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Stories of Recovery: A colleague’s suicide inspires attorney to join the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 09:41

 

Editor’s note: This is the third of four special posts in the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series for National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

Another trip, another deposition. This run to Phoenix was so ordinary, except that I was traveling in July, and the temperature would be well above 100 degrees for the few days I was there. When my plane landed, I took 10 steps into the airport, and my client called. I first assumed that he was calling me about the plaintiff’s deposition that would occur the next day, but then I noticed the urgency in his voice. My mind immediately went someplace negative, with thoughts of my client, or one of his close family members, being diagnosed with cancer. My client asked me where I was—in the airport, near a Starbucks—and then asked me to step away from the crowds.

He followed with the unthinkable: his friend and mine, let’s call him Todd, a successful litigator at one of Big City’s most prestigious law firms, had committed suicide. Todd was also my co-counsel on numerous lawsuits for this client. Together, we had a virtual team that involved both of our firms, working collaboratively and effectively to serve our client. Todd was married, had three beautiful children, a sterling academic record, and an enviable career. I was shocked, and suddenly alone in my thoughts in the busy airport.

The next day, the deposition occurred as planned. The plaintiffs’ counsel and many of the defense counsel knew Todd, and they were equally perplexed. During a break in the deposition, I called one of Todd’s law partners, a former law school classmate, to ask him to keep me apprised of the funeral services and, discretely, but less so than I’d hoped, to ask if he knew why Todd committed suicide. He told me that he and his law partners were stunned. Todd’s death was unimaginable to them.

Later that week, I attended Todd’s funeral. I saw his wife, children, siblings, law partners, and friends. I ached, knowing that they all loved Todd and were devastated by his unexpected and tragic death.

I left Todd’s funeral with a profound and deep sadness. Although it was not even noon, I knew I had to go home. I had to see my wife and see my children when they came home from school. I told my wife that the overriding emotion I felt was like someone standing right next to me was struck by lighting and killed. Todd’s death was that close to me, owing to our friendship, working relationship as co-counsel, and, because, he, like me, was a litigation partner in a large Big City law firm.

Unlike me, Todd always seemed like someone who really loved the law, practicing it, and just being a great lawyer. Today, I am very grateful to be a member of the bar, and for the life afforded me by the practice of law, but I certainly understand what it means to struggle with one’s career.

Days later, I called the incoming State Bar president and asked if I could serve on the bar’s Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program Committee. I explained why I wanted to serve and that I wanted to focus my efforts on mental health and suicide prevention for Texas lawyers. Without hesitation, the incoming president agreed to appoint me to the TLAP Committee.

During my service with TLAP, there has been much progress, but, sadly and regrettably, there have been more suicides by lawyers like Todd—men and women who, for a variety of reasons, have seen their demise as the only solution to their darkness. Fortunately TLAP also has tremendous success in preventing further tragedies. In addition to established, confidential, and successful programs to assist Texas lawyers, law students, and judges with addiction, TLAP has spread the message of mental health, wellness, and suicide prevention to law schools, judicial meetings, the State Bar Annual Meeting, and presentations at law firms and bar associations.

Not many years ago, it was unthinkable to consider TLAP coming to a law firm, greeted with open arms, and having a frank, yet hopeful, exchange about mental health and suicide prevention with Texas lawyers. In the past, law schools would shudder at the thought of the next generation of Texas lawyers being offered such information. Yet today, mental health and suicide prevention within the legal profession are discussed, shared, and exchanged at bar association meetings, law firms, law schools, judicial conferences, and the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting.

It is too late for my friend Todd to benefit from TLAP’s focus on mental health and suicide prevention. However, it is not too late for other Texas lawyers. I am hopeful that increased access to information and counseling will prevent another needless, painful loss.

For more information on suicide warning signs and prevention, go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org or facebook.com/AFSPnational. For the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call (800) 273-TALK (8255).

 

 

 

 

Houston-area legal advice clinics to help those impacted by Harvey

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 16:03

Editor’s note: The Houston Bar Association issued the following news release Tuesday. 

The Houston Bar Association’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers has several legal advice clinics scheduled to assist those in affected areas of the county who have legal questions and legal issues following Hurricane Harvey.

No appointment is necessary, but clinics are limited by space available, so early arrival is suggested. Visit www.makejusticehappen.org for updated information on clinics as they are scheduled throughout the Houston area.

September 13

  • Memorial Assistance Ministries, 1625 Blalock, Houston, TX 77080; 9 a.m.-noon.
  • Jewish Family Service Relief Clinic, 4131 South Braeswood, Houston, TX 77025; noon-3:30 p.m.

September 16

  • Disaster Recovery Information Fair, Track 21, 4815 Highway 6 N, 77084; 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; multilingual clinic aimed at Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese speakers.

 September 23

  • Veterans Legal Advice Clinic, Katy Veterans Outpatient Clinic, 750 Westgreen Blvd., Katy, 77450; 9 a.m.-noon. Legal advice for all U.S. veterans and spouses of deceased veterans.

September 25

  • Jewish Family Service Relief Clinic, 4131 South Braeswood, Houston, TX 77025; noon-3:30 p.m.

September 27

  • Memorial Assistance Ministries, 1625 Blalock, Houston, TX 77080; 9 a.m.-noon.

In addition, volunteer attorneys will be among agencies on hand at Disaster Recovery Centers to provide legal resources for those affected by Hurricane Harvey:

  • Baytown Community Center: 2407 Market St. (open daily, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.)
  • Greenspoint Mall: 263 Greenspoint Mall, Houston (open daily, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.)
  • George R. Brown Convention Center and NRG Stadium

Stories of Recovery: An attorney with bipolar disorder gets back on track

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 09:30

Editor’s note: This is the second of four special posts in the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series for National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

One sunny Thursday afternoon in the spring of 2012, I found myself hanging from the top of a door by the rope that was tied around my neck. It hurt. A lot. And that was how I came to realize that I didn’t really want to die that day. I somehow extricated myself from the situation and called a friend, who came over and convinced me to go to the VA hospital, where I spent the next six days learning the ins and outs of the rules of the psych ward.

