New Court Date Updates for Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

The city is hard at work trying to get things back up and running after Hurricane Harvey. The courts, while important, don’t have much priority right now. If you are in need of help, please contact me at 281-318-1277 and I will do everything I can to get your problems settled. Right now, I will help on almost everything Harvey, except insurance claims, on a pro bono basis. For insurance claims, I will take full representation on a contingency basis. If you still are having a hard time contacting the government over benefits or any other disaster problems, please contact me as soon as you can.

Court Opening Information

Most of the courts in the area are trying to reopen as quickly as possible. As of this morning, the Gee Municipal Courthouse on Lubbock street still is flooded but they are trying to restore power. The courts themselves opened this morning, operating in a limited capacity at the satellite courts at Dairy Ashford, Acres Homes, Mykawa, Clear Lake and Kingwood. If you have any scheduling questions please contact those courts. If the CSMART system is still working they should be able to tell you any case information you may need.

The Harris County District and County Courts at Law opened today as well. The courts are resetting the cases that were canceled due to Hurricane Harvey automatically to two weeks past your original court date. If the new date has a conflict, please contact your attorney to reschedule your case to a better time.

Finally, the Harris County Justice courts are open and operating normal as of September 5th, 2017. However, this is excluding Precinct 5-2 with Judge Williams and Precinct 4-1 with Judge Goodwin. Both of those courts are still closed due to flooding. Please contact your attorney or check the odyssey portal to see the status of your cases. If you have any questions concerning these closures, please let me know.

Court Date Updates for Hurricane Harvey

If you have been accused of a crime in the area affected by Harvey, don’t worry about your case right now. As of Wednesday, August 30, 2017. All of the courts in Harris County and the city of Houston are still closed. If you had a court date during this week, it will end up being rescheduled for sometime later. There is not much information out there right now as to when this will happen.

The Harris County Criminal Courthouse will probably be closed for the foreseeable future as the main lobby flooded and sewage backed up throughout the building. The intake division of the Harris County DA was moved to the Juvenile Courthouse across the way, but there were reports that the roof had collapsed and was flooding courtrooms. It is an open question when either building will be reopened. I have not heard any reports on the main civil courthouse at 201 Caroline nor the Harris County Family Law Courthouse. Given the amount of flooding in the area, I would assume they are both in the same boat. As of right now, nothing has been updated as to when cases will be begin being heard again, but jury services and the courts remain closed for the rest of the week.

The Herbert Gee Municipal Courthouse for the City of Houston was also flooded. As of Sunday, the entire basement was completely underwater and the central police building at 61 Reisner had been evacuated due to concerns with the structure. There have been no statements as to when it will reopen.

Montgomery County reopens Thursday, August 31st and will presumably start hearing cases next week. I will update this when more information becomes available.

Hurricane Harvey Relief Information

It is Wednesday August 30,2017 and for the first time, the rain has stopped falling over Houston since last Friday. There are no words to describe just how bad things are right now. There are thousands who have lost everything. The best I can do is use my skills to help the people of this area. Over the next months I will be volunteering for the Texas Bar to lend my time and experience to those in need. As things get organized, what I can do right now while the rescue and recovery efforts are just underway is to get you some initial information on getting your personal recovery started.

Federal Aid This is the main federal portal for disaster relief. This is the first place for you to start. By filling in your basic documentation, it will allow you to start you claims for FEMA assistance and other federal aid you might be eligible for. Unfortunately, the declared emergency areas have not been update since landfall in Corpus Christi last friday, so you may be delayed in your ability to This is the government’s general Hurricane Harvey information site. If you are still in need of emergency services, please call 911.

Texas State Aid

Texas Workforce Commission:  This is the page for disaster related unemployment benefits. In Texas, it is illegal to force someone to come into work during an hazardous natural emergency or to fire them for the same thing. In fact, the AG’s office will force your employer to pay your unemployment benefits if they are found to in violation.Use this site to apply for benefits. Try to have as much documentation as you can to back up your claim. They have rejected people after granting benefits in the past and will require you to pay the state back if they do so again.

Texas State Disaster Assistance: This is the main portal for Texas disaster relief. As you can tell, it is mostly an information page with basic resources on how to contact other people. Our State doesn’t give out much emergency aid on its own as a part of the general pattern of ignoring the needs of its own citizens.

If you have any questions, or need help with getting started on your forms, feel free to contact me by text or call at (281) 318-1277. Regardless, I will be happy to help with your initial forms or general questions about aid pro bono.

Bad News for Criminal Discovery in Houston

The Case

Defendant’s in Southeast Texas just had a new blow to their criminal discovery rights today when the 1st Court of Appeals released their newest opinion analyzing Brady disclosure. In Morris v. State, 01-16-00330-CR, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. App.– Houston [1st dist.] 2017) Mr. Morris was convicted of family violence assault and was sentenced to 50 years in prison due to enhancements for previous allegations of domestic violence. On appeal, the defense raised the issue that Mr. Morris did not have access to the memos used to prove up the DV cases in impeachment of one of the state’s witnesses and that the state could not call a witness solely for impeachment purposes. The appellate court sided with the government and affirmed the conviction.

