Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Bertolino LLP

All of us at Bertolino LLP wish you and your families a wonderful Christmas. We look forward to spending this holiday weekend with our loved ones, and hope that you are able to do the same.

May the spirit of peace and love that comes with Christmas be something that we can continue to enjoy throughout the new year.

Happy Holidays from Bertolino LLP!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Texas to Destroy Millions of Baby Blood Samples

In the immediate days that follow the birth of a child, the life of the new parents is often filled with activity before they even leave the hospital. Family and friends are filing in and out to gaze at their newborn son or daughter and exclaim that they never saw a more beautiful baby. Nurses go over the seemingly endless amount of information that they will need to know before being allowed to care for their child at home. And, there is very little sleep to be had. It's no wonder that in that crazy and exciting atmosphere a parent may wonder if something was left at the hospital--perhaps a bottle of shampoo or one of those little socks that never seem to be able to stay on a baby's foot. It probably never crosses mom and dad's minds that they might be leaving some blood behind.

The state of Texas had been collecting blood samples from its newborns for decades without needing the permission of the parents. The blood was drawn to check for birth defects, but then kept for further research. Recently, some parents became aware of this practice and alarmed at the potential for private medical information to be released. The law has now been changed to give parents the right to refuse storage of their baby's blood.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has announced that it will destroy more than five million blood samples that were obtained without the knowledge of parents after facing a legal challenge from the Texas Civil Rights Project. TCRP argued that the storage of the blood constituted violated protections against unlawful search and seizure and a federal court in San Antonio determined that all samples must be destroyed by early next year.

In this instance, the doctors and nurses who were collecting blood samples before the current law was passed were not breaking any laws. Now, however, these medical professionals must be more forthcoming in sharing the details of their work. To do otherwise would be unethical and may result in an experience with the medical review board. If you are in the field of medicine and your professionalism has been challenged, Bertolino LLP has attorneys who are experienced in appearing before the board and are ready to assist you. Please contact our Austin office if you find yourself needing legal representation in this area.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Houston Judge is Going to Jail

The unfortunate reality is that sometimes the people who are supposed to enforce the law are the ones who decide to break it. While most members of our police force are upstanding and valuable members of our community, we have all read stories about the men and women in blue who find more profit from working with the criminals than trying to stop their illegal pursuits. And, yes, there are a few attorneys out there who reach the poor conclusion that the law does not apply to them. As we saw in Houston this past week, judges also are capable of breaking the law. In doing so, they hurt the reputation of all professionals in the fields of law and justice.

Judge Donald Jackson, who is a judge with the Harris County Criminal Court, was found guilty of official oppression and sentenced to thirty days in jail. Perhaps he will have the opportunity to strike up some lively conversations with some of the convicted criminals that he put behind bars.

Jackson also faces 200 hours of community service, a $4000 fine, and 50 hours of coursework regarding legal ethics.

What transgression resulted in this penalty for Judge Jackson? He offered a better court-appointed counsel to a woman accused of driving while intoxicated if she would agree to his romantic advances. Apparently, Judge Jackson's reading of the Texas constitution led him to the conclusion that dinner by candlelight and roses were acceptable to enjoy with an accused criminal.

Even judges may find themselves in need of legal representation at some point, and the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP are here to help. We have lawyers in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who are ready to defend your rights in the courtroom ... even if it's your courtroom! Please contact us today to discuss your case.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Three Houston Men Charged with False Car Inspections

I understand that waiting in a long line of idling cars to have your vehicle inspected is not the ideal way that most people would choose to spend a morning. However, knowing that your vehicle is safe to transport your own passengers as well as to be among the other cars on the highway is important. It would be nice if we could trust that others also place some value on what they are allowing to enter the road. However, three Houston men who were arrested last week prove that we are not necessarily surrounded by safe, clean vehicles.

The men worked at a vehicle inspection station, 5 Minute Inspections, in the Heights-area. They allegedly issued inspection stickers to cars and buses that had never even been to the station. Instead, the men used the same car repeatedly with the knowledge that it would pass inspection and then gave the "all clear" to vehicles that actually may have been quite dangerous. In fact, this station issued the sticker given to the bus that killed seventeen passengers from the Houston area last year as they traveled to a religious festival.

All three men have been charged with tampering with a federal document by the Texas Department of Public Safety. If found guilty, they could face up to twenty years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Perhaps the men will find themselves making license plates for the cars that could have used their actual inspections.

