Biennial Legislative Session CLE w/ Senator Kirk Watson Set for August 19

The Austin Bar Legislative Committee is inviting all attorneys to Senator Kirk Watson’s biennial preview of the upcoming legislative session.

Watson_ActionDate: Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014
Time: Doors open at 11:45 | CLE starts at noon
Location: Austin Bar Association, 816 Congress Ave., Suite 700
CLE: 1 hour credit
Cost: $10 for Austin Bar or AYLA members; $20 for nonmembers. Advance payment is required.
Optional $3 discounted parking validations will be available for purchase (see details below).
RSVP at http://bit.ly/2014SenWatsonCLE by Friday, Aug. 15.

Space is limited and a waiting list will be created when they reach maximum capacity. Please direct RSVP and payment questions to Julie@austinbar.org.

Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend Announces New Hires

Austin-based Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend, P.C. announced today the hire of two new attorneys – Robert L. Gulley as Of Counsel and Ashley D. Thomas as an Associate.

Gulley, who will be a member of the Firm’s Water and Litigation Practice Groups, has 25 years of experience as an environmental attorney in both the public and private sectors.  He was a Senior Trial Attorney in the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section of the Department of Justice, where his practice focused on water, National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act issues. Robert Gulley

Most recently, Gulley served as the Executive Director of the Habitat Conservation Program at the Edwards Aquifer Authority.  He was selected to this position to direct and mediate the consensus-based decision-making process for the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program.  Established by Senate Bill 3 in 2007, this program involved 39 diverse stakeholder groups that ended a half century of litigation over the use of the aquifer, and balanced the needs of the region for water with the springflow-based needs of the federally listed endangered species.

Gulley has a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.  He taught in medical schools and worked as a scientist at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  He is an author of over thirty-five scientific articles and six papers on legal and environmental issues.  Gulley currently teaches a course on groundwater resources at Texas State University and is the author of a book that will be published in mid-2014 on the Edwards Aquifer dispute.  He is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and in Virginia.

Thomas, a member of the Firm’s Water and Litigation Practice Groups, focuses her practice on water quality, environmental permitting and enforcement, and litigation. She represents clients before various regulatory agencies, the State Office of Administrative Hearings, and state courts. In law school, Thomas was a member of the American University International Law Review and the Legislation and Policy Brief. She also worked as a legal intern for The Honorable Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to joining Lloyd Gosselink, Ashley ThomasThomas worked as a key staff member in the Texas House of Representatives during the 80th, 81st, and 83rd legislative sessions.

Thomas received her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law and her B.A. from the University of Texas. Ashley is a member of the State Bar of Texas (Environmental and Natural Resources and Litigation Law Sections), the Austin Bar Association, the Austin Young Lawyers Association, and the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association.

Austin Law Firm Partners with Nursing Home Complaint Center

A press release today suggested that the “Nursing Home Complaint Center (http://NursingHomeComplaintCenter.Com) is strongly encouraging the family members of a victim of sepsis, or septic shock that occurred because of negligence in a nursing home anywhere in the state of Texas to call the law firm of Hotze Runkle at 877-919-0830 for their possible help, and assistance.”Nursing Home Complaint Center Black and White

The Center was clearly impressed with Hotze Runkle, which “is committed to helping those who have suffered harm at the hands of others at a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or a rehab center. They understand the types of challenges that injury victims and their families often have to face, and they make every effort to ensure they provide their clients with the dedicated, aggressive legal representation they deserve in order to effectively pursue justice.”

The Center wrote that it “is focused on nursing home, or rehab center patients that have been diagnosed with sepsis, septic shock, and or pressure sores/pressure ulcers.” The Center is a part of America’s Watchdog, a “National Advocacy Group for Consumer Protection and Corporate Fair Play.”

 

Austin Energy Company Appoints Halliburton GC to Board

Austin-based Jones Energy Inc. (NYSE: JONE) has appointed a Houston attorney to its board of directors and audit committee.

