinals were not involved in the hacking of the Houston Astros' player personnel database, an attorney hired by the team said Wednesday, citing an internal review.
  • Writes American Lawyer: On the cleated heels of Deflategate and soccer's global corruption crisis, the scandal-prone pro sports community is in need of legal advice yet again—this time related to alleged Major League foul play involving the St. Louis Cardinals. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing Cardinals personnel for allegedly hacking into Houston Astros databases that house team strategies, including information on scouting and trades.

"Hacking into the Astros database suggests a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which could mean a fine and/or imprisonment of up to five years. A civil suit also is a possibility." Falk says it is more common for a company to suffer a cyberattack "from a malicious insider, such as a former employee - someone with a grudge or someone leaving to join a competitor. So it's important to have monitoring systems that can spot suspicious computer access right away."

by Kaitlyn Piazza at 10:00:00 am

 Cybercriminals are committing identity theft by targeting Americans' health records, which sell on the black market for 10 to 20 times more than credit card numbers. Houston attorney Mark Thibodeaux advises health care companies on cyberattacks in his role as deputy practice leader of the cybersecurity and privacy team at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP.

Politico Reports: “Over the past year, hacks of insurers Anthem, Premera and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and the CommunityHealth Systems hospital chain compromised about 95 million patient records. Crooks use medical records for identity theft, medical insurance fraud and plain old financial thievery. It’s believed that Chinese hackers have penetrated health care systems in search of valuable intellectual property concerning drugs and devices.”

Long Island Business News Reports: “As hackers move stealthily from industry to industry, healthcare networks have swiftly jumped to the top of their list of targets. In addition to containing personally identifiable information, such as date of birth and Social Security number, medical records also comprise highly sensitive, protected health information, which may include, for example, psychiatry or HIV records.”

"In addition to the economic drivers, it appears that recent cyberattacks on health insurers and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management are at least partly an effort to gather key information about government workers and possibly those with links to dissident movements in their countries," says Thibodeaux. "These attacks show signs of deep research, targeting those who might have access to important information the hackers want. Unfortunately, health records are often inadequately protected by outdated techniques and software. These recent attacks should encourage health care companies to dramatically improve their defenses."

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 4:00:00 pm

christina-dipinto

Traffic Manager Christina DiPinto keeps the trains at Androvett Legal Media & Marketing running on time. With a birds-eye view of dozens of advertising and marketing projects, she ensures that both deadlines and quality standards are met. We asked this task-managing millennial how she keeps it all straight.

So what does a Traffic Manager do?

A little bit of everything. The main role of a traffic manager is project management - allocating resources, determining timelines and making sure task owners complete all items assigned to them. I also help out with printed projects, proofreading, a bit of e-announcement development and research.

And in any one week, how many projects might you be handling?

As of right now, I'm the lead project manager on 14 projects, but collectively, as a department, we have roughly 80 projects of various durations and complexities in the works. In some form or fashion, I will work on most of them.

As consumers we’ve become used to services being provided very quickly. What are the type of projects you deal with that just take time, and why?

We've recently had to complete several quick-turnaround projects, and I've been quite impressed with the team's ability to rally and get everything done on deadline. I would say anything involving commercial printing still takes time. Although digital printing has improved the timelines for some print projects, some things simply can’t be expedited; quality and accuracy require time.

As the tech-savvy millennial, what’s the latest technology that really impresses you?

I’m amazed by the tracking and analytical capabilities of various social, email and website platforms. For example, our e-announcement service allows us to see who opens our emails, who clicks which links, and where the emails are opened using what type of device. This feedback allows us to determine, among other things, which email layouts are most effective, which white paper topics garner the most attention, and how to phrase our subject lines. We can track similar statistics on websites and social media, and it’s very effective. If you’ve ever noticed those ads that pop up after you’ve done some online shopping, then you’ve experienced this type of data tracking.

Are there some basics from the marketing and branding perspective you wish that law firms would adopt more fully or consistently?

Yes. If you're marketing to everyone, you're marketing to no one. Find what you're good at, and let us help you get the word out.

What’s the hardest or most underappreciated part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is coming up with an answer to this question. I've had some pretty trying jobs in my life, so a bad day at Androvett is still pretty good.

What’s one thing that people don’t know about you?

I can juggle (literally, as well as metaphorically). I was the only child in a tennis family, and was frequently bored when others were playing, so one day I decided to pick up a can of balls and teach myself how to juggle. And here’s a bonus fact: my first language was German. Auf wiedersehen!

by Kaitlyn Piazza at 4:00:00 pm

Insurance expert Mark Kincaid is advising business owners to brace for battle when they seek payment from their insurance companies for flood losses. "Unfortunately, business owners sometimes assume they have coverage when they don't, or they find that what they've been told by an agent is not, ultimately, what is covered in their policy," he says. Kincaid, the former head of the Texas Office of Public Insurance Counsel, is now a partner in Austin's George Brothers Kincaid & Horton LLP.

