Law Firm with Austin Presence Receives Top Honors From American Health Lawyers Association for 9th Consecutive Year

Waller, a national healthcare law firm with offices in Austin, recently received “Top Honors” from the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) for the firm’s continued commitment to the advancement of professional development in healthcare law through its participation in the AHLA. The June 2015 issue of AHLA Connections magazine highlights Waller as the nation’s fourth largest healthcare law firm based on AHLA membership with 163 current members. This is the firm’s ninth consecutive year on the industry-esteemed “Top Ten” list.

“Waller is honored to be recognized among the nation’s top law firms by the American Health Lawyers Association,” said Matt Burnstein, chairman of Waller. “Waller attorney Kim Harvey Looney was recently elected to serve on the AHLA Board of Directors, and we are proud of all of our attorneys continued involvement at AHLA conferences, seminars and programs. AHLA is an important part of the firm’s commitment to both the healthcare industry and our clients.”

Waller also was recognized in the following categories as part of its 2015 AHLA Top Honors:

  • Most members in Tennessee
  • #1 ranking in the Southeast Region

Attorney Mark Peters also was recognized for his service as a 2015 AHLA Mentor.

TEX-ABOTA Plans James Otis Lecture Series for September 17, 2015

TEX-ABOTA, the Texas Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates, will commemorate Constitution Day 2015 with the fourth James Otis Lecture in the chambers of the Texas House of Representatives at the State Capitol. The program has been a tremendous success with students, teachers and TEX-ABOTA members.

Students from across Texas may be nominated by a teacher, relative, neighbor, administrator or friend to attend the day’s event, to be held on Wednesday, September 17, 2015. That is actually Constitution Day in the United States.

Dr. H.W. Brands will be the keynote speaker. Dr. Brands will talk about his new book, “Reagan: The Life”, to go on sale May 12, 2015.  Each of the students will be given a copy of the book to read before the event.

Dr. Brands is an American educator, author and historian. He has authored 25 books on U.S. history and biography. He is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History and a Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his Ph.D. in history in 1985. His works have twice been selected as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Attendees will meet at the Texas Capitol (1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701) at around 9:00am. (SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Students will then take guided tours of the House of Representatives and the Senate Chambers, in three groups.

After Dr. Brands’ presentation, there will be a lunch at the historic First United Methodist Church just across the street from the Capitol, where Dr. Brands will sign his book for the students.

The group should be adjourned by about 3:00 p.m.

For more information on the organization, visit http://www.tex-abota.org/

Here is the tentative agenda:

Program for the Day

9:00 a.m. Students arrive and register

9:30 a.m. Tours of the Capitol (in 2 groups)

10:45 a.m. Students are seated on the floor of the House

11:00 a.m. TEX-ABOTA and ABOTA representatives speak to the students

11:05- 11:10 0r 11:15  ABOTA Foundation and efforts with Youth

11:15 Introduction of Dr. Brands

11:15 Dr. Brands addresses the students 

12:00 Head to Fellowship Hall at the First United Methodist Church (walking distance)

12:15 Lunch (sandwiches) is served

1:00 Certificates as a James Otis Lecture Scholar presented
to students

1:45-2:00 End of program, students released then or at 3:00 p.m.

TEX-ABOTA, the Texas Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates, will commemorate Constitution Day 2015 with the fourth James Otis Lecture in the chambers of the Texas House of Representatives at the State Capitol. The program has been a tremendous success with students, teachers and TEX-ABOTA members.

Students from across Texas may be nominated by a teacher, relative, neighbor, administrator or friend to attend the day’s event, to be held on Wednesday, September 17, 2015. That is actually Constitution Day in the United States.

Dr. H.W. Brands will be the keynote speaker. Dr. Brands will talk about his new book, “Reagan: The Life”, to go on sale May 12, 2015.  Each of the students will be given a copy of the book to read before the event.

