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Androvett Blog

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:07:00 am

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the right to videotape the police is protected under the First Amendment. In this case, the Fort Worth police handcuffed and detained Phillip Driver in 2015 for taking video of the police station from the public sidewalk.

In Turner v. Driver the court, whose rulings cover Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, noted that gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.”

“This case declares the importance of filming police activities by acknowledging the public’s ability to hold the police accountable and not to abuse their power,” says Houston lawyer Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor, founder of Hilder & Associates P.C. and who also serves on the City of Houston Independent Police Oversight Board.

“The Court also notes the importance of the citizen’s role, in that a recording may corroborate probable cause or even exonerate the police if they are charged with wrongdoing. Bottom line, this reinforces that citizens have a constitutional right to record the police subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.”   

With this ruling, Mr. Driver will be allowed to pursue his Fourth Amendment claim against the police because his right against unlawful arrest was clearly defined at the time. Though this decision makes a First Amendment claim available going forward, the appellate court said Mr. Driver won’t get a trial on that right. The court said at the time of the 2015 arrest, the First Amendment right to video the police had not yet been legally established.

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:00:00 am

Dramatic video showing Harrison Ford’s near miss of a passenger airliner as he landed his private plane on a taxiway at California’s John Wayne Airport earlier this month has renewed safety concerns over the incident. However, Dallas aviation attorney Greg Reigel of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, said he expects the Federal Aviation Administration investigation is likely to find the scare was an honest mistake rather than a more serious safety concern.

“If the investigation shows that Mr. Ford’s actions were inadvertent, then it is likely that the FAA will handle the incident as a ‘compliance action’ which addresses incidents that occur because of flawed procedures, simple mistakes, lack of understanding, or diminished skills,” says Mr. Reigel. “If the FAA determines that was the cause of the incident, then the FAA will resolve the situation through counseling or remedial training, rather than legal enforcement action.

“However, if the investigation reveals that the incident resulted from a lack of competence or qualification, then the FAA could require Mr. Ford to submit to re-examination or remedial training, or it could suspend or revoke his airman certificate. But based on the initial limited information available, it does not appear that his competence or qualifications were factors in the incident.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

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

Republican control in the White House, House and Senate may give new life to trucking industry proponents and their agendas. Lawmakers are expected to establish a new standard under the Trump presidency, which will cover hours on the road, increased weight limits and length of double trailer combinations.

Listen to Dallas attorney Peyton Inge of Chamblee Ryan Kershaw & Anderson, who represents trucking companies, comment on the impact of the restrictions.

In our December blog, we noted Republican lawmakers in Congress effectively suspended the Obama administration’s tight restrictions on work hours and rest breaks for the nation’s interstate truckers.

Inge says some restrictions needed to be loosened:

The industry has found that the restrictions during the past few years actually increased the risk of accidents by forcing more trucks onto the road during rush-hour periods, leading to increased congestion and road safety risks. We’ve also seen that increased regulations have disproportionately affected smaller trucking companies, and that rolling back regulations historically can allow these companies to expand while reducing costs to the consumer.  This change should also allow individual drivers and their employers greater flexibility in setting off-duty time, rest periods and overall business operations.”

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 2:27:00 pm

My Other Bag sells inexpensive canvas tote bags that are obvious parodies of pricey designer bags. Luxury handbag maker Louis Vuitton doesn’t get the joke. The company filed a trademark infringement suit in New York that was tossed out because the judge said it was clear the canvas bag wasn’t a typical knockoff copy. Earlier this week, an appeals court judge said he wouldn’t reconsider that decision.

Chris Schwegmann, an intellectual property partner at Dallas-based Lynn Pinker Cox Hurst, agrees Louis Vuitton missed the joke:

“This case is very different from most counterfeit litigation. Just by looking at them, the products sold by My Other Bag are clearly not Louis Vuitton bags. That is part of the joke.

“This is lawsuit is a cautionary tale that trademark holders need to pick and choose their targets carefully. Sometimes by suing, you bring more attention to the alleged infringer, and in this case, it seems that Louis Vuitton is the butt of the joke. There are several examples of trademark holders sending silly cease and desist letters, only to have the action backfire on them in a very public way.”

For more information contact Holly Scimeca at holly@androvett.com or 800-559-4534.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:17:00 am

A bill in the Texas House seeks to end regulations that require nurse practitioners to contract with doctors in order to treat and write prescriptions. The proposal, HB1415, would finally give nurse practitioners (NPs) in Texas the freedom and flexibility they have been seeking for decades. It also would cut costs for both patients and providers, according to attorney Bill Hopkins of the Austin office of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP.

“From the start, there has been a fundamental tension between their role and the role of the physician in the health care setting,” says Mr. Hopkins, who advises both individual and institutional health care providers on matters involving administrative law, regulatory defense and litigation. “No one has ever questioned that the physician is at the top of the pyramid. But over the years there has been some question as to whether there was some room at the top for the nurse practitioner who can drastically improve access to care.”

Currently NPs must complete four years of nursing school and two years in a graduate-level training program. Although they are regulated by both the Texas Board of Nursing and the Texas Medical Board, the belief is that they still need a doctor to supervise – even if the physician is not physically present and does not even see the patient, says Mr. Hopkins. Similar regulations have been rolled back in other states, with no evidence of increased safety issues. In fact, he says, in some studies, nurse practitioner safety has ranked as high or higher than doctor care.