I graduated from law school in 1995 and passed the bar in November of that same year. I passed on the first attempt, which was a total surprise since I had to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination three times before passing. I got lucky and got my first lawyer job immediately upon passing the bar, working for a judge as a special documents master on a nine-month trial. At the end of that trial, I was so disgusted with lawyers that I never wanted to see the inside of another courtroom.

So I took a job with a publishing company editing treatises on civil procedure and evidence. I had health insurance for first time since I was in the Navy. It turns out that editing law books is even more stressful than being in the courtroom. Being a perfectionist and working with the imperfect product of language was really hard on me. Eventually, my girlfriend insisted I see someone about my mood swings and suicidal thoughts.

Around 1998, I gave in and saw a psychologist, who diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. I was devastated, depressed, and miserable. I didn’t want a “label.” But it all made sense, looking back at how I dealt with stress in college, the Navy, and in law school. During those times, when I would get stressed, I would frequently think about killing myself. I remember driving to law school one day and thinking how wonderful the day was because I was only thinking about suicide once every few minutes instead of a few times every minute.

So I then went to see a psychiatrist, who prescribed a drug known as a mood stabilizer that made me even more miserable because it was like being in a box where I could scream as loud as I wanted and nobody could hear me. But, being new to psychiatry and a former pharmacy technician, I was afraid to quit taking the medicine without the doctor’s permission. It took all the strength of will I had to titrate myself off of the medicine and then to tell the doctor about it afterward.

I did it, though, and because I was so unhappy with medication, I went off it for about nine years. During that time, the publishing company closed our office and I got laid off. I spiraled up and down. I tried hanging out a shingle—with no mentor and no clue—but all I got to show for it was a grievance for practicing without paying my bar dues. At one point during those awful nine years, I took a retail job in a bookstore, which was really fun—until I got fired. Then later that week, my friend’s wife kicked me out of their house because I was being too loud and obnoxious— I was manic and had no idea. I felt miserable again. I kept hearing on the news about veteran suicides and how the VA was trying to prevent them. So the next morning I mustered my courage and went to the VA to sign up for benefits that I had earned but never requested. The clerks at the VA processed my paperwork for eligibility and then directed me to an acute mental health clinic in the building because it was clear that I couldn’t wait three weeks for an appointment to see a doctor.

I saw a doctor that afternoon who was nice and compassionate and who scared me by knowing all about my symptoms without me telling her much, if anything. I had “manic bipolar” written on my forehead that day. And that’s when the paranoia set in. I got more and more scared that she was not going to let me leave the building. So abruptly in the middle of our conversation I told her that I had to leave, got up, and walked out the door. I walked to avoid the VA police’s attention but wanted to run as fast as I could because I knew that behind me in those hallways were giant beach balls coming to get me. Somehow I made it to a nearby park where I stayed until dusk because I was convinced that the police were at my house looking for me.

When I got home that night, I discovered that nobody was looking for me. This, combined with the ebbing of the paranoia (the exercise probably didn’t hurt), gave me the courage to go back to the VA the next day to see the same doctor. She prescribed a different mood stabilizer than the one I had tried previously, and I agreed to try it. This time the medication worked! It was as if I were wearing earplugs in a loud concert. I didn’t know it until then, but I had been hearing noises in my head for years. The medication silenced them. It was an amazing feeling to hear silence for the first time in just about forever.

The doctor and I agreed that because I was not working and because I was still fighting suicidal thoughts, I would enter the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, or PRRC, at the VA. The groups I went to concentrated on cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. I had to go through the groups a couple of times each—it took me about three years to feel comfortable leaving the program—but when I finished, it was because I was working and not struggling as much with suicidal thoughts. Some medications worked better than others, but I eventually found a regimen that keeps the noise in my head to a minimum and allows me to think clearly.

Before I graduated from the PRRC, I was afraid to practice law because I felt incompetent. It took a while, but I finally realized that having bipolar disorder does not make me stupid. While still in the PRRC, I enrolled in another program at the VA called Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, where the most incredible social worker in the world walked me through the process of first figuring out what I wanted to do (did I really want to fix computers or would I rather be a lawyer?) and then helped me figure out how to go about reaching my goal.

Once I decided that I’d rather be a broke lawyer than a broke computer tech, I called the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program and came in from the wilderness. I was nervous. It was one of the hardest calls I’ve ever made, but the TLAP people were incredibly helpful and compassionate. Senior staff attorney Cameron Vann answered, listened, and reassured me. I knew that the call was confidential, and she re-emphasized that. I gave her only my first name in the beginning. We talked a bit and I told her about my bar issues—I was then suspended from practicing for failing to take my CLEs. She said that she could help me get CLE credits. She also pointed me to a monthly TLAP group where I met people in the same boat as me and made friends.

For more information on suicide warning signs and prevention, go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org or facebook.com/AFSPnational. For the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call (800) 273-8255.

State Bar of Texas Harvey Media Reports – Sept. 12, 2017

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 09:08

Editor’s Note: The State Bar of Texas is providing a daily collection of important links, blog posts, and media stories to keep its members and the public informed of the latest news and resources related to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

Important Harvey Links

If you are an attorney who has been adversely affected or wish to assist a colleague, please take a moment to complete the State Bar of Texas’ Hurricane Harvey assistance survey.

If you would like to donate money to the hurricane relief effort in Texas, you can give through the Texas Bar Foundation by clicking here.

If you are an attorney who wants to help by giving brief advice, limited-scope service, or full representation to Harvey survivors, please complete the form at texasbar.com/attorneyvolunteer.

State Bar Disaster Resources for Attorneys — Information on this page includes recovery plans, court closures, court orders, and other items.

State Bar Disaster Resources the Public — The State Bar of Texas legal hotline — (800) 504-7030 — helps people find answers to basic legal questions and connects them with local legal aid providers following declared disasters.

