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Androvett Blog

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:50:00 am

Many employers received a last-minute reprieve from new federal overtime rules that would have gone into effect Thursday, Dec. 1, entitling thousands of previously “exempt” workers to overtime pay. But the Texas federal judge’s temporary injunction creates uncertainty for businesses preparing for the employment compliance playing field going forward.

In a client alert, employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas’ Munck Wilson Mandala notes that many employers had already revised workers’ pay to comply with the Department of Labor’s overtime rule. Businesses that have not yet implemented changes now have breathing room to wait for a final ruling from the courts. However, those that have already altered employee pay should think carefully before reversing already announced pay changes.

“If a pay increase was already announced or implemented, and you are considering putting it on hold, there are further considerations that may not apply such as employee relations, an angry or confused employee seeking legal counsel, state laws requiring written notice prior to reducing pay, and collective bargaining on pay issues,” Ms. Mross says.

For more information, contact Robert Tharp at 214-559-4630 or robert@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:40:00 am

Dallas-based litigation consulting and support firm Courtroom Sciences Inc. (CSI) is suing its competitor DecisionQuest for allegedly plagiarizing a CSI paper on trial tactics. CSI was co-founded in 1990 by TV psychologist and daytime talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw, but he is no longer affiliated with the firm.

The paper in question is called “A Brief Primer on the Reptile Theory of Trial Strategy: Plaintiff Psychology and the Defense Response,” which DecisionQuest’s Ann T. Greeley presented at a 2015 American Bar Association conference. That paper includes key phrases and sentences that also appear in two CSI papers titled “Derailing the Reptile Safety Rule Attack: A Neurocognitive Analysis and Solution” and “Debunking and Redefining the Plaintiff Reptile Theory.” CSI Senior Litigation Consultant and Vice President Bill Kanasky Jr. wrote and published the content in 2014.

“I think it’s rather stunning,” says Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn of Clouse Dunn, who represents CSI. “All of us learned in elementary school that you don’t copy someone else’s work. Copying to this degree is extraordinary.”

The case is CSI Litigation Psychology, LLC vs. DecisionQuest, Inc., No. 3:16-cv-03255-G in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

For more information, please contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:17:00 am

A federal judge in Dallas has ordered the attorneys general of two Northeastern states to come to Texas next month to be deposed in a lawsuit brought by Exxon Mobil. The company has accused Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and New York AG Eric Schneiderman of unlawfully using their powers to investigate  whether the oil giant misled investors and the public by downplaying the impact of global warming. The company is seeking an injunction barring the attorneys general from demanding internal documents relating to climate change research and investor communications stretching back decades.

“These investigations could have a potentially catastrophic effect on Exxon, based on the documents and information that have been made public so far,” says attorney Chris Hamilton of Dallas’ Standly Hamilton. “However, allowing a company that is the subject of investigations to take depositions of elected state officials regarding their motivations is highly unusual and problematic. What would happen if a criminal defendant sought the deposition of a district attorney regarding the motivation for prosecuting a case? The precedent for a court to allow this type of tactic is concerning.”

The judge’s order advised the officials to reserve Dec.13 for giving testimony in Dallas.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:11:00 pm

The $100 million discrimination lawsuit filed against the New York-based international law firm Chadbourne & Parke over claims that female partners are paid less than their male counterparts is less about gender than employment status, according to Sarah Bradbury, senior counsel at Dallas litigation boutique Estes Thorne & Carr PLLC.

“While it is becoming increasingly easy to create an employment relationship and characterize an independent contractor as an employee, an equity partner cannot be categorized as an ‘employee,’ making it very difficult to prevail in this case. However, if a similar lawsuit were brought by income level partners, it becomes a very different case.

“Gender pay disparity may be real at this particular firm specifically or within the legal profession generally. However, even if the disparity exists, in this instance, because the attorneys are not employees of the firm, they simply have no employment discrimination route to pursue,” adds Ms. Bradbury, who is Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

For more information, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:26:00 am

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has himself in an ideal succession situation. He waited to draft the perfect candidate – Dak Prescott. He can now let potential future star quarterback Prescott learn while aging star Tony Romo still has the ball, said Joe Ahmad, a founding partner in Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos Alavi & Mensing P.C. or AZA.