“For many years, NPs have argued that their knowledge, ability and training were more than sufficient to allow them to practice independently, care for patients and ensure safety,” he says. “The justification for charging NPs for this ‘supervision’ traditionally has been that it is a necessary cost to ensure patient safety. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there are more people with insurance than ever before and access has become a primary concern. With the safety argument becoming less relevant and calls for better access getting louder, it looks like this may be the time for NPs to finally get the independence that they have sought.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:38:00 am

The executive orders from the Trump administration have inspired a remarkable sea change in the way some folks view lawyers. Accustomed to being the butt of jokes about sharks, liars, jellyfish etc., lawyers are garnering praise as they defend immigrants, fight sanctuary city bans, sue over the emoluments clause and work against the border wall. Attorneys are giving the profession a good name in some mainstream and liberal circles.

There’s a meme going around Facebook that says, “Hug a lawyer today. They are now first responders.” The legal press has noted that at Dulles Airport recently a crowd chanted, “Thank you lawyers! Thank you lawyers!” And a national left wing magazine editorial wrote: “If you want to be a rock star in Trump’s America, go to law school.” Of course it’s not the supporters of the new president who likely feel this way. NBC News has counted 50 lawsuits filed against the new administration in just the first two weeks since the inauguration. And some lawyers will make lots of money in litigation over these and other new policies as the Trump White House reverses course on multiple regulations.

“These are trying times and it’s fascinating to see one of the side effects of Trump’s policies is lawyers gaining public respect and praise. They say you never like lawyers until you need one. This is likely happening because a lot of us need one right now,” says Houston lawyer Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor and founder of Hilder & Associates P.C.

“I expect there to be an enormous amount of litigation to be filed in coming weeks and months as the administration unravels protections for the environment, consumers, immigration and more. Policy changes alone are not driving the awakening of legal action, but the general perception that civil liberties and rights are being jeopardized,” Mr. Hilder said.

Lawyers all know about Shakespeare’s praise for the profession in Henry VI when he had a power-hungry character say, “The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers” to disrupt law and order. But attorneys are more used to average folks joking about getting rid of lawyers than agreeing with Shakespeare.

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:48:00 am

A Dallas attorney who represents former Baylor University Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford and three other former Baylor employees against the university is taking issue with the school’s new legal strategy. On Thursday, three Baylor regents filed a 54-page response in defense of a libel lawsuit filed by former Baylor athletic department administrator Colin Shillinglaw. In the filing the regents detail accusations against the plaintiff and include damaging texts between former football coach Art Briles and other athletic department officials.

But Rogge Dunn of Clouse Dunn LLP says the regents’ response is another misstep by the university’s leadership in an effort to justify its own failures:

“I find it sad that it took a lawsuit by Shillinglaw to cause Baylor to release Briles’ incriminating texts. Baylor is releasing information only when it’s in Baylor’s strategic advantage to do so, and will never have credibility until the university is transparent for transparency’s sake. Baylor’s regents and top administrators continue to deny their own culpability and responsibilities in this scandal and should not withhold documents and other information to release only as weapons in lawsuits. In detailing Briles’ texts and reports of sexual assaults and other misconduct involving football players, the filing only vaguely alludes to the Title IX compliance shortcomings Baylor was experiencing on a larger scale.”

The regents claim that Shillinglaw, Briles and others on the football staff downplayed sexual assault allegations and other wrongdoing involving football players, and attempted to protect the players while showing little concern for the law or potential victims.

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:25:00 am

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge, is expected to face intense scrutiny over the politically incendiary topics of abortion and gun rights during confirmation hearings. However, Dallas media lawyer Shannon Teicher  of Jackson Walker LLP suggests that the nominee’s record on the First Amendment is also vitally important given the new administration’s already strained relationship with the press. Ms. Teicher says she is “cautiously optimistic that he would be favorable on free speech issues before the court.”

“There is not a lot of case history involving Judge Gorsuch related to First Amendment issues, but it is important to look at what there is to find,” says Ms. Teicher. She points to Bustos v. A&E Networks, a case in which a prison inmate sued for defamation because he only affiliated with a gang but was not a member, as A&E had reported. Serving on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Gorsuch ruled that A&E’s statement was substantially true and affirmed dismissal of the lawsuit. In doing so, he explored the historical importance of truth as a defense and called it a “First Amendment imperative.”

However in an earlier decision, “Judge Gorsuch offered an interesting concurrence in Mink v. Knox, in which the court ruled a college student’s parody of a professor was protected speech.” Judge Gorsuch noted the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet ruled on whether parody is actionable when the plaintiff is neither a public figure nor the speech a matter of public concern. He believed “reasonable minds can and do differ” on the issue, so that it was best to avoid such “thickets.” Citing an opinion by then-Judge John Roberts of the D.C. Circuit (now Chief Justice of the United States), Judge Gorsuch said he would only decide what is necessary and nothing more.

“Such careful parsing may well be a preview of the type of measured approach Judge Gorsuch would take if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” says Ms. Teicher.

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