Austin’s Weisbart Springer Hayes Adds New Attorney Nicole LeFave

The Austin-based law firm Weisbart Springer Hayes, LLP, has announced the addition of attorney Nicole LeFave, who brings with her “a unique understanding of the federal practice from behind the bench based on her prior work for two federal judges in Texas.”

LeFave is a 2012 honors graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.Nicole_LeFave_print

Prior to joining Weisbart Springer Hayes, LeFave served as a law clerk to Judge Gregg J. Costa in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Galveston. Judge Costa now sits on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Following her work with Judge Costa, LeFave clerked for Magistrate Judge Mark P. Lane in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.

“We are thrilled to have Nicole as a member of our team,” says attorney Geoffrey D. Weisbart, a founding member of Weisbart Springer Hayes. “She is one of the smartest and most accomplished young attorneys I’ve met, and the skills she learned in her federal court work will benefit our firm and all of our clients.”

During her clerkships, LeFave “learned firsthand the many intricacies of federal court practice based on her work in cases involving employment disputes, civil rights claims, patent infringement allegations, complex commercial disputes, and a variety of criminal matters,” according to the firm.

“As a law student, LeFave earned extensive recognition for her trial advocacy and brief writing, including Best Brief honors in the American Bar Association’s National Appellate Advocacy Competition and UT Law’s Thad T. Hutcheson Moot Court Competition. She also gained valuable experience as a student attorney representing domestic violence victims in family law cases.”

Weisbart Springer Hayes LLP focuses on business, technology, employment, and aviation litigation matters in Texas and across the nation.

Thompson & Knight LLP Announces New Associate in Austin Office

Thompson & Knight has announced that Jill Carvalho has joined the firm as an associate in the government/regulatory practice group in the Austin office.

Carvalho focuses her practice on administrative law and litigation. She has experience handling regulatory matters and has contested proceedings before numerous state agencies, including the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Texas Railroad Commission, Texas General Land Office, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Texas Racing Commission.

Prior to joining Thompson & Knight, she practiced in the Austin office of Andrews Kurth alongside Rex D. VanMiddlesworth, Phillip G. Oldham, Katie Coleman, and Benjamin B. Hallmark – all of whom joined Thompson & Knight earlier this month.

Before becoming an attorney, she taught undergraduate and graduate level political science classes at American University.

Austin Attorney Mike Davis Presents at Car Crash Seminar at The University of Texas School of Law

Mike Slack of Slack & Davis recently gave the following presentation, “When a Car Wreck Isn’t Just a Car Wreck,” at a University of Texas School of Law seminar involving legal issues around car accidents.

His presentation hit upon litigation of truck crash cases and auto/truck product liability cases. “It’s a timely topic because truck wrecks on U.S. highways are increasingly prevalent and the number of auto-related recalls (e.g. General Motors) is up this year,” he said, citing a recent article (http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/05/us/gm-recalls/)

“When it comes to a large truck colliding with a passenger vehicle, the passenger vehicle loses. Texas, unfortunately, leads the nation in trucking injuries and deaths, followed by California. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) two-thirds of crashes caused by large trucks were caused by either the truck driver’s failure to recognize a potential crash risk – due to distraction or inattention – or poor decision-making such as driving too fast in hazardous conditions, following too closely, or making incorrect assumptions about the other driver’s actions.

“Vehicle safety is also important. Crashes should not be caused by defects in our vehicles, and the vehicle should be designed to maintain and protect occupants inside the passenger compartment. Tire safety is particularly important in summer months in hot-weather states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and across the South. We see way too many injuries and deaths caused by tread separation in defective tires or tires that are too old for safe use. Another concern, not only during summer vacation months but also year round, is making sure that child safety seats provide adequate protection for young passengers.”

University of Texas School of Law Student Receives Scholarship from Austin Law Firm

Broden & Mickelsen, a federal and state criminal defense law firm, announced the winner of a scholarship available only to law students in Texas.