On his blog Legal Issues in the Executive Suite, Mr. Ahmad says Boards and C-Suite folks should think like Mr. Jones.

“Keep your stars in place, but keep an eye on the future of the company. A CEO can fall at any time, be it from a physical problem like the cancer that took Apple’s Steve Jobs, a sexual harassment scandal like the one that felled Fox News’ Roger Ailes or a government investigation like the New Jersey inquiry that caused United Airlines to drop Jeff Smisek.

“Certainly the NFL may not always get it right or do it smoothly. Just look at the Indianapolis Colts; they couldn’t afford Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, so they tossed their older star. Of course, corporate America doesn’t have to deal with NFL salary caps. Nor does corporate America have to bench one player for another to be useful. A CEO successor can be the COO or president or serve some other role in the corporation while being groomed to take the helm should there be a natural succession or a sudden need for a replacement.

“A 2014 study by the National Association of Corporate Directors showed that two-thirds of U.S. public and private companies reported they still have no formal CEO succession plan in place. Even though it can be awkward to plan for a company leader’s exit, having no plan is bad for shareholders, bad for employees and bad for business. This can be especially devastating to a smaller business. Even family businesses can have this problem as The Economist notes in discussing a lack of succession planning in family oil businesses in the Arabian Gulf.

MIT Sloan Management Review this summer cited the example of Surveymonkey whose CEO died unexpectedly last year. There was no succession plan. The company looked at 75 candidates before making a choice two months later, only to have that person be replaced six months after that. That uncertainty and tumult had to cost them.

“Apple did it right when the company knew Steve Jobs would be leaving, as I wrote back in 2012. Warren Buffett has been careful about this too. He realizes that such a plan allows people to stay invested and believe that things are, and will be, under control. Boards and incumbent CEOS owe it to their constituencies inside and outside the company to deal with the sensitive subject of passing the baton. Just as a smart company buys insurance for unforeseen problems, a smart company has a succession plan even if it seems the CEO is in great health and the horizon appears to be without scandal. Accidents and quarterback sacks happen.”

For more information, contact Mary Flood at mary@androvett.com or 800-559-4534.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:50:00 am

Twitter recently suspended accounts of users it said were promoting hate speech, including those with an alt-right think tank. At the same time, Facebook is struggling with whether it should exert more control over fake news that exploded over the social media site during the presidential campaign.

Houston attorney Chip Babcock of Jackson Walker LLP, a prominent First Amendment authority, says the social media giants have a right to suspend accounts and control their platforms, but there are limits.

“The more Twitter or Facebook exercise editorial control, the more liability they will create for themselves. They’ve been able to say we don’t edit content. It’s like the supermarket with a bulletin board where individuals can post notices for babysitting services. The supermarket isn’t responsible for what somebody tacks up on the bulletin board.

“Also, Twitter suspending accounts is not a classic First Amendment issue because the First Amendment is directed at the government, not private business. Twitter has the right to suspend accounts. But the more any social media platform gets into editing its content, the weaker their defamation protections become.

“In the early days of the internet, some providers faced questions about content control. There has been some legislation since then protecting those service providers. But today, there are new questions given the tremendous power and influence of social media.”

For more information, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 4:15:00 pm

Two Texas lawmakers have filed a bill cracking down on cyberbullying. Called “David’s Law,” it’s named in honor of a San Antonio teen who was bullied and committed suicide earlier this year. If adopted during the 2017 Texas legislative session, the law would make it a misdemeanor to harass or bully anyone under the age of 18 through text messages, social media and apps. The bill would require school districts to include cyberbullying policies, develop a system to anonymously report bullying and threats and give districts authority to investigate bullying off campus, collaborate with law enforcement and allow officers to target anonymous social media users who send threatening messages.

Dallas attorney Shonn Brown of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst says it’s important to provide consistent guidance to schools because they must remain current with technology to help control student behavior on campus and during school-related activities. 