If you operate a business and you are being threatened with legal action based on the actions of your employees, Bertolino LLP has attorneys experienced in business litigation who can help you. Or, if you are facing criminal charges following bad choices you made at your job, we have criminal defense lawyers ready to work with you as well. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fifteen People Killed in One Day in Mexican Border Town

Texas, more than most states in our country, has a lot at stake concerning immigration policy. As a border state, Texas sees the issues of border violence, illegal workers, and drug trafficking forming the headlines of its newspapers nearly every day. The lack of stability of the Mexican government and the rampant crime that exists in so many areas of our neighbor to the south has a direct impact of the safety of people who reside in the Lone Star State. Therefore, recent events like the one in Ciudad Juarez present a serious reason for concern.

Fifteen people, including a seven-year-old boy, a university professor, and three women, were among those killed in just one day of violence in that border town. The victims were shot seemingly just going about their daily lives, with the murders happening in a neighborhood, while riding in a pickup truck, and in other unassuming environments.

Ciudad Juarez is the deadliest city in Mexico, which, unfortunately, is really saying something. There have been more than 1700 killings there already this year, which makes for around five murder victims every single day. The city is just across the border from the Texas city of El Paso, and killing does not stop at some arbitrary line. We all have heard of incidents in which American citizens have been caught up in the violence as well.

At Bertolino LLP, we know that there are many immgration issues involving crimes that bleed over from Mexico into our state. There may be the need for partnership with the Mexican authorities, completion of paperwork to determine legal status, and work with members of ICE and other law enforcement agencies in our country. Our firm has both immigration attorneys and those with experience in criminal defense to assist you in this process. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Austin Man Sentenced After Masturbating in Front of Children

When you first learn that a man has been sentenced to seven years in jail for masturbating, perhaps your reaction is one of shock. Certainly that punishment seems quite harsh for such an activity, even for a state like Texas that is known for dealing with criminal offenders in the strongest way possible. When you then learn that the man was participating in this solo activity while in public, the need for some incarceration becomes more apparent. It is when the final pieces of the story are revealed, that he secretly took videos of undressed women and even stood behind a young girl in a book store while masturbating, that the seven year sentence now seems to fit the crime.

Christopher Carney, a 37-year-old Austin man, was arrested in December 2008 when he was caught masturbating while looking inside a private window. He was charged with indecent exposure and window peering and released awaiting trial. When the police then searched Carney's cell phone and discovered hundreds of incriminating videos, including one taken in the children's aisle of the Book Stop, his presence was requested within a jail cell immediately.

Earlier this week, State District Judge Julie Kocurek sentenced Mr. Carney to his seven-year stint in jail after he pleaded guilty to public indecency with a child and improper photography. He already has been a resident of the Travis County Jail since turning himself into authorities at the end of January.

The criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP want you to know that we are ready to provide aggressive and experienced legal representation for anyone accused of criminal activity. While we strongly recommend that you keep the activity practiced by Mr. Carney within private and discreet locations, we can help if you are accused of poor or even dangerous judgment concerning your personal practices. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Day to Thank Heroes

Today is the day that we honor the veterans who have served our country. There is no more amazing and courageous group of people than the men and women of the United States military. Everyone here at Bertolino LLP thanks you for your service and your sacrifice. While we set aside this one day in November, the people of this country can never thank you enough for what you do in the defense of freedom.

Our thoughts are particularly with the families who are grieving the horrific events that occurred at Fort Hood several days ago. The military is such an important part of our great state of Texas, and we are honoring those fallen heroes today.

We appreciate every veteran and active duty member of the military. Thank you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Houston-Based Contractors in Iraq Face Cutbacks

When President Obama won the presidency at about this time last year, he did so in part by declaring his consistent opposition to the war in Iraq and his promise that as president he would bring an end to American military conflict in Iraq as quickly as would be considered responsible. The President seems to be moving in this direction, with the current plan to have all American forces out of that country by December 2011. The gradual withdrawal of troops affects not only members of the military but also the thousands of civilian contractors who are currently working in Iraq. There is no need for a support service to be present in order to clean soldiers' laundry if there are no soldiers around. With that in mind, an audit just completed by the Defense Department shows that a Houston-based company did not seem to get the memo about the policy change.

KBR Inc. is a private company that contracts with the United States military to provide a wide variety of services. They have a ten-year deal worth $33.8 billion that was signed in 2001. This figure amounts to $8425 a month in salary and benefits for each full-time employee. The Pentagon is charging that the KBR Inc. may be unnecessarily increasing the number of employees in the war zone as a way of earning more profit. The company has been ordered to cut more than 2000 jobs or face $200 million in penalties.