  • According to The Dallas Morning News: “Dallas reported about $50 million in storm damage. Carrollton, Garland, Grand Prairie and Irving each reported at least $2 million in losses.”
  • According to ABC 13 Eyewitness News: “Experts say it's not a bad idea to wait for an adjuster, but not to wait too long. Flood insurance policies are written by many insurance agents, but almost all backed by the US Government through FEMA. As with any government program, not following the rules and complying with deadlines can lead to denials.”
  • According to KRMG News in Tulsa: “If you had the foresight to enroll in the National Flood Insurance Program, it's important that you realize you only have a limited amount of time in which to file proof of loss. Consumers only have sixty days in which to file their flood loss claims.”

Kincaid advises business owners to notify their insurance agent and insurance company immediately about damage and losses and to be prepared for insurance company "traps" that cause some owners to give up on legitimate claims or settle for pennies on the dollar.

 

by Kaitlyn Piazza at 2:00:00 pm

The record rainfall and resulting floods that have plagued Texas and surrounding states in recent weeks should prompt business owners and managers to consider their bad weather policies and practices. "Employers may show a bit of a double standard if they focus on the hazards of driving to work in snow or ice, but negate the very real hazards of stormy weather," says employment attorney Mark Shank of Dallas' Gruber Hurst Elrod Johansen Hail Shank. "As we've seen, commuting in heavy rain can present its own set of dangers and delays for employees, and corresponding liability and morale risks for employers."

  • Writes Houston Chronicle: “Generally speaking, companies don't have to pay their hourly wage workers for the time they don't work. But just following the letter of the law may not be the best approach to good employee relations during stressful weather disasters. That can be especially true when city and county leaders are advising residents to stay home to avoid the dangerous high water and residents are receiving frightening text messages about imminent flash flooding.”
  • Writes U.S. News: “Your employer can require you to come to work despite severe weather. That said, a reasonable employer – and even employers that aren’t generally reasonable in other situations – will make allowances for employees who cannot safely make it in.”

Shank advises businesses to have a written, comprehensive plan for all types of weather emergencies that covers telecommuting, responsibilities for communication, and compensation. "In general a business can establish its own payment policies for inclement weather days, especially for non-exempt employees. But the key is having those policies communicated, followed and understood by all managers and staff."

by Kaitlyn Piazza at 2:00:00 pm

The nation’s unemployment rate continues to hover just over 5 percent, but one occupation is facing a growing demand and a shrinking workforce. The trucking industry has a current shortfall of some 35,000 to 40,000, a figure that could grow to as many as 240,000 drivers by 2022. One result of the shortage is increased costs for shippers as carriers step up efforts to recruit and retain drivers.

According to The Wall Street Journal: “Experts say there are many reasons behind the shortage, including more stringent work requirements as safety regulations have expanded and low pay that, despite recent gains, has made the tough working conditions tougher to bear. But trucking is also driving headlong into demographic reality: its workforce is getting older, and younger Americans are showing less interest in a career on the highway.”

“The industry is caught between the need for attracting new drivers and the need for experienced drivers,” says Dallas trucking defense attorney H. Peyton Inge IV of Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson. “Companies are increasing pay, expanding training programs, providing signing bonuses and looking for creative ways to address driver retention and satisfaction.” Inge notes that the shortage coincides with more stringent safety regulations and a rise in trucking-related litigation.”

 

by Kaitlyn Piazza at 12:00:00 pm

More than two weeks after the deadly biker gang-related shooting at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, a majority of the 177 arrested remain in jail with bail set at $1 million.Concerns about due process have risen to the point that the presiding administrative judge for Texas’ Third Judicial District, Billy Ray Stubblefield, expects to travel to Waco this week to meet with two district judges and brainstorm about ways to accelerate the bond hearings for more than 130 jailed bikers.

  • Writes Texas Lawyer: “Before his trip, retired District Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, who still presides as administrative judge for the Third Judicial District, expressed disappointment about the weeks it has taken for the Waco courts to conduct bond hearings for the majority of the bikers. ‘Due process delayed is due process denied,’ Stubblefield said. ‘I would have been happier if this had been able to be accomplished more rapidly.’"
  • Writes Dallas Morning News in a lead editorial this morning: “Three weeks have passed since the biker gang shootout in Waco that left nine dead and 18 wounded. Yet surprisingly little information has emerged to justify the incarceration of about 120 people, many of whom appear guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Without question, egregious criminal activity occurred outside the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco. Some bikers, mainly from the rival Bandidos and Cossacks gangs, appear to have arrived at the restaurant armed and ready to do battle.”

Dallas criminal defense attorney John Teakell of The Law Offices of John R. Teakell notes that police, prosecutors and judges are bound by the U.S. Constitution to ensure that there was sufficient probable cause for each individual arrest. The accused also must be promptly notified of the charges against them and bail amounts must not be set excessively high as a form of punishment.

“This was a horrific shooting and a fluid crime scene,” says Teakell, a former state and federal prosecutor. “But after more than two weeks, there is a real concern that innocent individuals remain in jail, awaiting a reasonable bail amount and a chance to know the charges against them so that they can defend themselves.”