Hensleigh Crowell, a second year student at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, was chosen among a group of highly qualified applicants. Crowell has an undergrad in psychology and is enrolled full time, concentrating on criminal law. In her past, Crowell worked for the Innocence Project, a non-profit dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the Broden & Mickelson Criminal Law Student Scholarship,” said Crowell. “I came to law school knowing that I wanted to spend my career working to reduce our country’s reliance on mass incarceration, but I was also aware that this type of work is not always popular and certainly not well-funded. This scholarship financially enabled me to work at a Public Defender Office, delivering my first real world experience in criminal defense.”

Clint Broden, attorney at Broden & Mickelsen, said the scholarship’s purpose was “to find and help an exemplary student like Crowell. Crowell’s dedication to criminal defense aligns with our firm and the greater criminal justice community. We look forward to seeing her graduate and grow in her pursuit of defending the accused.”

“Criminal defense is often an unpopular choice for law students,” said attorney Mick Mickelsen. “It’s a field that is less lucrative then business or corporate law, yet that doesn’t make it any less important. Broden and I created the scholarship to reward Texas law students aligned with criminal defense and to encourage employment with a Federal Public Defender Office.”

Clint Broden and Mick Mickelsen were both Federal Public Defenders in Texas. The experience greatly, they said, affected their passion and skill for criminal defense and led to the opening of their own law firm in 1998. Broden & Mickelsen founded the scholarship in 2014 to provide financial assistance to students and encourage a similar career path.

 

Last Day to Register for ALA’s 16th Annual Legal Expo

Today is the last day to register for the 16th Annual Legal Expo, which is set for the afternoon of August 28 at the W Hotel on Lavaca St.

The event, which costs $40, is produced by the Austin Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators, with support from the Austin City Group of the Legal Marketing Association.

The festivities start at noon with a luncheon, followed by the Expo portion at 1 p.m., an educational session at 3:15, and a Happy Hour at 4:30.

The topic for the education session is:

Cyber security, data breach, cyber extortion, business interruption, and public relations. We hear something about this in the news daily and professional firms seem to be the newest targets. If these and other related issues are keeping you awake at night, plan to attend the Austin ALA Chapter’s Summer Educational Seminar and Legal EXPO to hear our panel discuss these issues and what you can do about them to be sure your firm and clients are protected.
Register for the event here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1HQLsb4IqwGy9iZekMIc-fk4gL6TVjcZNpXgoDaZeIoY/viewform?edit_requested=true

 

Amanda Jester Finds Success as a Healthcare Lawyer in the Austin Office of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis

An integral member of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP’s expansive national healthcare department, Amanda Jester seemed destined for a successful career in healthcare law from the moment she received her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2003.

Shortly thereafter, Jester went to work for a law firm in Washington D.C., where her grasp of the regulatory aspects of healthcare law turned heads.Jester-Amanda-K-mobile

Ten years later, she has developed a legal expertise around guiding investors, owners and operators in mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, joint ventures, contracting and compliance issues.  Her work has earned her recognition in the prestigious Chambers USA as well as caught our eye as a worthy subject for an interview.

Question: How would you describe your practice?

Answer: My practice is focused on the healthcare industry.  I structure and execute transactions in the healthcare industry in order to maintain compliance with applicable federal and state regulations and to achieve operational efficiencies.

Q: What do you like most about this area of law?

A: I enjoy navigating the dynamics between the various players in the industry.  Doctors, hospitals, payers and, of course, patients, all play different but integral roles.  I also love shepherding a transaction to close where the sellers are reaping the rewards of their lives’ work.

Q: How is this area of law changing?

A: Healthcare law is in constant flux.  Federal and state laws are changing to eliminate fraud and waste, and maximize access to and quality of care.  State laws that regulate licensed professionals and facilities are also changing to accommodate and regulate new methods of healthcare delivery and technology.