Dr. Brands is an American educator, author and historian. He has authored 25 books on U.S. history and biography. He is the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History and a Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his Ph.D. in history in 1985. His works have twice been selected as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Attendees will meet at the Texas Capitol (1100 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701) at around 9:00am. (SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Students will then take guided tours of the House of Representatives and the Senate Chambers, in three groups.

After Dr. Brands’ presentation, there will be a lunch at the historic First United Methodist Church just across the street from the Capitol, where Dr. Brands will sign his book for the students.

The group should be adjourned by about 3:00 p.m.

For more information on the organization, visit http://www.tex-abota.org/

Here is the tentative agenda:

Program for the Day

9:00 a.m. Students arrive and register

9:30 a.m. Tours of the Capitol (in 2 groups)

10:45 a.m. Students are seated on the floor of the House

11:00 a.m. TEX-ABOTA and ABOTA representatives speak to the students

11:05- 11:10 0r 11:15  ABOTA Foundation and efforts with Youth

11:15 Introduction of Dr. Brands

11:15 Dr. Brands addresses the students 

12:00 Head to Fellowship Hall at the First United Methodist Church (walking distance)

12:15 Lunch (sandwiches) is served

1:00 Certificates as a James Otis Lecture Scholar presented
to students

1:45-2:00 End of program, students released then or at 3:00 p.m.

Austin Estate Planning Attorney Looks at the Two Types of Inheritors

Estate Planning attorney Brad Wiewel, of the Wiewel Law Firm, recently put his own spin on a blog post in Forbes about the two types of inheritors:

“Recently, Forbes published an article describing the two general attitudes found in people who inherit wealth.  The article is titled “(Some) Inheritors Just Want To Have Fun.”

The first type of inheritor described is one who is diligent and works hard to either expand that wealth or ensure that it goes to worthy philanthropic goals. The other type of inheritor is someone who spends their time having fun and partying.WiewelB_

The article describes one woman who is using her inheritance to develop an online technology that will determine how “wasted” a person is.

So, how is the R&D coming along?  She tests her technology by getting wasted herself and trying to use the technology.

While the article is accurate in describing the two general types of inheritors, it is worth noting that these are the extremes.   Most people will fall somewhere between the two, as even the most diligent and hard-working heirs want to have fun some times.

For estate planning purposes, however, it is important to know about the extremes.

Families who are concerned that someone in the family will be in the “just wants to have fun” camp, will want to use estate planning to prevent or curtail that tendency.”

Is Lawsuit Forthcoming in Tragic Austin Ridge-Wakeboarding Camp Death?

Interesting that the release form for the wakeboarding camp put on by the Austin Ridge Church in which a young teenager died earlier this month in Lake Travis is readily available on the Web: http://www.austinridge.org/content/blog/Parental%20Consent%20and%20Release%20(ONE%20Wakeboard)%20-%20Campers.pdf

The release seems pretty solid, though there has always been a question about how legally sufficient waivers are for children.

Attorney Sarah Kooperman, in a story in Sports Litigation Alert, told an audience at a fitness conference in 2009 that there is a question about whether parents, if that is what happened in this case, can sign “a waiver on behalf of the children so they can participate in a camp or other activity. According to Kooperman, there is no legal basis that the parents can legally do this. Thus, facilities are at legal risk if a child is injured, and they are not even aware of it.”

Beveridge & Diamond PC Adds Associate to Austin Team

Beveridge & Diamond PC has announced that Michael Vitris has joined the firm as an associate.

Vitris focuses his practice on environmental enforcement and litigation matters across all environmental media.

Prior to joining Beveridge & Diamond, he was a litigation attorney at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).While at TCEQ, Michael’s responsibilities included:

  • Representing TCEQ’s Executive Director in enforcement litigation before the Commission and at the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
  • Providing legal counsel to program areas within the agency.
  • Assisting the Attorney General’s Office with case development.
  • Advising on rulemakings related to public water systems.

Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody Adds Associate to Firm

Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody has announced the hiring of John W. Conner as an associate in the firm’s estates planning practice.