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:00:00 am

mary-floodAfter 30 years as a journalist and more than a decade reporting on the legal profession and high-profile trials for the Houston Chronicle, Mary Flood has a distinct perspective on how lawyers and the news media interact. We asked her about her transition from journalism to PR.

You covered hundreds of trials as a journalist – notably several Enron-related trials – but is there another lesser-known trial experience that has stuck with you over the years?

The fact that I was in trial a few times when I practiced law is my least known courthouse experience. As a reporter, you worry that readers won’t understand what happened if you aren’t good enough. As a lawyer, you worry that your client’s life could be significantly altered if you aren’t good enough. Now I go to court with lawyers and their high-profile clients to work with the media. Now I worry about it all.

What is the biggest misperception lawyers have about reporters that you wish you could change?

Lawyers sometimes think reporters have an agenda other than to try to explain what’s going on fairly, accurately and quickly. Sure, a few reporters have an agenda. But most just want to get it right in whatever small amount of time and space they have. Reporters usually need something quick, clear and preferably colorfully explained. The lawyerly instinct is the opposite. Trial lawyers are the easiest to train because communicating with journalists is a bit like talking to juries.

What makes for a fulfilling experience in working with your clients?

I love knowing I’ve really helped a client, whether it is publicizing a firm generally; helping a client understand how the media will cover a high-profile case; or developing a marketing message that resonates. When I left 30 years of journalism behind me, I was worried about feeling fulfilled in my new role. But in this job, I use even more of what I’ve learned over the years to help our clients, whether that means being a lawyer, writer, investigator or someone who brings a creative point of view.

What are some of the positive things you see law firms doing to better position themselves from a business development perspective?

The best thing a lawyer or a firm can do is realize they are a business, and they need to compete in a marketplace where word of mouth doesn’t always cut it. I have a boutique client I love working with.  The lawyers there don’t shy away from PR or marketing, which has helped them triple in size in the last few years. They deserve the burgeoning reputation they have gained. But you can’t get that even by winning cases if no one knows it happened.

What’s one thing that people don’t know about you?

I come from a whistling family. My older brother (who holds a Ph.D. in economics) can even whistle and hum at the same time. I have tried to carry on the tradition by whistling Happy Birthday to a few folks. The older I get, the more notes go off key. Smartphones have been a blessing to my friends. I can send the whistle attached to an email and they don’t have to listen if they don’t want to.

Are you really the Olivia Pope of Houston?

Nope. It was very nice of the local ABC station to characterize me that way and for lawyer Rusty Hardin, who I respect immensely, to suggest it. I do know something about working with the media in a crisis. As a reporter, I saw the best and the worst and I’ve been able to build on that. But the fabulous Olivia has a wardrobe worth more than my home, a lover who lives in the White House and a subordinate who kills and maims. Me, not so much.

by Dave Moore at 2:05:00 pm

The recent developments in the public corruption case against Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price illustrate the devastating impact federal court actions and investigations can have on defendants, even if they’re later cleared of charges. Price faced a firestorm of public criticism when he sought court assistance in paying for his legal defense, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars. 

“On the surface, a lot of people would think that (court assistance) is something he should not qualify for,” John R. Teakell, a federal criminal defense attorney in Dallas, said in a recent interview on the Stinchfield Report. “But I think the point he was making was that he had a lot of assets that were seized from him, and accounts frozen. So, he has limited resources.”

Teakell, who has handled numerous cases involving the government seizure of assets, says it’s common for many federal cases to result in reduced charges or no conviction, yet the resulting damage from the charge lingers.“It happens a lot,” says Teakell. “Even in cases where someone comes to a plea agreement for a reduced charge, when the outcome doesn’t hurt them too badly, they’ve still had to spend resources on an attorney. A lot of people lose their jobs, because they’re arrested and charged. It affects their reputation; if they had a business, it can knock out their business. It’s devastating.”

by Dave Moore at 4:00:00 pm

An upcoming United States Supreme Court case – Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Projects Inc. – demonstrates the ripple effect the Court can have on how business is done in the United States.

On Jan. 21, the Court will hear arguments over whether Texas discriminates and violates fair housing laws when it decides where federally subsidized low-income affordable housing developments are built. But in agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court has agreed to clarify the use of a principle called the “disparate impact” theory.

The disparate impact theory suggests that discrimination can still occur even if an institution’s business policies are designed to avoid prejudice. If those policies are shown to disproportionately impact one protected group more than another, the theory states that discrimination has occurred, despite efforts to avoid it.

“Because the federal government uses the theory in settling fair-lending cases, this decision could affect not only affordable housing in the U.S. but also the automobile finance industry and banking industry," says Dallas attorney John Shackelford, managing partner at Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton, L.P.

Shackelford, who has more than 20 years of experience representing financial institutions, automobile dealerships and real estate developers in land acquisition, tax-credit acquisition and approval matters, can readily see the ripple effect that the Court's decision can have on major sectors of the U.S. economy.