Q: Is there anyone you would like to single out, who has positively influence your path in the law?

A: My partner, Brent Hill, has been a great mentor to me.  He is not only an excellent lawyer, but also understands the business of law.

Austin Attorneys Write for Inside Counsel Magazine

Drew McEwen and Kevin Oldham, who both serve as senior counsel for Dykema’s Austin office, recently wrote an article for Inside Counsel Magazine on “Being an effective inside counsel for your company’s tax department.”

“Inside counsel for today’s businesses are often required to play many different roles: monitor, researcher, business advisor, counselor and gatekeeper, to name just a few,” the article begins. “In order to successfully navigate these multiple roles, many in-house attorneys are finding it necessary to open up lines of communication with other key departments within the business. The increased responsibility placed on inside counsel requires extensive intra-business communication to ensure that in-house attorneys are informed of all activities that may have a legal impact on the organization. Unfortunately, in many instances, there is a disconnect between inside counsel and an organization’s tax department.”

To see the full article, visit: http://www.insidecounsel.com/2014/08/05/being-an-effective-inside-counsel-for-your-company

 

Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody Hires New Associate

Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody has announced the hire of Jennifer L. Smith as an associate.

Smith, formerly of Gardere Wynne, focuses her practice on mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance within the entertainment, manufacturing, healthcare and energy industries. She has broad experience representing a variety of clients from private equity groups to global oil and gas companies. Her practice also includes reorganizations as well as private equity and debt financings.

Smith earned her J.D. at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, cum laude, in December 2008; and aBachelor of Healthcare Administration at Texas State University in 2000.

Austin-based Peaceful Streets Project: Federal Judge Upholds Right to Film Police

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane has upheld the Constitutional right to film police officers in the case of Antonio Buehler vs. the City of Austin, Austin Police Department, et. al.

Plaintiff Antonio Buehler, founder of Abrome Learning and the Peaceful Streets Project made headlines in 2012 after he photographed Austin Police Officer Patrick Oborski assaulting a woman in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, 2012. After Oborski noticed Buehler taking pictures, he assaulted Buehler, and filed a Felony Harassment of a Public Official charge against him for allegedly spitting in the officer’s face. A charge that carries a two to ten year prison sentence.

Facing felony charges, Buehler went to the public to ask for witnesses to step forward, and multiple witnesses did. A local entrepreneur and a local academician who were both in the 7-11 parking lot shared their stories with the local media, and a gentleman across the street took cell phone video of the incident. With witnesses and the video, coupled with Buehler’s background which included degrees from West Point and Stanford, prior service as an Airborne Ranger qualified Army officer, extensive volunteering and education work with children, his role as a designated driver that night, and no previous run-ins with law enforcement, the incident garnered significant media attention and forced the Austin Police Department to resort to a slander campaign against Buehler and the woman who was assaulted on New Year’s Day.

Buehler used his significant following of supporters to then launch the Peaceful Streets Project to encourage people to know their rights, stand up for the rights of one another and to hold police accountable for their actions. The Peaceful Streets Project handed out 100 free video cameras to residents of Austin to document police action, they organized hundreds of cop watch events, and they organized two police accountability summits with speakers such as the Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, and investigative journalist Radley Balko.

With the rise of the success of the Peaceful Streets Project, the Austin Police Department increased their harassment of Buehler and his supporters. APD arrested several Peaceful Streets Project volunteers for filming, including Buehler who they arrested three more times. Each time the police arrested a filmer, the Peaceful Streets Project would increase their efforts to document police actions.

Buehler’s charges remained outstanding for 15 months before a Grand Jury finally no-billed Buehler. However, they did indict him on four class C misdemeanor charges (failure to obey (3), interference with public duties (1)).

