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State Bar of Texas Harvey Media Reports – Sept. 15, 2017

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 08:33

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

Hurricane Harvey: Reports of 82 Texas deaths, but state still investigating — More than 80 people were likely killed in Texas as a result of Hurricane Harvey, which struck the state about three weeks ago and brought record flooding to the Houston area, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Thursday. — Reuters

Will Hurricane Irma pull federal resources away from Harvey aid? — With both Texas and Florida recovering from massive hurricanes, members of Congress from the two states are actively avoiding turning hurricane aid into a competition. — The Texas Tribune

Ahead of 2019 session, Speaker Joe Straus orders Texas House to research Harvey issues — “We know that this is not going to be a normal legislative interim,” Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said Thursday as he directed House committees to research policy issues related to Hurricane Harvey. — The Texas Tribune

Investigation underway related to evacuation of flooded Port Arthur nursing home during Harvey — A criminal search warrant was served at the Lake Arthur Place Nursing & Rehabilitation center in Port Arthur Thursday afternoon. — KBMT – Beaumont

EPA won’t release benzene levels collected post-Harvey; private tests show elevated levels — Environmental groups hired a private firm after the flooding and found higher than normal levels of dangerous chemicals in the air around a refinery. — The Texas Tribune

Former Shell president named Houston’s recovery czar — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner created a new position to help the city move forward. He appointed former Shell Oil Company CEO Marvin Odum as chief recovery officer. — KHOU – Houston

Texas General Land Office to lead Harvey housing effort — The Texas General Land Office, the agency tasked with managing state-owned lands, will oversee short- and long-term housing for Texans displaced by Hurricane Harvey, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday. — Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Lawsuits allege government liable for damage caaused by water releases during Harvey — Texas plaintiffs firms have begun filing lawsuits on behalf of clients who live in Houston neighborhoods that flooded when the Army Corps of Engineers authorized controlled water releases from two reservoirs in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The suits allege that the intentional flooding was an unlawful government taking of property. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer

Free legal classes for flood victims at ‘People’s Law School’ — The “People’s Law School” is designed to provide useful information to individuals about their legal rights. This session of the People’s Law School will focus on the legal issues faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In addition to the classes, volunteer attorneys will be available to answer your questions. — Texas Bar Blog

Discounts for home and garden

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 08:00

Does your home need a refresh? With your Beneplace discount website, you’ll find great deals on housewares, appliances, home décor and much more. Browse the “Home & Garden” category on the site to view and compare offers.

With Whirlpool’s Inside Pass Program, enjoy substantial savings on trusted appliances, accessories and other items for your home. You’ll find products from Maytag, KitchenAid, Amana, Whirlpool and more. Or shop World Kitchen for 20% off top brands for your kitchen, including Corelle, Pyrex and CorningWare. Take 15% off select home cleaning robots from iRobot, plus get free shipping on all robot orders.

Save on window treatments, rugs and art with Finecraft. Discover unique food and lifestyle products while supporting remote artisans with GlobeIn. You’ll get your first basket free with a three-month subscription. Saatchi Art is the world’s leading online art gallery—enjoy 8% off original art or prints. Save 20% on eco-friendly outdoor furniture from Loll Designs. Their durable, all-weather, outdoor furniture and accessories are made using recycled plastic.

Find all this and much more through your Beneplace discount website. Check back regularly for new deals and limited-time offers.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

Free legal classes for flood victims at “People’s Law School”

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 15:47

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

This is your chance to learn more about your legal rights, and have fun at the same time. Best of all, it is absolutely free.

On Saturday, September 30th, the Center for Consumer Law at the University of Houston Law Center, with the sponsorship of the Houston Lawyer Referral Service, will host more than 40 volunteer lawyers, judges, and law professors, teaching courses in several different areas of law.

The “People’s Law School” is designed to provide useful information to individuals about their legal rights. This session of the People’s Law School will focus on the legal issues faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In addition to the classes, volunteer attorneys will be available to answer your questions.

Classes will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on the main campus of the University of Houston Law Center. There will be classes focusing on the legal issues faced in the aftermath of Harvey, insurance, FEMA, consumer/landlord tenant, bankruptcy, credit and debt collection, tax, wills, immigration, government benefits, family law and more.There also are classes in how to work with an attorney and a class on how you can find information on the law on the Internet.