The appointee is Robb Voyles, an executive vice president and general counsel for Houston-based Halliburton Co. Previous to his current position with Halliburton, Voyles was a senior partner at Baker Botts LLP, where he served as the chair of the litigation department and a member of its executive committee.

The Austin Business Journal ranks Jones Energy No. 15 in its list of largest publicly traded companies in the Austin region.

Austin Law Firms Are Hiring

Austin’s legal industry continues to boom. Need proof?

A “thriving mid-sized downtown firm seeks attorney with 5-9 years’ experience in general real estate transaction matters.  This is an innovative, collegial firm that offers a lot of upside and growth.

“Please send resume to info@momentumlegal.com and reference position no. 2942.”

And another one:

“Dynamic firm seeks associate with 6-8 years’ experience in general corporate matters, mergers and acquisitions, finance and local business matters. This position offers high quality, interesting work in an excellent work-life balance environment.

“Please send resume to info@momentumlegal.com and reference position no. 2943.”

University of Texas’ Use of Race in Student Admissions Survives Another Legal Hurdle

By Jennifer A. Smith, of Franczek Radelet PC

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided recently that the University of Texas’s consideration of race as a factor among many factors for college and university admissions is legally permissible in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. This follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in this case that required the University of Texas to show a compelling government interest for its use of race in admissions along with demonstrating that the admissions policy was narrowly tailored to that compelling interest. The University met this hurdle by persuading the Court of Appeals that its use of race for only a small percentage of applicants was necessary to complement the state’s race-neutral policy of accepting the top ten percent of graduates from every Texas high school.

The Court of Appeals explained that “[t]he sad truth is that the Top Ten Percent Plan gains diversity from a fundamental weakness in the Texas secondary education system. The de facto segregation of schools in Texas enables the Top Ten Percent Plan to increase minorities in the mix, while ignoring contributions to diversity beyond race.” For those limited seats not filled by the Top Ten Percent Plan, the University uses race as one factor in a holistic review aimed at selecting students missed by the Top Ten Percent Plan, such as those with special talents or experiences, including the experience of being a minority that attended an “integrated school with better educational resources.”

The Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the University should not be able to use race because the Top Ten Percent Plan already ensures a critical mass of minority students. The Court explained that “[r]ace is relevant to minority and non-minority,” for example race is significant “when candidates have flourished as a minority in their school—whether they are white or black.” The Court found that race is appropriately among the factors that the University may use to search for students with a range of skills, experiences, and performances.

News sources report that the lawyers challenging the University’s use of race in student admissions have vowed to appeal, so this decision is not likely to be the final word on this issue. Nonetheless, it does show that an institution can prevail in defending the use of race in student admissions even after last year’s Supreme Court decision; a decision that raised serious questions about the viability of any consideration of race in higher education admissions. Still, in making admission decisions colleges and universities should keep in mind that the Supreme Court very well might again revisit this issue if Fisher is appealed, and institutions of higher learner should remain mindful of the significant hurdles associated with demonstrating that a policy is narrowly tailored to support a compelling interest, as laid out in the Supreme Court’s original Fisher decision.

Slack & Davis Attorney Writes about Unmanned Aerial Systems (or Drones) and Aviation Law

The Austin-based law firm of Slack & Davis and its aviation attorney Ladd Sanger recently published an article about unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and potential legal issues associated with them in Texas Lawyer. This article appeared in the July 14, 2014, edition.ladd sanger

In the article, Sanger writes how “sophisticated unmanned aerial systems have become economically feasible for use by companies and individuals in many commercial and recreational applications,” but that the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 … “effectively grounded commercial or business use of UAS.”

Currently, “the FAA must authorize commercial use of UAS on a case-by-case basis,” according to Sanger. “To date, the FAA has only authorized one operation in the Arctic. Furthermore, the FAA is pursuing those that violate the de facto UAS commercial use ban.”

Sanger focuses on air crash litigation and products liability matters. He is an FAA-licensed commercial airplane pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. He also is a licensed helicopter pilot. During his career, Sanger has litigated many airline, military and general aviation crash cases. He also has worked for a general aviation affiliate of American Airlines, where he gained a broad background in the corporate and commercial aviation industries.