“Schools must be vigilant about monitoring and controlling student behavior particularly as it relates to bullying and technological advances. The schools could probably use some guidance from the legislature in order to police such activities and develop appropriate remedies within the school disciplinary system. Making bullying a crime goes beyond school enforcement and takes it outside the school environment. It will be interesting to see how the legislature addresses that issue and how that may affect students, possibly subjecting them to a criminal record.”

For more information, please contact Sophia Reza at sophia@androvett.com or 800-559-4534.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:35:00 pm

The lawyers at Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett are once again providing financial aid for college to Dallas County students whose lives have been affected by cancer. The firm will provide scholarships, which students can use for tuition, books and fees during the 2017-18 academic year.

This will be the third year the firm has provided the scholarships, through the Communities Foundation of Texas, bringing the total amount donated to $150,000. So far, scholarship recipients have gone on to attend Purdue, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Collin Community College, Samford University, Texas A&M Commerce, the University of Texas at Arlington and Austin College.

“We have seen – through the experiences of our clients – what cancer can do to an individual, to a family,” says founding shareholder David Greenstone at the firm. “This is just a small way for us to help.” 

The Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett Scholarship Benefitting Families Impacted By Cancer provides multiple, single-year scholarships to graduating high school seniors from any Dallas County public or private school, and previous scholarship recipients, who:

  • Have an immediate family member (mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, brother or sister) who is under a current cancer diagnosis and/or treatment for cancer;
  • Have an immediate family member who passed away within the last two years from cancer: or
  • Are themselves under a current cancer diagnosis or treatment for cancer.

Those interested may apply online through the Communities Foundation of Texas.

For more information, contact Mark Annick at mark@androvett.com or 800-559-4534.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:36:00 pm

A change.org petition encouraging electors in the Electoral College to switch their votes from President-elect Donald Trump to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making the rounds of the internet and gaining supporters by the minute. But ultimately, appellate lawyer Chad Ruback in Dallas doubts it will bring about a different result.

“If a significant number of electors from states won by Trump chose to disregard the outcome in their states and instead cast their Electoral College votes for Hillary Clinton, she could win the election. It would not be unprecedented for electors to do that even though taking that action is a misdemeanor in 29 states. In fact, in the history of the Electoral College, 157 electors have voted for a different candidate than the one who won. 

“If the two candidates were separated by only a few Electoral College votes, the prospect of a handful of electors reneging on their commitments might worry the Trump campaign.  However, because so many Electoral College votes separate Trump from Clinton, a few rogue electors would not be enough to affect  the outcome of the election.”

For more information, contact Mark Annick at mark@androvett.com or 800-559-4534.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:11:00 pm

Donald Trump told CNBC in a 2012 interview that “this country is absolutely crazy” to prosecute alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in places like Mexico and China. He said the anti-bribery law puts U.S. companies at a huge disadvantage, according to Houston lawyer, author and compliance consultant Thomas Fox.

“Dismantling the 39-year-old law against bribing foreign businesses and governments is a terrible idea,” said Mr. Fox, who operates the FCPA Compliance Report website. “Not only does it ensure that American companies are operating honestly, it also is an effective tool to promote U.S. business overseas. And the settlements and fines paid by companies caught violating it help pay for the enforcement of this program. At the same time, the FCPA is used along with another federal law to combat terrorism.

“In reality, it is doubtful that Trump would seek to outright reject the FCPA. What seems more likely is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and similar business interests will seek to limit the reach of the law by amending it to add a defense for better compliance and perhaps limit the use of the law against state-owned enterprises.”

For more information, contact Kit Frieden at kit@androvett.com or 800-559-4534. 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 4:19:00 pm

Real estate and energy partner David Drumm at Carrington Coleman in Dallas says the election of Donald Trump as president could weaken the U.S. economy in numerous ways.