Each person may choose three classes to attend. Every class will be taught by a different instructor, with a different approach, so feel free to take a class more than once if you are really interested in the subject matter.

All instructors are volunteer attorneys from the Houston area, and most of the instructors are happy to answer individual questions after class. Dozens of law students and members of the University of Houston Law Center are available to help with everything from the free coffee and donuts, to the final evaluation form. Everyone who attends also receives comprehensive written materials to supplement the classes.

As the almost 40,000 people who have attended the People’s Law School in the past have discovered, when it comes to the law, knowledge really is power. The “People’s Law School” won’t make you an attorney, but it will help you settle disputes and avoid problems. Whether you are buying a car, preparing a will, dealing with a debt collector or in a dispute with your neighbor, knowing your legal rights can make a difference.

Although there is no charge for the “People’s Law School,” you must pre-register to attend. Registration is limited to the first 1,000 people. To register, simply visit, www.peopleslawyer.net.

 

State Bar, FOIFT honor watchdog journalism with awards

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 15:22

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the State Bar of Texas on Thursday honored some of 2016’s best examples of watchdog journalism. The awards were presented at the FOI Foundation’s state conference in Austin.

The Dallas Morning News and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times won the Spirit of FOI Award for reports exposing problems with the state’s child welfare system and with one city’s police response to domestic violence.

The Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award, presented by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, highlights journalism that upholds First Amendment principles and promotes or uses open government laws such as the Texas Public Information Act.

The Dallas Morning News won in the large market category for documenting chronic problems with the Texas child welfare system, including the fact that thousands of children weren’t being visited by caseworkers. Their work caused lawmakers to take action.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times won in the Class A market category for stories and commentary on the tragic death of Naomi Villarreal, a victim of domestic violence. Caller-Times reporters Krista M. Torralva and Natalia Contreras were also honored by the State Bar of Texas and its Texas Gavel Awards for that same series of articles.

The Texas Gavel Awards recognize excellence in journalism that fosters public understanding of the legal system; educates the public about the rule of law, the legal profession, and the judicial branch of government; and discloses practices or procedures needing correction to improve the justice system.

Torralva and Contreras won the Texas Gavel Award in the print, non-metro category for its “Behind Broken Doors” series that explored the city’s deadly domestic violence problem, revealed flaws in the justice system, and sparked action in the community.

In the print, major-metro category, Patrick Michels, formerly of the Texas Observer, won for “Who Guards the Guardians,” an investigative piece that took an in-depth look at the complex system of guardianship cases across the state. Michels found guardianships in Texas ballooned 60 percent from 2011 to 2015, and his reporting concluded that oversight to ensure guardianships aren’t being used as a tool for abuse or theft is lacking across most of the state.

And in the broadcast major-metro category KXAN-TV’s Josh Hinkle, David Barer, Brian Collister, Ben Friberg, Chad Cross and Joe Ellis won with “Border Splurge: Texas’ Billion-Dollar Drug War,” a nine-month series that analyzed 32,000 border arrest records. The team’s reporting concluded that despite a $1.6 billion commitment of taxpayer dollars, few of the people arrested on the border were considered to be high-threat criminals. The team reported that accounts from local law enforcement and drug seizures indicate drugs are still making their way across the border and into Central Texas despite the expenditure and crackdown.

To learn more about the Texas Gavel Awards and read or watch the winning submissions, go here.

Job scam targets law office applicants

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 13:30

A recent job posting on Indeed.com and other job listing sites that offered an office assistant position with Bertha Gutierrez, P.C., is a scam.

Applicants to the post received a response email claiming to be from Gutierrez that said, “Thank you very much for your application. We really appreciate you taking the time to consider us as a potential employer. However, the position you applied for has been filled, but you have been offered another position at our client’s company as a Personal Assistant due to your exceptional resume.”

The email asked for personal details such as address, phone number, and email address. Following emails were sent from a person claiming to be “Dominique Walter” from Walter Group INC, who could be reached at a gmail address.