In its opinion, the court focused on the government’s argument that it did not have to produce the documents used during the impeachment because they were not “material” to the defense. The court reasoned that since Mr. Morris had received similar documents in a document dump from the Sheriff’s department eliminated the problems from the lack of disclosure. In its second point, it completely ignored the error of the impeachment problems since the trial attorney did not object properly in the context of the impeached statements. As expected, the court affirmed the trial court on both points of error.

So what actually happened here? 

Discovery Issue

In my opinion this boils down to the court misapplying the law in one error and then the defense attorney just missing an objection on the other error. On the Brady error, the court applied the previous standard from its cases in criminal discovery. The problem with that is that the law changed materially with the introduction of the Michael Morton act in 2015. The changes to 39.14 changed the standard from the old Brady analysis as applied by the court here in that materiality no longer matters if the document has been suppressed. By definition, the change of statute would require the courts to reexamine this in light of the new laws. Here, the defense may have thought that the issue was waived, either due to not filing a request for discovery or some other matter during pretrial. Either way, the court should have made its ruling in light of 39.14 and cleared up this fast changing area of the law.

Impeachment under Rule 406

The second error is something that could happen to anyone. Trial objections are always a game depending on what your goals in examining a witness are and how to blunt the other side’s use of the testimony. Here, there is not much you could object to get around the court’s ruling. The court found that to succeed on this objection you have to make the objection specifically under Rule 406.  The problem with that is how can you determine whether the witness was called solely to introduce impeachment evidence. Given this limit, the only way to do this would be to object as the state tries to introduce the impeachment evidence. Then you would have to move to strike any previous testimony elicited from the witness not connected to the impeachment. Regardless, this adds even more minutiae when trying a criminal case; and, when your rights are already under threat, limits yet another issue on appeal.

As with everything on this blog, the writings are my own personal opinion written for my own personal edification. Any statements or opinions made within do not constitute legal advice and create no attorney-client relationship.

Your Rights in a Criminal Case

You’ve been pulled over, you’ve been arrested, and then you’ve been indicted or brought before a judge. You’ve been yelled at and coerced by a bunch of strangers in uniforms. I can’t recommend anyone experiencing the inside of jail cell willingly; but worse, you’re now caught in a confusing and expensive system that will easily trample your rights without someone to step in and protect you in the system. Here is what you need to know before you get caught in a criminal case:

If you’ve ever read the Bill of Rights, it is obvious that the rights of the accused were the most pressing thing on the founding father’s minds. Of the ten original amendments, almost half deal exclusively with how the government can treat you as a person if it believes you have committed a crime. Truly, the most important thing to dealing with a criminal case is knowing your rights. 

  • Your Right to Silence

    • DON’T SAY ANYTHING TO A COP. It will be used against you.
    • Invoke your rights: “I am not making any statements to you. I want to speak to my attorney and have them here.”
    • The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits you from being forced to testify against yourself. This means you don’t have to talk or give any statements to anyone if you refuse.
    • That doesn’t mean your statements can’t be used against you, just that the government can’t force you to say anything. They will ask constantly for you to waive your rights. They will intimidate and lie. Basically, there are times when the government should know your side. Mostly, it’s when you’re trying to get a better deal.
  • Your Right to Privacy

    • NEVER TELL A COP THEY CAN SEARCH YOU. They are asking for a reason.
    • Invoke your rights: “I do not consent to any search. If you want to search, show me your warrant.”
    • The Fourth Amendment guarantees you the right to be safe in your possessions and property. Put simply: if the government wants to search your things or your home, they have to have a warrant. That’s not to say there aren’t a ton of exceptions and ways to get a warrant, but they still have to go through the hoops of getting a judge to sign off on a search before they can look through your stuff.
    • Cars are different. If you drive on a public street, the police can do a plain view search of the inside of your vehicle. But, this does not apply to locked areas or places you cannot reach in the car.
  • Your Right to an Attorney

    • Invoke your rights: “I want to talk to my attorney!”
    • The Sixth Amendment guarantees your right to have an attorney. As a result, if you invoke your right to an attorney they should stop all interviews until your attorney can be present. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t continue to try to get you to talk. As long as you’re silent and refuse to play ball until you get someone in your corner, chances are you’ll end up much better when things finally shake out.

You should never waive your rights without a damn good reason. These protections were added to the constitution to prevent the mad, bad star chamber that had haunted our founder’s forebearers. If you want the justice system to work for you, you need to know how to make your defense better and more prepared. Make the government work for it.

As with everything on this blog, the writings are my own personal opinion written for my own personal edification. Any statements or opinions made within do not constitute legal advice and create no attorney-client relationship.