“To the extent tax cuts are put in effect and combined with ‘feel-good’ spending policies on things like border walls and creating obsolete and inefficient factory jobs that the market economy does not want, we risk an increase in the federal budget deficit, when debt-to-GDP ratios are already at all-time highs,” Mr. Drumm says. “Weakening the U.S. federal treasury will also inevitably weaken the U.S. economy, because the debt rating on government bonds will deteriorate and we will have to apply more of our GDP to interest on the national debt.

“On the energy side of things, I fear that a weakening of the economy will ultimately weaken demand for energy and thereby drilling activity.”

For more information, contact Mark Annick at mark@androvett.com or 800-559-4534.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 4:05:00 pm

While a protectionist trade position has been the chorus of the Trump campaign, little is known about the president-elect’s views on intellectual property rights. Increasingly burdened U.S. patent holders are hopeful for an ally who supports the enforcement rights of small patent holders.

“We know he favors companies in the U.S. versus their foreign counterparts, so it seems likely that he is going to favor strong IP protection to prevent foreign companies from improperly incorporating U.S. technology into their products,” says noted patent litigator Michael Heim of Heim, Payne & Chorush in Houston. “The open question in the U.S. and in foreign treaties is, ‘What is going to be done with regard to the enforcement of IP rights?’ Patent enforcement actions in the U.S. have become a game of kings.  If you are not a large, wealthy corporation with a valuable product line, the deck is stacked against you.  Rules enacted to reduce the number of nuisance-value filings have had the unfortunate impact of making it difficult for all patent owners, especially smaller companies and individuals, to enforce their rights.

“In addition, courts are killing computer-related patents by the hundreds and maybe even thousands, using recent rulings from the Supreme Court to dismiss cases before they can even get started.  We don’t know where Trump stands on these issues, but given his stance on other issues, the hope is that he is going to level the playing field for patent owners.”

For more information, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:40:00 pm

Before mounting his presidential campaign, President-elect Trump indicated support for certain gun regulations, including a ban on assault weapons, but he’s more likely to stay true to recent campaign promises regarding gun rights, says Dallas white-collar defense lawyer Bill Mateja, a shareholder at Polsinelli and noted Second Amendment expert. Mr. Mateja notes that as the election approached, Mr. Trump declared himself a strong Second Amendment supporter, specifically stating that restrictions on guns and ammunition magazines have been a total failure. “The Second Amendment is going to enjoy even more vitality under a Trump presidency – whether it be in using the Second Amendment as a litmus test for selecting federal judges or in emboldening the Justice Department to not reflexively defend the constitutionality of gun statutes that defy common sense, such as the interstate handgun ban,” he said. “Mr. Trump will likely be the Second Amendment’s new Charlton Heston.”

For more information or to setup an interview, contact Mike Androvett at 800-559-4534 or mike@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:23:00 pm

Daniel Charest, a partner at Dallas’ Burns Charest, says the Trump victory points to good news for domestic energy producers and pipeline companies.

“I think you’ll see an uptick in energy prices in the near term due to uncertainty and, depending on his willingness to follow up on his promises, a continued increase in energy prices. Meanwhile, he’ll do his best to crush regulations that impose costs on domestic production and development, and as a result make those areas more profitable, at least to some extent.”

For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:07:00 pm

With Houston’s close geographic ties and economic nexus to Mexico, a Trump presidency is certain to cause some anxiety due to his hatred for free-trade agreements, especially NAFTA, said Houston lawyer Ashish Mahendru of Mahendru, P.C.  “If NAFTA goes away, the attendant uncertainty in those transactions will cause parties to re-negotiate their agreements and require more definite terms, which may ultimately lead to broken agreements,” Mahendru said. “That creates more opportunities to advise and litigate on behalf of my foreign-trade oriented clients. Additionally, Trump’s isolationist campaign promises could give us an advantage over cautious or scared foreign parties who face litigation in our backyard.”