Latest Harvey News

Thousands are still living in Houston’s biggest shelters — Thousands of people are still living in Houston’s two biggest shelters. The Red Cross is trying to trim the number of people staying at the George R. Brown Convention Center, while the NRG Center is getting more people made homeless by the storm. — Houston Public Media

Houston nonprofit searches for Texas who vanished during Harvey — Texas Center for the Missing, a Houston nonprofit, is helping to track down the Texans who vanished during Harvey, a ferocious storm that killed more than 70 people. — Houston Press

Criminal courts move out of criminal courthouse — Houston’s lawyers and judges compared it to the first day of college, with people looking for their courtrooms – which were spread out across at least five county buildings, like classrooms scattered across a small campus. — Houston Chronicle

In hurricane season, worries rise that graves will be unearthed — Hurricane Harvey floodwaters exposed dozens of caskets at swamped cemeteries in Texas and Louisiana last month, the grim result of shallow graves set in spongy soil, and a scene that may reappear as Florida cleans up after Hurricane Irma this week. — The Dallas Morning News

Mayor seeks temporary property tax hike for Harvey recovery — Mayor Sylvester Turner will ask City Council to approve an 8.9 percent hike in the city’s property tax rate this fall to help Houston recover from Hurricane Harvey. — Houston Chronicle

For many in Houston without flood insurance, SBA loans offer a lifeline — For the victims of Hurricane Harvey without flood insurance, which experts have estimated is as much as 80 percent of Houston homeowners, long-term relief will not come without a price. — Houston Press

Emmett: All options on table to improve flood control after Harvey — As the Houston area continues the process of recovery from Tropical Storm Harvey’s widespread destruction, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Monday called for a sweeping reexamination of the region’s flood control strategy. — Houston Chronicle

Texas GOP leaders pushing for high-dollar, long-delayed flood infrastructure projects — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other state leaders are eyeing a long-delayed reservoir project experts say would’ve saved thousands of Houston homes from flooding. — The Texas Tribune

At long last, students return to school in Houston ISD, other area districts — Ten of the Houston area’s largest school districts reopened Monday after a two-week delay caused by Hurricane Harvey, returning a sense of routine to a community still reeling from massive flooding. — Houston Chronicle

All but two SE Texas refineries restarting — Gasoline prices are starting to fall after peaking late last week as temporary shortages caused by Hurricane Harvey begin to ease. — Beaumont Enterprise

Texas congressman concerned about Beaumont prisoners after Harvey — U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, is asking about prisoner safety in Beaumont after Hurricane Harvey. Inmates stayed put at state and federal prisons while the city lost its water supply for about a week. — The Texas Tribune

Mexico drops Harvey aid to Texas, citing its own natural disasters — Mexico said Monday it is withholding its promised Hurricane Harvey assistance to Texas, citing its own series of natural disasters, from a hurricane to the most powerful earthquake to hit the nation in a century. — The Dallas Morning News

Opinion: Swanburg: Hurricane Irma advice from a planner who survived Harvey — With Irma razing Florida, it is inevitable that misfortune will multiply. These are times when people need financial planners the most. — Bank Investment Consultant

State Bar search committee recommends Trey Apffel for executive director

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 19:19

The State Bar of Texas Executive Director Search Committee on Monday nominated E.A. “Trey” Apffel III as its recommendation for executive director out of seven finalists. The Board of Directors will consider the recommendation at an open meeting on September 22 in Lubbock.

“All seven finalists were impressive and highly qualified,” said Bob Black, a Beaumont lawyer who serves as chair of the search committee. “Everyone brought wonderful gifts to the table, but ultimately the overwhelming consensus choice was Trey Apffel.”

Apffel is the owner and principal of the Apffel Law Firm in League City, where he focuses on personal injury litigation, toxic torts, and medical malpractice. His practice also includes family law and divorce. He has practiced in Galveston County for more than 30 years.

The State Bar Board of Directors in April appointed the search committee, a diverse group of private citizens, people with significant experience in hiring executive leadership, members of the State Bar board, and other members of the bar. A committee roster is available at texasbar.com/ed-search.

To ensure a comprehensive search, the committee hired the national firm Young Mayden LLC to conduct the search and recruit potential candidates. Young Mayden has wide-ranging experience conducting executive director searches for bar associations throughout the country, including the Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York State, Wisconsin, and American bar associations.

More than 140 people from across the country submitted expressions of interest in the State Bar of Texas executive director position. After careful review, the search committee selected seven candidates to interview Monday in Austin.

The new executive director will succeed Michelle Hunter, who retired August 31 after nearly nine years as executive director and two decades on the State Bar staff. State Bar legal counsel John Sirman has been named interim executive director until the new executive director begins work.

Apffel has served as State Bar of Texas president (2014-2015), on the State Bar Board of Directors, as a member of the board’s Executive Committee, and as chair of the Legislative Policy Committee. He is a former member of the Commission for Lawyer Discipline. He is a member of the Texas Bar College, a Texas Bar Foundation Life Fellow, and served on the Texas Bar Foundation Board of Trustees.

Apffel is a member of the Galveston County Bar Association and served as the organization’s president in 1996-1997. He is an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates and a director of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.

Stories of Recovery: BPD and me

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 16:51

Editor’s note: This is the first of four special posts in the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series for National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

One day the stress of life that most people handle without incident overcame me. That afternoon I put a belt around my neck and tried to take my life. By the grace of God, a loved one stopped me. Then began the journey to recovery. Over the course of three years, I was admitted to the hospital four times and tried to take my life twice. One admission was over two months. It was during this admission that I discovered I had borderline personality disorder, or BPD.

BPD is a complex mental disorder affecting 5.9 percent of the U.S. population—50 percent more than Alzheimer’s disease and nearly as many as schizophrenia and bipolar combined (2.25 percent). There are nine criteria of BPD of which five must be present to have the diagnosis. The common denominator of BPD is difficulty regulating the difficult emotions—sadness, anger, fear, envy, jealousy, shame, guilt, and disgust.

In my personal case, fear and anger were troublesome. While I was not violent, I was verbally abusive toward those I loved. Their pain was real. Unfortunately, for people suffering from BPD, the mental struggle can be too great and they attempt suicide. Seventy percent of BPD patients attempt suicide and 10 percent kill themselves. What made my struggle different was that I learned of my illness late in life, after harming so many.
I missed trial dates, hid from my obligations, and abused alcohol. If it had not been for the assistance of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, my clients would have been doomed. TLAP was there when I got out of the hospital and provided me with resources to educate judges about my illness. Letters were written on my behalf and trials reset. The end result was that my practice was saved.

Recovering from BPD has been a journey. I finally got the right treatment, including individual therapy, group therapy, and medication. By no means am I cured. There is no cure. It, like many illnesses, is something I must live with 24/7. I have learned the right skills to regulate my emotions, discovered mindful meditation, and fostered love of myself. The prognosis is very good for BDP, if the correct treatment is obtained and the patient is willing to do the hard work.

