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

UT Austin Website Promotes Transparency on Deaths in Texas State Custody

A new interactive, online database provides the public full access to records on 6,913 deaths that have occurred in Texas state custody since 2005. The database, launched by The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis (IUPRA), is designed to provide transparency of the state’s justice system and inform public policy.14525881043se8c

The 11-year data set includes information about deaths in police interactions, jails and prisons, along with the deceased’s name, demographic information, time and place of death, cause of death, length of time in custody and a narrative submitted by the local custodian, such as the local sheriff or prison director. The website launched July 27 and is accessible at http://texasjusticeinitiative.org.

The Texas Justice Initiative was created by Amanda Woog, a postdoctoral fellow in IUPRA, an institution developed in 2010 through collaborative efforts with the Texas Legislative Black Caucus to conduct and promote the production of policy-relevant research aimed at enhancing the lives of African Americans and other communities of color.

“The goal of the initial launch is to make this data and some early findings available to researchers, policymakers, stakeholders and those directly impacted by Texas’ criminal justice system,” said Woog, who received her Juris Doctor from the UT School of Law. “Too many people are dying, and it’s going to require a collaborative effort to help identify problems and come up with solutions.”

The interactive site allows users to filter through categories, such as demographics or cause of death, and isolate data sets in order to answer their own research questions. Woog reported some of her findings in a Texas Custodial Death Report:

  • Latinos accounted for 28 percent of the deaths in custody, black people accounted for 30 percent of the deaths in custody, and white people accounted for 42 percent.
    • More than 1,900 of those who died had not been convicted of a crime.
    • Natural causes or illness, suicide and justifiable homicide were the leading causes of death, accounting for 70, 11 and 8 percent of deaths, respectively.
    • Justifiable homicide was the leading cause of nonnatural deaths for both black and Latino men, accounting for 30 and 34 percent of nonnatural deaths, respectively.
    • Suicide was the leading cause of nonnatural deaths for whites, accounting for nearly 50 percent of nonnatural deaths for both white men and women.
    • Alcohol or drug intoxication was the leading cause of nonnatural deaths for black and Latina women, accounting for 37 and 32 percent of nonnatural deaths, respectively.

“The unprecedented compilation of data will for the first time permit comparison among jurisdictions’ incidents of custodial deaths over time. Combined with a readily usable format, these contributions put the Texas Justice Initiative on the national vanguard of open data and build accountability and trust between law enforcement and the communities they police,” said UT law professor Jennifer Laurin, a member of the project’s advisory committee with Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and Kali Gross, a former UT Austin professor of African and African diaspora studies who is now at Wesleyan University.

California is the only other state to offer such a resource; last year its Attorney General’s Office debuted Open Justice, which included broad information about the state’s deaths in custody. The Texas Justice Initiative includes both identifying and narrative information for each death to encourage research into complexities in the criminal justice system, Woog said.

As a requirement under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 49.18, the person in charge of the custodial institution, such as the sheriff or facility director, must file the four-page custodial death report within 30 days of the incident. This information is considered public record and available upon request.

Dickinson Wright Opens First Office in Texas, in Austin

Dickinson Wright PLLC continues its North American expansion with the opening of its 17th office in Austin. Joining Dickinson Wright’s Austin office as members will be corporate & securities attorney, Darrell R. Windham and intellectual property attorneys Ross Spencer Garsson and K. Lance Anderson.

“We are honored to be a part of Dickinson Wright’s expansion into Texas and spearhead the opening of the Austin office,” said Darrell Windham, the managing member of the Austin office. “Dickinson Wright is a well-known law firm with a strong presence across the U.S. and in Canada. As attorneys with long-standing presence in the coolest and fastest-growing city in the country, we look forward to continuing to serve our clients with the highest level of quality and expertise they deserve. Dickinson Wright offers our Austin clients access to top-quality legal talent and resources across the country and globally, and the firm shares our commitment to providing Austin’s philanthropic and community organizations with our support and leadership.”