As an excerpt from the audit states, "Each day that passes without taking action results in continued overstaffing and inefficiency." KBR Inc. argues that they have been waiting to make staff cuts until the administration's plans for drawdown of its forces.

You may not be facing an audit and financial repercussions from the Defense Department, but there may be another instance in which the reputation of your business is being threatened. If this is the case, you should seek legal representation. There are attorneys at Bertolino LLP who are experienced in the area of business litigation. Please contact our Austin, Houston, and San Antonio office today to discuss your case.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dismissal of Charges in Yogurt Shop Murders

There are certain notorious crimes that leave a lasting impact even on the people that only read about the violence in the newspaper or see it on the news. Perhaps a high-profile celebrity gets killed and the details are fodder for the tabloids for months. Or, maybe the crime that is committed is done so against the most innocent and harmless among us, and the violence leaves everyone asking how such an act could occur.

Nearly eighteen years ago, the city of Austin was rocked by such a crime with the murders of four teenage girls at an I Can't Believe It's Yogurt Shop in North Austin. Two young men, Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen confessed to the crimes eight years later, but ten years they spent in jail may end up being the totality of their punishment with the admission of new DNA evidence.

Scott and Springsteen were released from jail in June of this year, under the order of State District Judge Mike Lynch, while awaiting a re-trial in light of new evidence and confessions that may have been coerced. The key issue? Investigators are now able to analyze DNA samples in ways that weren't possible nearly two decades ago.

DNA discovered in one of the yogurt shop victims does not match that of Scott or Springsteen, and today prosecutors moved to dismiss the charges against the two men until it can be determined the owner of the mystery genetic material. Prosecutors had hoped to obtain a continuance in the case while further DNA testing was done. When Judge Lynch made it clear that the trial must move forward, prosecutors decided the best option was to start over with a new trial at a later date.

As Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg shared in a statement, "I believe it is the best legal and strategic course to take and is the one that leaves us in the best possible posture to ultimately retry both Springsteen and Scott.”

As is shown by the state’s case against Scott and Springsteen, criminal cases are often complex and can turn on the smallest piece of evidence. If you are facing serious criminal charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you through the legal maze. Please contact the law offices of Bertolino LLP in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio and let's see if we can help you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Woman Sues Houston City Council Over Prayer

I am sure that everyone has heard that famous warning, "Never discuss politics or religion if you want to avoid a contentious conversation." When it comes to current events surrounding the idea of the separation between church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment, both of those taboo topics take center stage. Court cases are heard every year and on every level about whether or not people can pray in a particular location. And, politicians who are eager to secure a few more votes in the next election will certainly share their thoughts on the matter as well.

One such court case is unfolding right now in Texas, and it involves the Houston City Council. A local real estate agent and lawyer, Kay Stanley, is suing both the city and City Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck for what she believes is a promotion of the Christian faith during council meetings. Stanley alleges that more than 90% of the prayers spoken to open meetings are based in Christianity and specifically targets Councilwoman Clutterbuck for her recitation of the Lord's Prayer.

City Attorney Arturo Michel
believes that offering a prayer to open a council meeting does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as the government is not endorsing a particular religion. Mr. Michel also referenced a Supreme Court ruling that supported the Council's decision to open in prayer.

Kay Stanley is no stranger to being a self-appointed watchdog for the separation of church and state. She successfully sued to have a Bible removed from the Harris County courthouse six years ago.

Whether or not you are not concerned about the prayer choices of your local elected officials, there may be other instances in which your livelihood is affected by your personal convictions. If you are currently working in an environment that either imposes a particular religious ideology on you or penalizes you for your religious beliefs, you should seek legal representation. The attorneys at Bertolino LLP are experienced in labor and employment law and will work with you to make sure you are receiving fair treatment. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Austin Man Uses Samurai Sword to Threaten Woman

When you are homeless, chances are that your current financial circumstances have left you with few material possessions. In fact, this struggling economy in which we live has many families deciding every day the next item they can do without in order to afford the payment that will keep a roof over their heads. For this reason, I was somewhat surprised to discover that a homeless man threatened violence in Austin earlier this week with his very own samurai sword.

Paul James Guzman showed up at a friend's apartment in hopes of finding a place to spend the night. His friend's girlfriend was not amenable to the idea, perhaps because she was aware of Mr. Guzman's tendency to store a instrument of violence favored by warriors of the Far East under his coat. Whatever the reason, Guzman was not pleased by the refusal of accommodations and "unsheathed a samurai sword from his belt" while the woman placed a phone call to the police.

Guzman fled the scene before police arrived but was discovered nearby. He left the samurai sword on the living room floor, which pretty much breaks rule number one of recommended behavior for successful criminal activity. Mr. Guzman now faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and is hanging out in the Travis County Jail on $15,000 bail.