I am thankful for my family, who silently suffered while watching my life spin out of control. I am thankful for my profession, which understands that mental illness is just that, an illness and not a death sentence. I am thankful for TLAP for being there when I needed answers. Every day is a new day, and I am thankful most of all for that.

For more information on suicide warning signs and prevention, go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at afsp.org or facebook.com/AFSPnational. For the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call (800) 273-8255.

Updates for the latest information on Hurricane Irma

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 13:26

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Bar has created a webpage to provide up-to-date information to Florida Bar members and Floridians as it becomes available.

The site provides the latest news and links to information about Florida courts, resources for legal aid, volunteer opportunities for pro bono attorneys, and resources to aid in recovery.

Links for updates from the Florida Supreme Court and Florida courts are provided. Information on how to contact the Occupational Safety Councils of America is available.

Access to and information on volunteer opportunities through the Florida Bar Foundation and Florida Free Legal Answers is also provided.

Resources for lawyers with questions about response and recovery are available on the page or at pri.floridabar.org. Lawyers can find links to the American Bar Association disaster response, FEMA, DisasterAssistance.gov, and services provided by the Florida Small Business Development Council.

State Bar of Texas Harvey Media Reports – Sept. 11, 2017

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 09:29

Editor’s Note: The State Bar of Texas is providing a daily collection of important links, blog posts, and media stories to keep its members and the public informed of the latest news and resources related to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

Important Harvey Links

If you are an attorney who has been adversely affected or wish to assist a colleague, please take a moment to complete the State Bar of Texas’ Hurricane Harvey assistance survey.

If you would like to donate money to the hurricane relief effort in Texas, you can give through the Texas Bar Foundation by clicking here.

If you are an attorney who wants to help by giving brief advice, limited-scope service, or full representation to Harvey survivors, please complete the form at texasbar.com/attorneyvolunteer.

State Bar Disaster Resources for Attorneys — Information on this page includes recovery plans, court closures, court orders, and other items.

State Bar Disaster Resources the Public — The State Bar of Texas legal hotline — (800) 504-7030 — helps people find answers to basic legal questions and connects them with local legal aid providers following declared disasters.

Latest Harvey News

In Focus: Legal assistance for Harvey victims (video) — State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick sits down with Elizabeth to talk about free legal assistance for Harvey victims and what people can do to keep their finances protected. — Spectrum News

Texans nervous that FEMA will shift attention after Hurricane Irma — Now, with FEMA likely to have two major disaster fronts simultaneously in Texas and Florida, anxieties are high that resources will be spread thin and people here will fall through the cracks. (Subscription required) — Houston Chronicle

Texas lawyers step up to offer free legal advice in wake of Hurricane Harvey — About 90 Baker Botts lawyers and their in-house attorney clients stepped up Thursday night to field at least 175 calls from Texans who had legal questions related to damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer

Harvey damage sidelines Houston courthouse for months — The busiest criminal courthouse in Texas will be closed for up to nine months to repair damage from Hurricane Harvey, and 900 criminal trials will be delayed for at least a month, officials said this week. — Courthouse News Service

After prosecutors fled flooding courthouse with a rope, Harris County courts finally (sort of) reopen — For the first time since Harvey dumped its relentless rains on Houston, the Harris County courts are back up and running Monday — albeit with judges, lawyers and various criminal justice agencies scattered around different buildings, having to share courtrooms and offices. Simply put, local criminal justice officials are about to get a little more cozy than usual. — Houston Press

First they fought the storm; Now, they fight their landlord — In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, many beleaguered South Texas residents are facing demands to pay rent on apartments that are uninhabitable, or that they can’t even get to. — NBC News

Seeking speedy recovery from Harvey, Abbott brings city, county $135M in FEMA funds — Saying he was aiming for a “land speed record” on recovery from Tropical Storm Harvey’s devastation, Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday handed out more than $135 million in advances from the federal government to Harris County and the city of Houston, the first chunk of what officials hope will be a sustained, expedited response to one of the worst natural disasters the country has ever seen. — Houston Chronicle

3 FEMA disaster recovery centers opening in Houston area — As the shelter population ebbs in the Houston area two weeks after Hurricane Harvey flooded thousands out of their homes, government agencies are shifting their focus to helping residents obtain federal assistance to rebuild their lives. — Houston Chronicle

Feds, Texas offer choices for students homeless after Harvey — Michael Evan Hilburn says he can’t wait to start kindergarten this week at a school about 20 miles from the Houston shelter where he and his father have been living since Harvey devastated the city. — The Associated Press

Analysis: Hurricane Harvey: Employer considerations in office closures and reopenings — Whenever emergency situations such as Hurricane Harvey cause office closures and such offices are subsequently reopened, Texas employers must remember several points to stay compliant with employment laws. — Texas Bar Blog

Baytown conducting damage assessment — The City of Baytown is assessing damage in the wake of Harvey. Baytown Planning and Development Services Director Tiffany Foster said the city has dispatched teams to look at damage. — The Baytown Sun

Friendswood police warn against price gouging, scams — As Friendswood lifts the curfew designed to prevent looting in flood-affected areas at 6 a.m. Sept. 7, the city’s police remind residents that the aftermath of a natural disaster and the process of rebuilding can bring new problems. — Houston Chronicle

Video: How to respond to suspected scams or price gouging — The State Bar of Texas released a video about how to respond to suspected scams or price gouging. — Texas Bar Blog

Hurricane Harvey: Employer considerations in office closures and reopenings

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 16:46

Whenever emergency situations such as Hurricane Harvey cause office closures and such offices are subsequently reopened, Texas employers must remember several points to stay compliant with employment laws.

•     In general, employees who are classified as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions must be paid a salary each week. This requirement to pay a salary includes time periods when the office may be closed, but the employee is ready, willing, and able to work.
•     Employees who are paid on an hourly basis must be paid for all time worked. Employees who work from home or other alternate locations should be required to track all time worked and report this time worked to their employers on a weekly or more frequent basis to ensure proper payment of these employees.