“Dickinson Wright’s expansion into Texas is an exciting opportunity to join a rapidly-growing major market with a vibrant business community,” said William T. Burgess, CEO of Dickinson Wright. “Austin has grown into a diversified economy with significant opportunities targeting emerging markets. Our attorneys in Austin collectively bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise, with an emphasis on corporate law, intellectual property, private equity, securities, and emerging technologies. With the convergence of healthcare and life sciences, an ever-present high-tech community and a top-tier public research institution, Dickinson Wright looks to play a strategic role in the growth and success of this unique capital city.”

Below is a description of Dickinson Wright’s new attorneys and their practices:

Darrell R. Windham, Member – Darrell has more than 35 years of experience in all types of business, transactional and securities matters. His experience includes representing clients in domestic and international mergers and acquisitions, financing and restructuring transactions, strategic alliances and public and private securities offerings. He also advises clients on business start-ups and organizations, corporate governance, securities law compliance, joint ventures and other domestic and international business and technology transactions. Mr. Windham has served as lead counsel to acquirers, sellers and issuers in hundreds of merger and acquisition transactions and public and private securities offerings, including the representation of issuers and investment banks in initial and secondary public offerings and in the purchase and sale of, strategic alliances with, and investments in, medical device, life science, manufacturing, software and semiconductor businesses and technologies. He also counsels technology companies and investors from organization through early and later stage financing rounds and exit transactions. Mr. Windham received his B.B.A. in Accounting from The University of Texas and his J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law. Darrell has served as a director and executive officer of public companies and private businesses and in leadership positions in the Austin community in many charitable and non-profit organizations, including serving as President and Chairman of the Texas Exes and as the first President of the Contemporary Austin.

Ross Spencer Garsson, Member – Mr. Garsson has more than 20 years of experience practicing intellectual property and technology law. He focuses his practice on intellectual property litigation, patent prosecution and intellectual property portfolio management in a variety of technology areas, including chemical, nanotechnology, semiconductor and computer technologies. He has litigated numerous intellectual property disputes in state and federal district courts, in the U.S. Court of Appeals, and at the U.S. International Trade Commission. He has worked closely with nanotechnologists to procure and license their technologies. His work with the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University and the Alan G. MacDiarmid Nanotech Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas has resulted in some of the most important patents for producing and manipulating carbon nanotubes. He represented Xitronix in defense of patent infringement claims involving Xitronix’s systems for non-destructively testing of semiconductor chips and represented Bain Consulting (now Growtheorem Consulting) in a breach of contract dispute regarding health care payment technologies. Mr. Garsson received both his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and B.A. in Mathematics from Rice University. He received his J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law. Ross serves on the Board of Directors of ACE Academy, a private school for gifted and talented children in Austin, and is the on the Board of Advisors of the Rice Alliance.

Lance Anderson, Member – Mr. Anderson has more than 15 years of experience preparing and negotiating complex technology and intellectual property transactions. A registered patent attorney, Mr. Anderson also conducts due diligence for licensing, mergers and acquisitions, technology agreements, strategic planning, patent prosecution, trade secrets and employment mobility, and related operational legal issues. Of particular focus, Mr. Anderson represents clients within the innovation and research enterprise including academic and institutional technology transfer, research and development, clinical and regulatory matters, strategic collaborations, CRADAs, manufacturing, distribution, confidentiality and materials exchange, and related alliances. In addition to representing clients on intellectual property issues, he has been involved in many aspects of corporate law, operations, financing and litigation ranging from start-up and early stage companies to mature market leaders. Mr. Anderson received both his B.S. in Entomology and MS in Crop Science from Texas Tech University. He received his J.D. from Texas Tech University School of Law.

Akerman Adds Austin Lawyers to Its Team

Akerman LLP announced yesterday that it has attracted 30 litigators and trial lawyers from Beirne Maynard & Parsons, including two that office in Austin.

The lawyers, previously with Beirne Maynard & Parsons, are Joe M. Allen, Of Counsel, and Trey Trainor, Partner. Their bios can be viewed here: http://www.akerman.com/bios/search.asp?loc=68

Akerman is a leading transactions and trial law firm “known for its core strengths in middle market M&A, within the financial services and real estate industries, and for a diverse Latin America practice.” The firm boasts more than 650 lawyers and government affairs professionals across a network of 24 offices.