For more information, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:55:00 am

Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor and founding partner of Houston-based Hilder & Associates P.C., sees a Trump administration, possibly with Rudy Giuliani as attorney general, being heavy-handed in prosecutions, focusing on terrorism and potentially setting a tone that could keep investigations into Donald Trump and Republicans tamped down and investigations into Hillary Clinton and Democrats encouraged. “It’s not that the Justice Department has been particularly light-handed under President Obama, but it may become stricter and less open-minded under the Trump administration if it adopts the tone the candidate and Giuliani have used in the campaign,” he said.

For more information, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:46:00 am

Trial and appellate lawyer Brian Lauten at Deans & Lyons predicts that under a Trump Administration, civil liberties and constitutional protections will erode. 

“Specifically, Mr. Trump will attempt to use the courts and the Department of Justice to curtail the rights of legal immigrants, criminal defendants and civil libertarians,” says Mr. Lauten. The Dallas lawyer, who has previously argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, predicts that the court's “lurch to the right” will be reinforced and enhanced by Mr. Trump’s ability to nominate staunch conservatives to openings on the court.    

For more information or to setup an interview, contact Mike Androvett at 800-559-4534 or mike@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:34:00 am

Dallas lawyer Trey Branham of Dean Omar Branham says Donald Trump’s election could mean Texas-style tort reform at the federal level. As an example, he expects a revival of the FAIR Act – Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2006 – which was narrowly defeated.

“The essence of the bill was that it would end asbestos lawsuits on both the state and federal level and set up a federal ‘trust fund’ funded by industry to pay asbestos lawsuit claims. The idea was to set up a complex set of medical and factual criteria that a claimant would have to meet to be eligible for compensation and compensation levels were capped without regard to income, loss or facts. Additionally, fees would be capped at 5 percent of recovery. The practical effect of this would be that asbestos victims would not be able to engage counsel and would be forced to negotiate the medical and factual criteria alone and, if they were successful, would get far less compensation than the tort system generally permits.”

For more information or to setup an interview, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:24:00 am

Houston lawyer James Prappas of Jackson Walker LLP, who advises clients on strategic immigration planning and related transactional matters, looks for an increased focus on legal immigration during a Donald Trump presidency:

“Mr. Trump will rely less on executive action. Congress will become more involved. The EB-5 program, which permits an individual to invest $500,000 or $1 million, will remain and could be expanded to create more U.S. jobs,” he predicts.

“Mexican companies will establish U.S. operations to increase exports due to the favorable exchange rate. This will increase demand for U.S. work visas.

“There will be a rise in naturalization applications because of (i) Mr. Trump’s victory; (ii) the Republican Congress; and (iii) the upcoming $45 filing fee increase on Dec. 23 from $595 to $640 per person.”

For more information or to setup an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:15:00 am

Chris Johns, partner at Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP in Austin, said that since Donald Trump promised huge spending increases for infrastructure, including on new roads, bridges, and other systems, there could be a lot of land taken by the government through eminent domain. “If he makes good on that campaign promise, lawyers who handle eminent domain cases like those at our firm will see a large influx of new clients. We’ll see cases protecting landowners whose land is taken for public use and ensure they receive the constitutional guarantee of just compensation,” he said.

For more information or to setup an interview, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:09:00 am

Houston immigration lawyer Gordon Quan, founding partner of Quan Law Group PLLC, expects panic and a rush of new clients reviewing their options under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other regulations. “While U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and ICE will not change overnight, I see a big push in filings of both relative and employment-based visas prior to any regulatory or statutory changes as a way to establish some grounds for an equitable basis to stay or immigrate,” he said. “Eventually Mr. Trump must deal constructively with the undocumented as they are essential for any economic growth.”

For more information or to setup an interview, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:44:00 am

David Coale, a partner at Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst in Dallas, says last night’s presidential win by Republican Donald Trump could have an impact on vacancies that exist in the federal judiciary.

 “I’d expect a swift and smooth SCOTUS nomination process with a Republican president and Senate. But there are also a lot of vacancies at the district and circuit levels -- the normal vacancies that turn up over time, compounded by a lack of action during the last several months. President Trump has an opportunity to fill those vacancies swiftly and smoothly as well, and I don't think a President has had an opportunity like that since Reagan.”

For more information or to setup an interview, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.