•     Employers with collective bargaining agreements or contracts with employees should review these documents for any additional pay requirements during office closures.
•     Dependent on the employers’ applicable policies, employers may require employees to use accrued, unused paid time off (except when the employee is taking workers’ compensation leave). Employers may also consider providing employees with temporary pay assistance as a form of an employment benefit while offices are closed.
•     Employers have a duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace. When considering reopening the office, the workplace should be evaluated for hazards (such as fall, electrocution, laceration, hazardous substances, and other hazards that may have been introduced by severe weather), and, whenever possible, hazards should be eliminated from the work area.
•     Once the office is reopened, encourage employees to use their best judgment in determining whether it is safe for the employees to travel from the employees’ homes to the office and to only report to the office if it is safe for the employees to do so. Please note that company insurance policies do not cover employees’ personal use of personal vehicles.
•     Employers should consider reminding employees of any employee assistance programs available through the employers’ benefit plans that could assist employees coping with the aftermath of an emergency.

 

Karen C. Denney is a partner in the Fort Worth office of Haynes and Boone.

Felicity A. Fowler is a partner in the Houston office of Haynes and Boone.

Laura E. O’Donnell is a partner in the San Antonio office of Haynes and Boone.

Video: How to respond to suspected scams or price gouging

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 09:30

The State Bar of Texas released a video about how to respond to suspected scams or price gouging.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office is warning consumers to stay on guard. “Price gouging is illegal, and the Office of the Attorney General has the authority to prosecute any business that engages in price gouging after a disaster has been declared by the governor,” a statement on its website said.

To file a complaint, go to the consumer protection division page at texasattorneygeneral.gov.

For more information on disaster response resources, go to texasbar.com/disasters.

Go here to view other short videos related to the State Bar’s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, courtesy of TheLaw.TV.

State Bar of Texas Harvey Media Reports – Sept. 8, 2017

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 09:09

Editor’s Note: The State Bar of Texas is providing a daily collection of important links, blog posts, and media stories to keep its members and the public informed of the latest news and resources related to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

Important Harvey Links

If you are an attorney who has been adversely affected or wish to assist a colleague, please take a moment to complete the State Bar of Texas’ Hurricane Harvey assistance survey.

If you would like to donate money to the hurricane relief effort in Texas, you can give through the Texas Bar Foundation by clicking here.

If you are an attorney who wants to help by giving brief advice, limited-scope service, or full representation to Harvey survivors, please complete the form at texasbar.com/attorneyvolunteer.

State Bar Disaster Resources for Attorneys — Information on this page includes recovery plans, court closures, court orders, and other items.

State Bar Disaster Resources the Public — The State Bar of Texas legal hotline — (800) 504-7030 — helps people find answers to basic legal questions and connects them with local legal aid providers following declared disasters.

Latest Harvey News

What lessons will Houston-area officials learn from Harvey? History gives us a clue — As Houston begins to recover from Harvey, a growing chorus of voices is calling for big policy changes to reduce flood damage from future disasters. Local officials haven’t said much about what they might pursue, but history offers some clues. — The Texas Tribune

Watchdog: A band of idiots, clowns and thieves are en route to flooded areas, and they’re up to no good — You may know this already, but you’re about to meet the most charming men in the world. Here, in your hours of greatest need, you’ll receive an unwanted barrage of telemarketers, deceitful fliers and obnoxious front-door visitors. They all want one thing. — The Dallas Morning News

Texans in Congress aim for united front ahead of long fight for Harvey aid — The 38 Texans in Congress aim to take advantage of their delegation’s size and seniority to usher large amounts of federal aid and resources to the state following Hurricane Harvey. The Senate approved $15.25 billion in short-term relief Thursday. — The Texas Tribune

Hey, Texplainer: What assistance is available to those affected by Harvey? — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering aid to people displaced by Harvey, but not everyone qualifies for their assistance. For those still in need of help, there are other options. — The Texas Tribune

Lawmakers troubled by ‘minimal’ state resources for Harvey relief — Officials from two state agencies that help with disaster assistance told lawmakers Thursday there is little state money available for Hurricane Harvey recovery. — Austin American-Statesman

Qatar giving $30 million to help Harvey victims in Texas — Qatar is donating $30 million to help people in Texas recover from Harvey, its ambassador said Thursday, as the Persian Gulf nation works to show it’s a constructive global player amid a diplomatic crisis with its neighbors. — The Associated Press

In battered Houston apartments, residents wonder whether to stay — As Collingwood Gardens apartments’ tenants weigh their options, Texas officials admit state funds to help displaced people are woefully inadequate and wait to see what aid package Congress approves. — The Texas Tribune

Landlord gives renters 5-day notice to vacate homes — A landlord has the right to terminate the contract if he or she believes the catastrophic damage is substantial, according to paragraph 26.5 of a standard lease agreement with the Texas Apartment Association. That’s exactly why Windy Shores has taken action. — KRIS – Corpus Christi

First responders sue Harvey-flooded plant after chemical fire — When first responders were sent to the scene of a chemical fire at a manufacturing plant last week, they were never alerted to the toxic fumes in the air, a new lawsuit alleges. And the plant’s parent company could face another lawsuit in the next several weeks. — The Texas Tribune

Dozens of accused felons could be freed after missed deadline because of storm — Dozens of suspects in jail on felony charges, some as violent as murder or child molestation, may soon be free on minimal bail after the Harris County District Attorney’s Office missed deadlines to indict, largely because of Hurricane Harvey. — Houston Chronicle

Status of Harris County courts; Criminal Justice Center closed indefinitely in wake of Harvey — Judge Sylvia Matthews issued the following update on the status of Harris County courts. — Texas Bar Blog

World War II plane returns to action delivering hurricane supplies — A 73-year-old World War II plane came out of semiretirement in Central Texas to deliver supplies to Hurricane Harvey victims. — Austin American-Statesman

Economist says deporting DACA recipients could boost a post-Harvey labor shortage (Audio) — The Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was largely expected. But as Marfa Public Radio’s Caroline Halter reports, it comes at a time when Hurricane Harvey is refocusing a spotlight on the role of immigrant labor in Texas. — Texas Standard

Will memories of Hurricane Harvey scare business away from Houston? — The nation’s fourth-largest city has been confronted with a challenge that could overpower its economic prowess — a perception that it’s prone to catastrophic flooding that regularly grinds business to a halt. — The Dallas Morning News

