Carlos M. Zaffirini, Jr., Appointed to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation Board of Directors

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the largest state grant funding source of civil legal aid in Texas, has announced that Carlos M. Zaffirini, Jr., of Austin has been appointed to serve on its board of directors. The Supreme Court of Texas appointed Zaffirini to a two-year term expiring in August 2018.

Zaffirini is President and CEO of Adelanto HealthCare Ventures, LLC, a health care finance consulting company in Austin, Texas. Zaffirini, a graduate of the University of Texas McCombs School of Business and UT School of Law, is a member of The University of Texas Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee and the Boards of Directors for the Austin Symphony, People’s Community Clinic, Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts, Anti-Defamation League and Mental Health America of Texas. He is active in philanthropic organizations including the Texas Access to Justice Commission, South Texas Food Bank, Rio Grande International Study Center and the Champion of Justice Society, where he created the Carlos Sr. and Senator Judith Zaffirini Access to Justice Initiative, which pays for Texas bar exam review courses for low-income law students that commit to increasing access to justice for low-income Texans.

“We are pleased to have Carlos Zaffirini join us as we work to ensure access to justice for all Texans,” Richard L. Tate, chair of the board of directors of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, said. “His experience in helping disadvantaged Texans will be invaluable to the board as we provide legal aid organizations throughout the state the resources for basic civil legal services.”

The Supreme Court of Texas created the Texas Access to Justice Foundation in 1984 to provide funding for the civil legal needs of poor and low-income Texans. The Foundation annually awards grants to more than 30 nonprofit legal aid organizations throughout the state that help struggling Texans in matters involving employment, housing, domestic violence and family law issues.

The Texas Supreme Court also reappointed Joseph Barrientos of Corpus Christi, Lamont Jefferson of San Antonio, and Jon Levy of Austin to the Foundation’s board of directors, each for a three-year term.  Becky Baskin Ferguson of Midland and Terry Tottenham of Austin have also been reappointed to the board by the State Bar of Texas.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation is the largest state-based funding source for civil legal aid in Texas and has awarded more than $480 million since its inception. The Foundation board of directors consists of 13 attorney and public members, seven of whom are appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas and six by the State Bar of Texas.

New Article Published about Rideshare Industry and DUI Statistics

As California state lawmakers struggle to outline regulatory jurisdictions, insurance requirements, prevent redlining, and improve worker and rider protections within the ever-expanding rideshare industry, it’s easy to lose sight of ridesharing benefits for all California motorists. A new Monder Law article examines arrest data from the Department of Motor Vehicles and presents an unbiased analysis of DUI arrest numbers from 2008 – 2013. The data shows that DUI arrest rates decreased for six consecutive years in a row, and the article explores the relationship between the rideshare industry and reducing the number of impaired drivers. Uber has released several studies claiming that it reduces DUI rates, but there are few non-branded studies available. file0001530747196

California is home to Uber, Lyft, and Google headquarters. While San Francisco was the first battleground for ridesharing regulations early on, ultimately the State of California was friendly to the rideshare industry. That progress did not put an end to the State’s involvement, as class-action lawsuits and appeals continue to complicate matters. Monder Law Group hopes to serve as a voice to encourage lawmakers to continue to be an ally and leader to the rideshare industry as it grows.

“Now that Google is set to launch Waze Carpool in San Francisco, lawmakers and businesses must not stand in the way of ridesharing companies who can help keep impaired drivers off of the roadways,” said Attorney Vik Monder. He added, “As the technology develops and grows, the ridesharing industry is set to reach the largest segment of the population who are most likely to be arrested.”

B2’s Management and Consulting Hires New Client Relations Director

B2 Management and Consulting has announced that Linda Wood has joined its team as Client Relations Director.  Linda has over 40 years of experience in managing all types of businesses with a heavy emphasis in the legal field.

Having spent the last 21 years managing law firms, Linda offers a strong expertise in bookkeeping, accounting, human resources and overall office administration and now brings that expertise to B2.  She is an active member of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) and has served as chairman on local committees and a member of national committees.