Follow-up emails with “Walter” included other employment questions and instructions to cash or deposit a check to the applicant’s bank account for $3,420 from an Illinois business. In the email, “Walter” said she would be traveling to Singapore and needed to know when the check was deposited. The email also asked for the candidate to make hotel and flight arrangements for the Singapore trip.
When the candidate notified “Walter” that the check had been deposited, contact was cut off.

Gutierrez said about 20 people had contacted her about the position through phone calls and emails. In email responses to the applicants, Gutierrez stated that no such position had been posted to Indeed.com by her office. At least one applicant was told the position was in Dallas. Gutierrez said she only has one location in San Antonio. Gutierrez also said she did not have any business clients who she would be referring an applicant for hiring.

Gutierrez contacted Indeed.com about removing the job posting. In response, Indeed.com said the posting was no longer listed and had possibly been removed by the poster.

A suicide story

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 09:30

Editor’s note: This is the final 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.

My brother had been out of jail this time for less than five days when I saw two missed calls from my dad on my cell. Something was wrong, my dad never calls me. I called him back, it turned out he was asked by my stepfather to tell me that my brother killed himself. You see, my dad isn’t related to my brother at all. My brother was the son of my mother and stepfather. My dad also told me that they wanted me to tell my sister. I called her and told her over the phone because I was afraid I couldn’t get to her in person before a cousin or friend texted her about the news, and I wanted her to hear it from someone closer.

I immediately tried to find someone or some organization online that could help, could tell me what to do or think, and who could talk to my mother, who had descended into depths of despair so deep I was sure she would never re-emerge. I hoped to find someone who could help me talk her out of killing herself too. I started calling people to tell them what happened. I’m not sure why but I felt like everyone I knew needed to know. I even Facebook messaged ex-boyfriends and relatives of relatives to tell them the news.

How did I feel about it? I felt extremely sad that someone I loved so very much was in such a tremendous amount of pain, and I didn’t know it, and couldn’t fix it.

I learned that I needed to do something to process my grief. I started attending annual “out of the darkness” suicide prevention walks. I asked my family to be on a team with me and now we walk and raise money every year. I joined the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and became the board chair. I was trained to teach a suicide prevention program and started teaching it as much as possible. I talk about mental health and suicide prevention very frequently on my Facebook page and to friends, co-workers, and colleagues. I post articles about what not to say to someone who has lost someone by suicide, and what warning signs and risk factors to be aware of in others.

I encourage you all to learn more about suicide and how to make yourselves available so that someone thinking about or planning a suicide would feel comfortable telling you—you can get him or her help. I encourage all of you to put the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-TALK) into your phones now, and call them if you have questions. Know the mental health authority in your city and know the local hotline. Go to www.afsp.org and learn about how to cope with suicide, and how to help those who are suicidal.

State Bar of Texas Harvey Media Reports – Sept. 14, 2017

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 08:39

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

Majority of Commissioner’s Court backs proposed flood control bond — A majority of the Harris County Commissioners Court on Wednesday said they would support a large bond issue, perhaps upwards of $1 billion, and a tax increase to pay for it. — Houston Chronicle

City Council sets hearings on proposed tax rate hike — Houston City Council set the ball rolling Wednesday on Mayor Sylvester Turner’s proposed 8.9 percent tax rate hike to help fund Houston’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey, in what would be the first hike from City Hall in more than two decades. — Houston Chronicle

State unlikely to move STAAR test dates for Harvey-displaced students — The Texas education commissioner said he was not likely to delay required state test administration dates for students displaced by Hurricane Harvey. — The Texas Tribune

Equipment blamed for release of Galveston wastewater sludge — Experts blame equipment failure for the release of about 135,000 gallons of wastewater sludge into Galveston Bay. — The Associated Press

Houston’s ‘flood czar’ says Harvey has brought the city to a decision point on flood control — Stephen Costello, the city’s chief resilience officer, expects to play a big role in how Houston spends it Hurricane Harvey recovery dollars. — The Texas Tribune

In Beaumont, faith and resilience on Pine Street (Audio) — It was the water, not the wind, that most affected southeast Texans in the path of Hurricane Harvey. Recovering from the flood won’t be easy. It will take weeks of cleaning, rebuilding, and, in one Beaumont neighborhood, faith. — Texas Standard