His practice focuses on the management and preparation of estate plans including gift and estate tax planning and the creation of various estate planning documents including wills, powers of attorney, and family trusts.

Prior to joining the firm, Conner spent the last two years as an associate at Bourland, Wall & Wenzel in Fort Worth.

Austin Bar: New Civil and Family Courts Complex ‘a Must-Have for Travis County’

The Austin Bar and others are seeking support for a new civit and family court complex with the following press release:

The Travis County Commissioners have approved a $291.6 million bond to build a new Civil and Family Courts Complex on county-owned property at 4th and Guadalupe.  Voters will be asked to weigh in on the bond in the November election. The tax implication on an average $325,000 home is only $42 per year. That’s about $3.50, or the price of one taco per month. The cost of the project is competitive and comparable to other similar judicial building projects around the country and in the region.

The Travis County Courthouse, currently located at 10th and Guadalupe, was built in 1931 when Travis County was home to a little less than 78,000 people.  It originally housed 3 courtrooms.  The space has been well used in the ensuing 84 years – utilizing every nook and cranny. It now holds 19 courtrooms, plus space for 336 employees in various county offices. Based on the current county population of approximately 1,160,000, the citizens of Travis County need 24 courtrooms to serve their purposes, and in 2035, the population is projected to be 1,600,000 million. The need for courtrooms will grow to 39.  Unfortunately, the current courthouse can’t expand one more inch.  The building is simply overwhelmed.

There are many problems with the old courthouse – as one might imagine in any building built during the Hoover administration:  lack of technology, fire hazards, rat infestations, lead paint, leaky roof, old plumbing and air conditioning, limited access for the disabled and ADA compliance issues, just to name a few.  But of primary concern is the lack of safety and security for women, children and families.

According to Julia Spann, Executive Director of SafePlace: Most victims of domestic violence are terrified of seeing the persons who abused them when they go to court. They are scared that their abuser will be angry and revengeful that they applied for a protective order, they worry for their own safety as well as for their children.  At the courthouse in Travis County, we do not have “safe rooms” where victims can wait separately from the person who has hurt them – there is not room to provide these spaces.  At our current courthouse, it is almost inevitable that a victim will come face to face with the abuser in the hallway, the elevator or the courtroom.  No wonder so many victims are too afraid to file charges or to go to court!

Victims of domestic violence aren’t the only ones who need a safe and secure place for justice.  More children visit the courthouse every day than most people realize.  These children may be involved in child custody, adoption, or CPS cases, or they may be with parents who are in the building on other business and don’t have access to childcare. Currently, there are no waiting areas for anyone – and certainly there are no child-friendly waiting rooms. Everyone must wait outside the courtrooms in the hallways.

Children play on the stairs or on the floor.  Imagine what it feels like for a child involved in a CPS case who has suffered abuse to share the same hallway waiting area with their abuser.  And imagine how it feels for families involved in fierce custody battles or abusive relationships to be together in a very small and cramped space. Family law cases are often the most emotionally charged, stressful, and volatile.

And the children involved are innocent and vulnerable.  They deserve to be safe and secure and in an environment that helps relieve their stress, not add to it.

There are also a number of people who are in-custody and are brought from the jail to the courthouse. These people walk with their hands in chains, through the very same hallways in which children are playing and families are waiting. This is a security risk that simply must not continue. The citizens of Travis County deserve better.

The proposed new Civil and Family Courts Complex includes plans for dedicated children’s waiting areas, a supervised child drop-off area, child-friendly rooms where children can give their testimonies, holding areas for those who are in-custody, and safe-rooms for victims of family violence – all necessities for the safety, security, and well-being of Travis County’s children and families.

The 14-story building will contain 520,000 sf and will hold 28 courtrooms, with space to expand to 33 by 2035.  It will be sustainable, energy efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. Not only will safety and security be improved for the women, children and families using the courthouse, it will have secured judicial parking and extra security measures in place to prevent possible courthouse violence.