Strangely enough, a college student in Maryland killed an intruder with a samurai sword just last month. Who knew they were becoming so prolific?

If you make the poor decision to threaten or even harm someone with a three- to five-foot Japanese blade, you most certainly will need legal representation. The law offices of Bertolino LLP have criminal defense attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio ready to help you. Please contact us today and let's discuss your case.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Embezzlement Increases at Law Firms

There are several ways that you can enjoy the income that is earned by a successful attorney or law firm. First, there is the obvious route of completing law school and passing the bar exam. Or, you could follow your mother's advice and "marry a doctor or a lawyer." Unfortunately, there is a third method that is increasingly becoming the attempted avenue for those who want to share in the profit of a law firm ... embezzlement. While perhaps not a wise move to commit a serious crime while occupying the same space as men and women who are experts in the law, employees in law offices seem to think they can get away with it. Rest assured, they cannot!!!

Here's a snapshot of embezzlement from law firms just in August 2009: Norma Blackwell, a bookkeeper from a Virginia Beach legal partnership, stole $150,000 by putting fraudulent checks in front of her boss for signing during the busiest time of the day and illegally wiring money from the firm's account to that of her husband. A law firm office manager in Sacramento, California, embezzled $1.3 million from her law firm between 2003 and 2008. She used the firm's checks to pay her personal bills and used its computer system to inflate her salary and her bonus. In another instance of bookkeeper-turned-criminal, Claire K. Thurman of Nashville wrote unauthorized checks and forged signatures in her efforts to steal more than $50,000 from the law firm for which she worked.

As I do from time to time on this blog, I would like to offer a piece of free legal advice. Whether you work for a car dealership, McDonalds, or any other place at which there is money, do not steal from your employer! This tip should be taken with even stronger consideration when the place from which your earn your paycheck is a law firm. The people there are usually (or at least should be!) sticklers for not breaking the law. However, if you find the need to write a fake check in order to pay this month's credit card bill and you get caught in the act, you will need legal representation. I imagine the attorneys in your office won't want to help you, so please contact Bertolino LLP. We have offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio with criminal defense attorneys ready to help you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Texas Judge Approves Request for Divorce of Gay Couple

An important decision was made by a Dallas judge today that may change the landscape of family law in the state of Texas. Two men who were married in a jurisdiction that recognizes gay marriage but live in Dallas now want a divorce. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott argued that since gay marriage is not permitted in Texas, the state cannot dissolve such a marriage. Judge Tena Callahan reached a different conclusion.

In 2005, voters in Texas overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage in the Lone Star State. Instead, both the Texas Constitution and the Texas Family Code define marriage as being only between one man and one woman. Judge Callahan, through today's ruling, stated that the state's ban on gay marriage violates a constitutional guarantee to equal protection under the law.

This ruling represents a huge shift in the way that gay marriage is viewed in the eyes of the law in our state. By issuing such an opinion, Judge Callahan has opened the door for other challenges to the definition and practice of marriage in Texas. Attorney General Greg Abbott has indicated that he intends to appeal the ruling "to defend the traditional definition of marriage."

At Bertolino LLP, we have experienced family law attorneys who are ready to work with you through all of the sensitive issues associated with marriage and divorce. And, we certainly will be following today's ruling to see what it may mean for future clients. If you are in the need of any legal assistance regarding your marriage, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Houston Man Forfeits More Than 1000 Animals Seized from His Property

There is certainly nothing wrong with being an animal lover. Pets can bring great joy to people and are often considered members of the family. Every school kid loves taking a field trip to the zoo to admire the majestic lion and the tall giraffes. However, it is important to draw a line when determining the number of animals that you are going to bring into your home, even if you do so with the best of intentions. I would argue that 1000 animals is going a bit beyond the number of creatures for which you can care effectively. Today, a judge in Houston agreed with that assessment.

Joselito Rivera Boado had 1009 animals seized from his property last week by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Today Boado agreed to forfeit all but two dogs to the agency, with those two animals going to his ex-wife once given a clean bill of health and spayed and neutered. Mr. Boado also will be turning over his home in northwest Houston in order to pay for the medical and boarding costs of all the animals.

Mr. Boado still may face criminal charges for the condition of the animals on his property, although charges have not been filed at this time.