Linda will be responsible for relationship management and service delivery for all B2 clients which will include maintaining client satisfaction through increased client communications and overall management of the client relationship.  It is her mission to ensure that our team delivers the highest quality of services to you and that all new projects or issues are delivered and resolved to your satisfaction.  She will be responsible for new client onboarding and working with the B2 team to ensure that the transition is smooth, processes are implemented and policies documented

Buc-ee’s Sues Ex-Employee for Breach of Contract

A former assistant manager for a Texas convenience store is being sued by her ex-employer for leaving before her employment contract expired.

According to the lawsuit, Kelley Rieves started working for the Buc-ee’s store in Cypress, Texas as an assistant manager in 2009, signing employment contracts that ran through August 2013. However, Buc-ee’s claims that Rieves left the company in July 2012, with a year remaining on her contract. The company claimed that Rieves owed $67,720 in retention pay that was paid to her contingent on her completing her contract.

“Retention bonuses are not unusual and are a way for companies to invest in valuable employees,” said Gregory D. Jordan, an Austin employment attorney with the Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan. “An employee who is considering signing a contract that contains a retention bonus should seriously consider having it reviewed by an attorney since there could be unexpected liabilities. Sometimes employees might be tempted to look at the bottom line number and not evaluate what will happen if circumstances with the employer change.”

Rieves and Buc-ee’s filed suit against each other in the 165th State District Civil Court. A judge ruled that Rieves owes the company $100,000, including legal fees and interest. Buc-ee’s claims that Rieves’ contract divided her pay into normal pay and retention pay, and required her to give six months’ notice before leaving the company. The company said that when Rieves expressed a desire to leave, Buc-ee’s offered her a choice of accepting a loan to repay the retention bonus or having her new employer buy her out of the contract, but she left without making such arrangements.

Rieves said she does not have the money to repay Buc-ee’s. Her attorney said that according to Texas law, at-will employees cannot be prevented from leaving or be required to pay monetary penalties for doing so. Rieves is appealing the latest decision from the judge in her case.

UT’s ‘Cocks-Not-Glocks’ Protest Raises Free Speech Issues Academic Freedom Threatened, But Faculty Seems Strangely Silent

By John F. Banzhaf III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D., Professor of Public Interest Law, George Washington University Law School

“Cocks Not Glocks,” which is billed as the largest anti-gun rally in Texas, has been erected on the Austin campus of the University of Texas with hundreds of students waiving dildos to protest a new gun campus-carry law.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough the protest concerns whether the right to bear arms should extend to colleges, it’s not the Second Amendment that is at stake, but rather the First Amendment and academic freedom.

To express their hostility towards the law, hundreds of students protesters are dramatizing their opposition by carrying large dildos. They raise the question: Would UT really expel a student for displaying a dildo while nevertheless permitting students to carry lethal weapons?

The dildo displays are designed to illustrate the illogic of permitting deadly weapons on campus while prohibiting what some have called “friendly weapons.” A Texas statute, and the UT regulation apparently based upon it, prohibits the display of “obscene devices.”

The protesters said they had feared arrests or university discipline.

And indeed, a legal website reported that UT-Austin’s vice chancellor said he faced a “dilemma,” and wouldn’t speculate on how he would handle the protest once it began. “We do try to tolerate a good deal of free speech on campus,” he said.

But if that’s the case – if the campus tolerates a “good deal of free speech,” or even accords students only the bare minimum required by the First Amendment – he should not face any “dilemma.”

Displaying dildos as part of a lawful campus protest is very clearly free speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

Moreover, free speech is something to be revered, not just “tolerated,” he says, especially at a university. Texans should be very concerned that professors at the school seem to be standing idly by.

If law professors don’t see a clear threat to free speech and academic freedom and speak out about it, it’s no wonder that the chancellor is so confused, and that free speech is just “tolerated.”

Displaying dildos shouldn’t create a “dilemma” for anyone familiar with First Amendment law.

The Supreme Court has held that protesters have a constitutional right to make their point by displaying many upsetting things, including swastikas, burning American flags, and even flaming KKK crosses. Other courts have even upheld the right of women to bare their breasts as part of a protest.

More importantly, a federal appeals court has struck down the Texas statute upon which the vice chancellor seemed to rely, making it once again legal to display dildos, even if not part of a First Amendment protected protest, unless they are “obscene”: in other words, used to appeal to a “shameful or morbid” interest in sex and “patently offensive.”