It will be modern and accessible, featuring electronic filings and integrated technology. It will also be fully ADA compliant. In addition to courtrooms, the building will contain a Law Library and Self-Help Center, plus other District and County offices, such as the County and District Clerk’s offices.

The new Courthouse Complex will have a 4-level underground parking garage with 513 spaces for jurors, employees, and visitors to use during the day.  The parking garage will be open after hours for public-use to help relieve some of the parking tensions in the central downtown area. It is designed to be “alive after five”.  Public use space will be available for groups to rent out after hours.  Talks are underway with local arts groups to possibly utilize this space for rehearsals or performances.

The building will be situated on the lot so that it can accommodate the construction of a second office building. This second building can hold retail or office space, and will attract other businesses and support services to the area, further adding to the value of Austin’s downtown economy.

Austin, and the surrounding Travis County, has become a major metropolitan area.  For the first time since 1931, the citizens of Travis County have the privilege of creating a lasting, modern, accessible, and secure building where justice can meet the community and serve its needs today, tomorrow, and for years to come.

Loewy Firm Announces Quarter-Million Dollar Settlement

The Loewy Law Firm has announced a $250,000 settlement for an Austin woman who was badly injured when an 18-wheeler sideswiped her car.

While the DPS State Trooper blamed the woman for the crash, she was adamant that it was not her fault, according to the firm.AdamLoewy-12

“Co-counsel Joel Levine then skillfully confronted the truck driver with our investigation findings, and finally the truck driver admitted—under oath—that the accident was his fault,” said Loewy. “We presented this evidence to the insurance company.  They quickly wanted to resolve the case.”

The firm noted that it has recovered more than $3 million “and counting” in settlements for its clients.

Greenberg Traurig’s Elizabeth Ross Hadley to Lead Junior League of Austin Initiative

Elizabeth Ross Hadley, of counsel in the Austin office of the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP, has taken over as chair of the Austin-based Food In Tummies (FIT) program facilitated by the Junior League of Austin (JLA).

The FIT program was created by The Junior League of Austin (JLA) in collaboration with the Del Valle Independent School District to provide weekend nourishment to children in grades K through 5 who qualify for free and reduced meals through the National School Lunch program (NSLP). According to its website, the FIT program has provided over 54,000 backpacks over the course of 34 weeks to the entire student populations at both Baty Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary for the 2014-2015 academic year.

“Food insecurity has a snowball effect on the lives of young children,” said Hadley. “As we partner with the schools, we notice better attendance and academic performance in children who have been properly nourished. I am passionate about the well-being and education of local youth and am honored to serve as chair of the FIT program in the coming year.”

Hadley is an active member of the Austin community and has been a member of JLA for six years. She focuses her law practice on government law and policy and litigation matters. Her government law and policy practice focuses on legislative and policy issues, including insurance regulation, economic development, health care policy, and campaign finance compliance. She has legislative and agency experience working in the U.S. Senate, the Texas State Senate, and the Texas Department of Agriculture. Hadley also has wide-ranging litigation experience, including representation of financial institutions, health care providers, public and private corporations, and state governmental entities. Hadley has trial experience, including first and second chair in jury and bench trials, motions practice, discovery, and mediation.

Richards Rodriguez & Skeith Announces Hire of Partner in Round Rock Office

Richards Rodriguez & Skeith has announced the hiring of Jim Howicz as a Partner in its Round Rock office.

Howicz is a corporate and transactional attorney with more than 20 years of experience as in-house counsel, including lead counsel for Dell Financial and several years as general counsel to two start-ups.howicz

He focuses on general corporate matters, negotiating commercial transactions, drafting contracts, and financial services. Howicz represents small and mid-sized businesses as an outside general counsel and advises onemployment issues.  He handles a wide variety of matters for banks and lenders with a focus on credit and collections. Howicz also helps clients with various issues before state and federal regulators.

Howicz graduated from the University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in 1988.  He earned his law degree with honors from Tulane University in 1991.