Mayor urges people to report price gouging and scams — Have you seen any price gouging or scams? If so, report it. — KHOU – Houston

Slideshow: Digging out from Hurricane Harvey — Since Hurricane Harvey first hit the Texas coast on Aug. 25, Texans have had to come to terms with widespread damage caused by the storm. Take a look at just some of what Texans are dealing with. — The Texas Tribune

State Bar of Texas in the News

Technology, Harvey, and the attorney ‘first responder’  — Social media is a key piece of this strategy. Lowell Brown, communications division director for the State Bar of Texas, said that social media is playing a central role in the state bar’s communications efforts. (Subscription required) — The National Law Journal

Texas Legal Answers adds disaster category, volunteers to help with Harvey relief — Texas Legal Answers is a free online legal advice clinic where people can post their non-criminal legal questions and receive answers from volunteer lawyers. The site—TexasLegalAnswers.org—is the product of a partnership between the State Bar of Texas and the American Bar Association. — Texas Bar Blog

Video: Disaster victims should report improper solicitations by lawyers — In Texas, it is a crime for a lawyer or someone representing a lawyer to contact a disaster victim for purposes of legal representation if the victim has not first requested the call or personal visit. — Texas Bar Blog

Texas Legal Answers adds disaster category, volunteers to help with Harvey relief

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 10:19

Texas Legal Answers is a free online legal advice clinic where people can post their non-criminal legal questions and receive answers from volunteer lawyers. The site—TexasLegalAnswers.org—is the product of a partnership between the State Bar of Texas and the American Bar Association.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, dozens of attorney volunteers have joined Texas Legal Answers. They are now able to assist people with their disaster-related legal questions on topics such as insurance concerns, renter’s rights, employment matters, and consumer protection issues, among others.

Read the full news release here.

 

Status of Harris County courts; Criminal Justice Center closed indefinitely in wake of Harvey

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 09:53

Judge Sylvia Matthews issued the following update on the status of Harris County courts:

201 Caroline: The Harris County Civil Courthouse sustained minimal damage in the storm and reopened Sept. 5.

Jury Trials: The civil district courts will not call cases for jury trials in September or October.

Courtroom Locations: The Criminal Justice Center sustained significant damage and will remain closed indefinitely due to flooding and other related damage. Most of the displaced criminal district courts will move to 201 Caroline. The civil district, family district, and county probate courts will combine courtrooms to make room for the criminal district courts.

Starting Sept. 11, the four civil courts on floors 9-12 will be sharing two courtrooms. Two criminal district courts will be assigned to the open courtroom. For example, the 11th and the 55th will be using the 55th courtroom.

Information about the sharing of courts will be available on the justex.net website.

Security: We have asked the Constable Alan Rosen to open all four security lines to screen visitors.

Elevators: Three of the six elevators serving the upper floors are under repair. By assigning some of the criminal courts to the lower floors, we hope to minimize the impact on the working upper level elevators. The freight elevator will be available for use. Allow an extra 15 minutes for security and elevator time.

State Bar of Texas Harvey Media Reports – Sept. 7, 2017

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 09:35

Editor’s Note: The State Bar of Texas is providing a daily collection of important links, blog posts, and media stories to keep its members and the public informed of the latest news and resources related to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

Important Harvey Links

If you have been adversely affected or wish to assist a colleague, please take a moment to complete the State Bar of Texas’ Hurricane Harvey assistance survey.

If you would like to donate money to the hurricane relief effort in Texas, you can give through the Texas Bar Foundation by clicking here.

If you are an attorney who wants to help by giving brief advice, limited-scope service, or full representation to Harvey survivors, please complete the form at texasbar.com/attorneyvolunteer.

State Bar Disaster Resources for Attorneys — Information on this page includes recovery plans, court closures, court orders, and other items.

State Bar Disaster Resources the Public — The State Bar of Texas legal hotline — (800) 504-7030 — helps people find answers to basic legal questions and connects them with local legal aid providers following declared disasters.

Disaster recovery centers to open in 3 more Texas counties — The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday it would open three additional disaster recovery centers in Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey. — Texas Bar Blog

Video: Hotline helps disaster victims with destroyed legal documents, insurance claims — The State Bar of Texas’ legal hotline can assist disaster victims with replacing lost or destroyed legal documents or those who need help with insurance claims or home repairs. — Texas Bar Blog

Latest Harvey News

Trump sides with Democrats in deal that ties Harvey relief to debt ceiling hike — The deal, announced by House and Senate Democratic leaders, ties Hurricane Harvey relief to a host of pressing fiscal issues the federal government must address in the coming weeks. — The Texas Tribune

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appoints hurricane recovery czar — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is appointing the chancellor of Texas A&M University to oversee the rebuilding of state coastal communities following Hurricane Harvey. — The Wall Street Journal

After Hurricane Harvey, Texas lawyers come to the rescue — Using a pool float and a borrowed boat, Houston lawyer Hal Hale helped rescue as many as 75 people in west Houston last week­­—Hurricane Harvey victims who were trapped in houses or apartments filled with floodwaters from the hurricane’s downpour. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer

Continuing coverage: Rob Ellis: Saving lives and gutting homes — The Texas Lawbook is providing constant updates on Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the legal community. (Subscription required) — The Texas Lawbook

Storm damage forces courts to relocate for months, disrupting criminal cases — Houston’s misdemeanor and felony courts will be relocated for the next six to nine months because of storm damage to the Harris County criminal courthouse, the county’s judges announced Wednesday. — Houston Chronicle

City to provide up to a year of housing for 300 Harvey evacuees — Houston officials are considering leasing a warehouse in east downtown to provide a year of housing for up to 300 Harvey flood victims still sheltered at the George R. Brown Convention Center a few blocks away. — Houston Chronicle

Video: Harris County judge expects large-scale buyout of houses — Harris County Judge Edward Emmett discusses the recovery from Hurricane Harvey. — Bloomberg

Chief Judge DiFiore sends pro bono help to Texas to aid Hurricane Harvey victims — Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced the creation of a task force on Wednesday that will send pro bono legal help to Texas in order to lend assistance to those dealing with Hurricane Harvey victims. — Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Mayor Turner: ‘We shouldn’t do any building in flood-prone areas’ — PBS NewsHour Correspondent Marcia Biggs caught up with Mayor Sylvester Turner in Northeast Houston. — Houston Public Media