Some protesters reportedly planned to carry Nerf guns, pointing out another “dilemma.”

The university’s Residence Hall Handbook prohibits Nerf guns. So the learned vice chancellor may be in the odd position of having to expel a student for having a Nerf gun, which shoots harmless pieces of foam, while defending the rights of other students to carry Glocks capable of a mass murder.

As Charles Dickens suggested, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass – a idiot.”

Or, as one student summed up her feelings: “This is a rifle. This is a gun. Glocks are for fighting. Cocks are for fun.”

Finally, a campus sex protest which doesn’t involved rape!

K&L Gates Grows Public Policy Practice with Hire of Texas Governor’s Budget Director in Austin Office

The Austin office of K&L Gates LLP has announced the hire of Ky R. Ash as a government affairs advisor in the public policy and law practice. He will join K&L Gates in early September from the Texas Governor’s Office, where he most recently served as the budget director.

Ash has nearly two decades of experience working in Texas state government, with a particular emphasis on budget, economic development, energy, and tax policy. During that time, he has negotiated many complex bills through the legislative process, including the passage of the United States’ first mandatory hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure bill; legislation authorizing the state issuance of $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs; and the restructuring of the state tax system to fund Texas public schools.

Prior to joining Governor Abbott’s office, Ash spent more than 15 years in the Texas House of Representatives working as chief of staff and legislative director for Texas State Representative James L. Keffer, as well as chief clerk for several Texas House committees, including energy resources, ways and means, and economic development, and the select committee on property tax relief. As chief clerk for the House Committee on Economic Development, he provided leadership in the restructuring of Texas’ economic development efforts, including the creation of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism, the Texas Enterprise Fund, and the Texas Economic Development Bank.

“We are excited to have Ky join our team,” said Jack M. Erskine, administrative partner of K&L Gates’ Austin office. “He has had a long career in state government, working in both the House and in the Governor’s office. The experience, knowledge, and reputation that he brings to K&L Gates will help to strengthen our top-tier public policy practice.”

Lloyd Gosselink Announces Hire of New Associate

Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend, P.C.has announced the hire of a new associate, Lauren R. Munselle.

Munselle will be a member of the Firm’s Employment Law and Litigation Practice Groups, where her practice focuses on providing employers with practical day-to-day compliance advice and representing employers in litigation.Lauren Munselle

Munselle received her J.D. from Texas Tech University School of Law, magna cum laude and her B.A. in English Writing from St. Edward’s University. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas, the Austin Bar Association, and the Austin Young Lawyers Association.

Winstead Adds Associate to Austin Office

Winstead PC has announced the addition of an associate, Casey Johnson Burack, to its Austin office.

Burack, who joins the real estate development & investments practice group, has a unique legal background in public-private partnership agreements and the procurement of tollCaseyBurack_4x5 highways, rail projects, transit, airport and other major infrastructure projects. She also has project finance experience in the renewable energy sector. She is licensed to practice law in Texas, California and New York.

Burack received her J.D. from Loyola Law School, graduating Order of the Coif. She previously practiced as an associate with Nossaman LLP in Austin, Texas, and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy in Los Angeles, California.

Austin Attorney Writes about Legal Rights Parents Have When Children Leave for College?

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a recent blog post of Brad Wiewel of the The Wiewel Law Firm)

Even though parents may pay the bills when their child heads off to college they may find they are not entitled to medical information or decisions as the Yuma Sun discusses in “Estate Planning: Helping your college-age child in a medical emergency.”

Once a person turns 18 and becomes a legal adult, they become just like every other adult. No one can have access to their private medical information or make medical decisions for them unless the person says so. This is even true of parents in an emergency. Not understanding this has led to many families having problems.WiewelB_

Fortunately, the way around this problem is relatively easy if you plan ahead. Talk to your child before he or she goes to college about having an estate planning attorney draw up a health care power of attorney. That will allow the parent, or anyone else the child chooses, to have access to medical information and decision making authority should something happen and the child not be able to express his or her wishes.

An estate planning attorney can guide your family through the process.

Reference: Yuma Sun (July 11, 2016) “Estate Planning: Helping your college-age child in a medical emergency.”

Small Houston Law Firm Dips Its Toe in Austin Market