State Bar of Texas Harvey Media Reports – Sept. 13, 2017

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 09:44

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

‘Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas’ benefit at Erwin Center will feature Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Leon Bridges, Lyle Lovett — Tickets to the four-hour concert, which runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and will air live on TEGNA stations (including Austin’s KVUE-TV), go on sale at 3 p.m. Wednesday, September 13, via RebuildTX.org for $30 to $199. — Austin American-Statesman

Harris County seeks $17 million to buy out 104 homes at highest risk to flood — Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to seek more than $17 million in Federal Emergency Management Funds to buy out more than 100 homes at the highest risk of flooding in the county. — Houston Chronicle

Texas draws criticism for insisting applications for disaster food stamps be filed in home counties — Advocates for poor and moderate-income Texans are urging state officials to reconsider requiring that Hurricane Harvey victims return to their home counties to apply for federal disaster food relief. — The Dallas Morning News

As fetid post-Harvey trash piles linger, so do health risks — The pile of trash outside Mark Urbach’s home in Meyerland stands more than five feet high and covers nearly every inch of grass on his front lawn. — Houston Press

City presses landlord on repairs as flooded apartment tenants seek relief — Hundreds of Rockport tenants are scrambling to figure out their next steps as city officials converge on a property where management was, as of last Friday, charging rent for flooded apartments it had not even begun to repair. (Subscription required) — Houston Chronicle

Local evacuees return to eviction notices — Phoebe Cormier was taken by Beaumont firefighters from her flooded apartment to the Beaumont Civic Center, and then by bus to Louisiana when the city’s shelter shuttered. A week after Harvey hit Southeast Texas, calls came in from her neighbors: eviction notices on doors, five days to leave, anything left behind will be removed. — Beaumont Enterprise

Harvey’s flooding blamed in major gasoline spill in Texas — Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters triggered a spill of almost a half-million gallons of gasoline from two storage tanks along the Houston Ship Channel, marking the largest spill reported to date from a storm that slammed into the heart of Texas’ huge petrochemical industry. — The Associated Press

Customs and Border Protection resumes operations despite ongoing Harvey disaster declaration — Despite an ongoing federal disaster declaration, Customs and Border Protection has resumed routine immigration enforcement operations in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, agency spokeswoman Yolanda Choates said in a statement Tuesday. — The Dallas Morning News

As A&M chancellor and hurricane recovery czar, John Sharp balances two intensely personal jobs — Former Democratic rising star John Sharp was already chancellor of the school he loves. Now, he’s been tasked with restoring the region where he got his start. — The Texas Tribune

Rising costs for homebuilders likely to push prices up — An untimely confluence of labor shortages, rising material costs and the possibility of tougher development guidelines in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is expected to result in escalating prices for new homes across Houston, a part of the country frequently lauded for its affordably priced housing. (Subscription required) — Houston Chronicle

Experts: New way of thinking needed to reduce flooding risk — If Houston and Harris County are to ever get the upper hand on our flooding problems, it will take a big, bold new way of thinking according to several experts who’ve studied the issue for decades. — KHOU – Houston

Post-Harvey, Houston officials hope Congress is up for funding Ike Dike — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday gave his strongest endorsement to date for constructing a physical coastal barrier to protect the region from deadly storm surge. — The Texas Tribune

AG sues 3 businesses for alleged price gouging during Harvey — The Attorney General’s office on Tuesday filed lawsuits against three Texas businesses, accusing each of unlawful price gouging during Hurricane Harvey. — KVUE – Austin

Houston-area legal advice clinics to help those impacted by Harvey — 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. — Texas Bar Blog

Texans who lost gun licenses due to Harvey can get new ones for free — Texans who have lost or damaged their license to carry a handgun as a result of Hurricane Harvey can receive a free replacement, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday. — The Texas Tribune

Officials: Austin’s mega-shelter for Harvey evacuees to close soon — As Harvey evacuees begin making their treks home or finding new places to live, Austin’s mega-shelter is winding down its operations and will close by the end of the weekend, officials estimate. — Austin American-Statesman

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.

 

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