In Harvey’s wake, critics see big money behind lax petrochemical reporting — In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, an exploding chemical plant and spikes in cancer-causing emissions are highlighting how little the public knows about potential dangers from the oil and chemical industries. Critics say one reason for the darkness: tons of campaign money. — The Texas Tribune

A year before Harvey, Houston-area flood control chief saw no ‘looming issues’ — Experts say the flooding in the Houston region could have wreaked far less havoc if local officials had made different decisions over the last several decades. But the former head of a key flood control agency strongly disagreed with that take in an interview last year. — The Texas Tribune

Who is responsible for hurricane damage? Suits could be based on climate-change science — Pioneering lawsuits based on climate-change science could blame hurricane damage on municipal planners, architects and engineers who failed to plan for foreseeable damages, some lawyers say. — ABA Journal

What to do when the FEMA inspector arrives for an inspection — If you apply for FEMA assistance after Hurricane Harvey, an inspector will call and schedule an appointment as the first step toward receiving aid from the federal agency. — Houston Chronicle

An apartment dweller’s guide to managing Harvey’s aftermath — Should flooded-out apartment dwellers get their current unit repaired, move to a different unit within the same complex or seek lodging elsewhere? — Houston Chronicle

Hurricane Harvey: Swan Songs musicians sing to nursing home evacuees — Myrtle Wendell rests in the bed of a Bee Cave nursing home tapping her hands to the music of “Take These Chains From My Heart” by Hank Williams. At times she closes her eyes or tries to sing along softly. — Austin American-Statesman

McKinney Falls State Park offers refuge – and distraction – for Harvey evacuees — Standing on the bank of Onion Creek at McKinney Falls State Park, De Ding watches his wife and two kids splash in the water. — KUT – Austin

Video: Disaster victims should report improper solicitations by lawyers

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 09:30

The State Bar of Texas has released a video on what to do if you are solicited by a lawyer or someone who says he or she is a lawyer.

In Texas, it is a crime for a lawyer or someone representing a lawyer to contact a disaster victim for purposes of legal representation if the victim has not first requested the call or personal visit.

If you witness this, get the name and phone number of the person making contact and report it to local law enforcement or the State Bar Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office toll-free at (866) 224-5999.

Go here to view other short videos related to the State Bar’s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, courtesy of TheLaw.TV. For more information and resources, go to texasbar.com/disasters.

Disaster recovery centers to open in 3 more Texas counties

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 16:11

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday it would open three additional disaster recovery centers in Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The new State of Texas/FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers were set to open in San Patricio County in the city of Ingleside; in Calhoun County in the city Port Lavaca; and in Victoria County in the city of Victoria. 

The state and FEMA previously opened centers in Harris, Jackson, Colorado, and Fayette counties.

The centers offer in-person support to individuals and businesses in 39 counties included in the Texas federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent floods. Recovery specialists from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration, the state, and other agencies will be at the centers to talk about assistance and to help anyone who needs guidance in filing an application.

The new centers are at the following locations:

Bay Vista Center
Suite 174 & 178
2334 Hwy 361
Ingleside TX 78362
Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Pattie Dodson Public Health Center
2805 N. Navarro
Victoria TX 77901
Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Calhoun County Public Library
200 West Mahan St.
Port Lavaca TX 77979
Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If possible, homeowners, renters and businesses should register with FEMA before visiting a recovery center. Eligible residents may register for assistance the following ways:

  •   Online at DisasterAssistance.gov.
  •   Phone 800-621-3362 (voice, 711/VRS-Video Relay Service) (TTY: 800-462-7585). Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish).
  • Via the FEMA app, available for Apple and Android mobile devices. To downloadvisit: fema.gov/mobile-app.

The following information is helpful when registering:

  •   Address of the location where the damage occurred (pre-disaster address).
  •   Current mailing address.
  •   Current telephone number.
  •   Insurance information.
  •   Total household annual income.
  •   Routing and account number for checking or savings account (this allows FEMA to directly transfer disaster assistance funds into a bank account).
  • A description of disaster-caused damage and losses. Disaster survivors can visit any of the centers for assistance. Locations of other recovery centers are online at www.fema.gov/DRC.

Homeowners, renters and businesses in Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Dewitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzalez, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Sabine, San Jacinto, Refugio, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Waller, Walker and Wharton may be eligible for help.

Video: Hotline helps disaster victims with destroyed legal documents, insurance claims

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 09:30

The State Bar of Texas’ legal hotline can assist disaster victims with replacing lost or destroyed legal documents or those who need help with insurance claims or home repairs.

Call the hotline at (800) 504-7030 for answers to basic legal questions. The toll-free hotline—answered in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese—is designed to connect low-income people affected by disasters with legal aid providers in their area. Callers can leave a message anytime, and people who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help.

Go here to view other short videos related to the State Bar’s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, courtesy of TheLaw.TV. For more information, go to texasbar.com/disasters.

State Bar of Texas Harvey Media Reports – Sept. 6, 2017

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 09:12

Editor’s Note: The State Bar of Texas is providing a daily collection of important links, blog posts, and media stories to keep its members and the public informed of the latest news and resources related to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

Important Harvey Links

If you have been adversely affected or wish to assist a colleague, please take a moment to complete the State Bar of Texas’ Hurricane Harvey assistance survey.

If you would like to donate money to the hurricane relief effort in Texas, you can give through the Texas Bar Foundation by clicking here.

If you are an attorney who wants to help by giving brief advice, limited-scope service, or full representation to Harvey survivors, please complete the form at texasbar.com/attorneyvolunteer.

State Bar Disaster Resources for Attorneys — Information on this page includes recovery plans, court closures, court orders, and other items.

State Bar Disaster Resources the Public — The State Bar of Texas legal hotline — (800) 504-7030 — helps people find answers to basic legal questions and connects them with local legal aid providers following declared disasters.