To see the full article, visit http://www.slackdavis.com/uas-legal-frontier-aviation/

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch Announce New Hire

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, a national law firm with offices in Austin, has announced the hire of Adriana Reyes as a foreign exchange lawyer.

Prior to joining the firm, Reyes was an associate with Baker & McKenzie in Mexico, where she advised international companies doing business in cross-border legal issues.

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch (www.procopio.com), a business law firm, has more than 140 attorneys in San Diego, Del Mar, Silicon Valley, Austin and Phoenix.

Make Sure the Judge Won’t Declare Your Will Invalid

By Brad Wiewel, of the Wiewel Law Firm

Creating a last will and testament is a smart way to make sure that your loved ones receive your assets with a minimum of fuss and effort after your death. But all too often, people go to great pains to write a will and put other estate-planning documents in place, only to have a court invalidate them. To avoid those common mistakes, you have to know which pitfalls to look out for. Here are some of the key factors to consider to make sure a judge won’t declare your will invalid.

You Must Have Unbiased Witnesses When You Sign Your Will. For a will to be valid in most situations, you need to sign the will in the presence of witnesses. Those witnesses will have the responsibility of testifying in court that the person making the will acknowledged that he or she was signing a last will and testament. These witnesses possibly could be called to say whether the person signing the will appeared to have the mental capacity to sign a will and that the person was not under any sort of pressure that would qualify as undue influence in court.

The Motley Fool article titled“3 Reasons Your Will Won’t Hold Up in Court”stresses that it is important that the witnesses are not receiving assets from the estate—this could look like a conflict of interest and lead a court to choose not to accept that person as a qualifying witness. Without witnesses, it can be difficult or impossible to convince a judge that a proposed will is valid—especially if some of the family and heirs contest the will’s validity.

If You Disinherit Family Members Without Being Clear. This is an area that really requires you to consult with an estate planning attorney. The law typically is in favor of treating family members equally. Thus, if you want to give your daughter more than your son or leave him out entirely, you must be extremely clear about your intentions while not giving that individual cause to dispute the will. The Motley Fooladvises that you at least acknowledge the existence of all of your natural heirs, including your spouse, children, or other family members who would be in line to receive your assets under state law if you died without a will. You can then say that the will intentionally makes no provisions for that individual to receive any assets. That is not to say that the person you leave out of the will could put up a fight in court, but it improves the chances that a will contest will not destroy your planning.

If You Are Determined Not To Have The Mental Capacity To Sign A Will. One way people can contest a will is if the individual signing the will did not have the necessary mental capacity to execute an estate planning document. In other words, when you sign a will you have to understand what assets you own, your closest family members, that you are leaving the property to your designated beneficiaries after you pass, and your overall plan of who will be the recipient of parts of your overall estate. It is important to understand that even if you have a form of mental illness, you can still execute a valid will as long as you meet these requirements.

Courts have the authority to review your will for validity; however, if you adhere to these three ideas, you will have a better chance of having your wishes respected after your death.

Reference: The Motley Fool (June 28, 2014) “3 Reasons Your Will Won’t Hold Up in Court”

Waller Ranked Fifth Largest U.S. Healthcare Law Firm

Waller, which opened an Austin office almost two years ago, was ranked the nation’s fifth largest healthcare law firm for 2014 by Modern Healthcare. Waller was ranked the ninth largest U.S. healthcare firm in 2013 by the magazine and has consistently been among the country’s ten largest healthcare law firms since 2005.

“With nearly 50 years of experience in the industry, Waller has become synonymous with healthcare law, and that’s a commitment we keep with our clients,” said Ken Marlow, chair of Waller’s Healthcare Department.

“In the last 18 months we’ve grown our healthcare regulatory and compliance team by nearly two-thirds, and earlier this year we opened a new office in Memphis that expanded our depth and experience in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors. As the needs of our clients evolve, we are constantly adding talented and experienced attorneys in our four offices across the country.”