Buehler retained Attorney Daphne Silverman to file suit against the City of Austin, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, and Officers Patrick Oborski, Robert Snider, Adam Johnson and Justin Berry, on First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment Grounds, as well as violations of the Texas Constitution, conversion, false arrest and false imprisonment. The City of Austin then filed motions to dismiss the case which resulted in Judge Lane’s decision.

Judge Lane ruled against the city on almost every ground of the 12(b)(6) motion, with the exception of excessive force. Buehler’s civil rights suit against the City remains lively, as there is a recognized First Amendment right to film the police: “A private citizen has the right to assemble in a public forum, receive information on a matter of public concern – such as police officers performing their official duties – and to record that information for the purpose of conveying that information.”

Silverman said that she and her client were pleased with Lane’s detailed analysis in support of Buehler’s constitutional rights. “This ruling is a clear signal to law enforcement that the public can now photograph and videotape police officers so long as they don’t interfere with the officer’s duties,” she said.

Buehler said he hopes his case exposes corruption endemic within the Austin Police Department and in departments nationwide. “The extent to which APD is willing to go to try to victimize the victims of police abuse to protect cops who commit felony crimes is quite telling about the corrupt culture within the police department. I am the founder of an education company, a West Point, Stanford and Harvard graduate, the designated driver that night who tried to stand up for a woman being assaulted by the police, and there are a half dozen witnesses and two videos that all prove that the cops committed multiple crimes that night and that the woman they assaulted and I were both innocent victims. If the cops are willing to go after me like this, imagine what they’ll do to a young black or Hispanic male, a homeless person, or a person with prior drug offenses.”

The National Press Photographers Association in May filed an amicus brief in support of his case, which the organization says is not an isolated incident but “part of a nationwide phenomenon where police have interfered with citizens’ rights to photograph and video-record officers engaged in official business in public spaces.”

“NPPA follows these cases closely, and strives to ensure that the crucial role that journalists and citizens play in promoting discussions of public concern is not diminished,” the brief states.

While Buehler has not been convicted of any crimes levied against him by the Austin Police Department, the four misdemeanor charges are still pending, over two years later.

For more information, visit www.peacefulstreetsproject.com

Austin Attorney Discusses Why New Truck Safety Regulation Suspended

The Senate Appropriations Committee has temporarily suspended a new truck safety regulation, fearing it will actually cause more accidents than it would prevent.

“The suspended rule limited how often truckers may drive between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Its intention was to reduce fatigue, and thus reduce accidents. However, the trucking industry responded, pointing out that it would place even more big rigs on the road during daytime hours and, therefore, actually increase the likelihood of accidents,” explained trucking accident attorney Brooks Schuelke of Austin-based Perlmutter & Schuelke LLP.

To prioritize safety for all drivers, the Senate Appropriations Committee suspended the regulation and sent it for further study, agreeing that highways and interstates would be more congested during peak daylight commuter hours. The trucking industry was heartened by the move to suspend the regulation and expressed hope that they would be more involved with any changes to current rules.

The current regulations are a source of great frustration for trucking firms and drivers. “Regulations can lower wages and reduce productivity, leading to poor customer service and dissatisfied drivers,” Schuelke added, “and both these factors can raise the likelihood of a collision.”Schuelke

In committee meetings, senators debated the value and meaning of proper rest for safe driving. Opponents of the regulation pointed out that 4,000 people were killed and more than 73,000 injured in trucking collisions in 2012. The regulation was suspended in response, allowing the committee to focus on the safety aspects of large trucks on the road during the night.

But the problem may not even depend on this particular regulation. “Highways are busier now than they ever have been at every hour of day or night, especially here in Texas,” Schuelke pointed out. “You cannot legislate people’s actions. There are always going to be people who drive in violation of the law, and accidents are still going to happen.”

A second regulation, dubbed the “restart rule,” has also been suspended. Under it, truckers could drive a maximum of 70 hours a week before halting and resting for 34 consecutive hours. The rest time was required to include at least two time slots between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.