State, FEMA open 4 Disaster Recovery Centers — The State of Texas and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have opened four Disaster Recovery Centers in Harris, Jackson, Colorado, and Fayette counties. — Texas Bar Blog

Video: How you can apply for federal disaster aid — The State Bar of Texas released a video on how to apply for federal disaster aid. — Texas Bar Blog

 

Latest Harvey News

Congress to speed up Harvey aid, tackle debt limit — Lawmakers returned to Washington Tuesday facing a daunting to-do list and three months left in the year to show that Republicans can actually get things done. President Donald Trump immediately added a huge complication by rescinding immigration protections for younger immigrants and ordering Congress to come up with a fix. — The Associated Press

Harvey deals costly blow to local criminal justice system — One of the buildings closed was the county’s criminal justice center, where the deluge forced sewage to explode out of bathrooms up to the second floor, rain and winds shattered windows and disrupted a chilling system that caused several water leaks, Harris County Engineer John Blount said. — Houston Chronicle

Texas churches sue FEMA for equal access to Harvey flood aid — Three Texas churches devastated by Hurricane Harvey floodwaters sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency for access to disaster relief funds routinely provided to non-profit organizations such as zoos and museums, but denied to religious groups. — Bloomberg

Government faces suit over Addicks and Barker dam releases — A group of flooded-out Harris County homeowners and businesses sued the federal government on Tuesday, accusing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of knowingly condemning their properties by releasing water from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs after Hurricane Harvey. — Houston Chronicle

Post-Harvey, Houston law schools reopen, with challenges — Classes resumed Tuesday at Houston’s three law schools after being canceled for a week due to flooding in the area from Hurricane Harvey. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer

Nearly a week after Harvey’s exit, floodwaters persist in some areas — Nearly a week after the rain stopped, floodwaters still covered major roads in Southeast Texas on Tuesday, threatening to submerge even the highest clearance pickups. — Austin American-Statesman

Hotels hard to come by for Houstonians approved for FEMA assistance — FEMA approved her for temporary shelter assistance, but she said she can’t find a hotel in her area that’s available. — Houston Public Media

Abbott: No hazardous waste sites in Houston area found leaking so far — Gov. Abbott said Tuesday that an inspection of hazardous waste sites and landfills in the Houston area has found no evidence so far of any leakage or health threats. — Houston Chronicle

Air monitors detect cancer-causing compound as environmental concerns grow in east Harris County — Independent air monitors have detected a plume of cancer-causing benzene near homes and businesses outside a Valero Energy oil refinery in east Houston, raising concerns among environmentalists and city officials who say the compound is nearly twice the state limits for short-term exposure. — Houston Chronicle

Hospitals see uptick in skin infections from Harvey — Amid concern about floodwaters brimming with contaminants, Houston-area hospitals, emergency departments and clinics are reporting an influx of patients with symptoms related to Tropical Storm Harvey. — Houston Chronicle

Q&A: Harvey flooding impact on insurance, liability, legal documents — Q. Is the damage to my home caused by Hurricane Harvey insured under my homeowner’s policy? — Houston Chronicle

Ohio’s chief justice urges lawyers to offer free legal aid — The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court is urging lawyers in the state to offer free legal assistance to victims of Hurricane Harvey. — The Associated Press

Beaumont neighborhood residents: ‘We lost everything we worked for’ — Frankie Hare braced himself for the worst before returning to his Northwest Forest home for the first time Tuesday, but nothing could have prepared him for the “pure devastation” he saw there. — Beaumont Enterprise

Warning: Harvey-related scams on the rise — The Office of the Texas Attorney General told the I-Team it has already received nearly 3,000 complaints since Harvey hit the Gulf Coast on August 25th. — KTVT – D/FW

Southeast Texans should watch out for wildlife while clearing Harvey debris — Animals seeking shelter from floods might be found hiding in debris as Houston residents return for post-hurricane cleanup, state officials warned Tuesday. — The Texas Tribune

State Bar of Texas in the News

Lawyers offering help to Hurricane Harvey victims include 1,600 volunteers from across the nation — Lawyers from legal-aid organizations and law firms have been working shifts at Texas shelters to offer free help for Hurricane Harvey victims, while at least 1,600 lawyers from across the nation have filled out a state bar form to offer their volunteer help. — ABA Journal

State, FEMA open 4 Disaster Recovery Centers

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 10:05

The State of Texas and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have opened four Disaster Recovery Centers in Harris, Jackson, Colorado, and Fayette counties.

The centers offer in-person support to individuals and businesses who are included in the 38-county federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent floods. Disaster survivors can visit any of the centers for assistance. Recovery specialists from the state, FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and other agencies will be at the centers to provide assistance information and to help anyone who needs guidance in filing an application.

The Disaster Recovery Centers are at the following locations:

  • George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, Houston. Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m
  • Cowboy Memorial Football Stadium, 1303 West Gayle St., Edna. Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Colorado County Services Facility, 305 Radio Lane, Columbus. Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m
  • Randolph Recreation-Activity Center, 653 East Pearl St., La Grange. Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Federal disaster assistance has been approved for the following counties as of Sept. 5 (additional counties could be added to this list as recovery efforts continue): Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller, and Wharton.

Disaster Recovery Centers are accessible to people with disabilities and have assistive technology for people with hearing and vision loss. Video Remote Interpreting is available and in-person sign language is available by request.

If possible, people should register with FEMA before visiting a recovery center. Eligible residents may register for assistance the following ways:

  • Online by filling out an application here.
  • Phone 800-621-3362
  • Via the FEMA app, available for Apple and Android mobile devices. To download visit: fema.gov/mobile-app.

FEMA indicates the following information is helpful when registering:

  • Address of the location where the damage occurred (pre-disaster address)
  • Current mailing address
  • Current telephone number
  • Insurance information.
  • Total household annual income
  • Routing and account number for checking or savings account (this allows FEMA to directly transfer disaster assistance funds into a bank account)
  • A description of disaster-caused damage and losses

As other recovery centers come online, people can search for the center closest to them here.

Video: How you can apply for federal disaster aid

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 09:30

The State Bar of Texas released a video on how to apply for federal disaster aid.

Go to the FEMA website at fema.gov for resources and information on the federal response to Hurricane Harvey. To apply for assistance, go to disasterassistance.gov. Those without internet access can call (800) 621-FEMA.

Legal aid agencies can help people apply when they call the State Bar’s legal hotline at (800) 504-7030.

Go here to view other short videos related to the State Bar’s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, courtesy of TheLaw.TV. For more disaster relief information and resources, go to texasbar.com/disasters.

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