There is nothing wrong with bringing Fluffy or Spot into your home and then showering your new pet with love. I advise against increasing the number of animals at your home until the population of cats and dogs equals that of a small town. If you do, however, find yourself facing criminal charges for your negligent animal ownership, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Houston Authorities Search for Grandma Bandit

If I asked you to describe your grandmother, there are probably some common responses that come to mind. She is always trying to feed you another serving of dinner. She is ready with a piece of hard candy retrieved from the bottom of her purse. She is filled with an unconditional love for her family. I doubt that "ideal personality and physique to be a successful bank robber" comes to mind. However, the city of Houston has just been introduced to a woman who the FBI has dubbed the "Grandma Bandit."

The mystery woman robbed two Compass Banks in Houston today, within an hour of one another. In both instances, she claimed to have a gun and demanded money. And, she was successful in both of her efforts. She was bold enough to decide that she did not need to wear a mask when engaging in criminal activity, so authorities were able to tell that she appears to be between 55 and 65 years of age. Perhaps she was operating under the incorrect assumption that the camouflage cap she was spotted wearing at both crime scenes would shield her from any detection.

If you can offer any tips that lead to this woman's arrest, you may find yourself in possession of a $5000 reward. So, if you see an older woman who is between five feet, two inches and five feet, seven inches and is wearing a purple shirt decorated with feathers, please contact the Crime Stoppers Hotline at (713) 222-TIPS or the FBI's Houston office at (713) 693-5000.

If you are a grandmother, or even a second cousin or uncle once removed, who has been accused of a crime, you need legal representation. The law firm of Bertolino LLP has offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio with criminal defense attorneys ready to help you. Please contact us today and let's discuss how we can help.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tom DeLay Shows Off His Texas Dance Skills

There have been celebrities with a wide range of talents who have graced the stage of the hit television program "Dancing with the Stars." We have watched professional athletes, singers, and actors compete to see who has the most graceful and impressive. This season marks the first time that a former member of Congress will lace up his dancing shoes, and the great state of Texas gets to claim him. Former Congressman and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is perhaps the most surprising contestant on this season's program.

DeLay is not exactly someone that I would naturally assume to be a winning presence on the dance floor. "The Hammer," as he was nicknamed during his time in Washington, D.C., is more known for his ability to pull together the votes needed to pass the legislation he favored. Only time will tell if his talents to bring his fellow legislators to his side on a controversial bill will translate to a strong execution of the tango or waltz. He did manage to survive the double elimination that just occurred in the first week of competition, so perhaps he will be around for a while. Perhaps DeLay's stint on "Dancing with the Stars" will mark a whole new career path.

If Tom DeLay is reading this blog, I want him to know that there are attorneys at Bertolino LLP who are experienced in the area of celebrity law. There may be world tours, television specials, and tap shoe endorsements in your future. We can help you negotiate the necessary contracts and make sure that your talent is being marketed in the best way possible. Please contact our office as soon as you are done with rehearsal and let's talk about what we can do for you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stalker Arrested at Texas Ranch Shared by Ty Murray and Jewel

Celebrities encounter a wide range of difficult challenges that are unique to their very public position. They face the possibility of their marital problems becoming front page fodder for every tabloid magazine sold at the grocery store checkout. Perhaps one unflattering photo taken during what was assumed to be a private moment could change the course of a person's career. Unfortunately, the famous members of our society also deal with the fact that they are magnets for mentally ill men and women who are hoping to gain their own level of celebrity status by entering the world of a celebrity. Singer Jewel experienced this scary reality on her Texas ranch last week.

Jewel shares a ranch with her rodeo husband, Ty Murray, in Stephenville, Texas. The quiet life that they enjoy away from the constant spotlight of Hollywood or New York was disturbed last week by a man who claimed to be on a mission from God. Michael Lawrance Kozelka of Wisconsin was found twice on the 2000-acre ranch and apprehended without incident by security. When searched by local authorities, he was discovered to be carrying a knife. I guess, in this instance, that God's message was not one of peace. Kozelka is currently in jail with a $30,000 bond and is facing charges of stalking, which could lead to up to ten years behind bars.

The celebrity law attorneys at Bertolino LLP are experienced with the special circumstances that accompany the life of a high-profile client. We go to great lengths to protect their privacy and handle all legal conflicts discreetly. If you are a celebrity and you are facing any of the risks that come with your profession, from poor management to a breach of contract to being stalked by an overzealous fan, we can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today and let's discuss what you need.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

San Antonio Mother Arrested After Children Discovered Alone in Parking Lot

When you compile a list of the acceptable places for two children under the age of five to be at 2:00am, I imagine that the brainstorming effort does not take long. After you get past the standard answers -- their own beds, perhaps cribs if they are young enough, or maybe even safely asleep in car seats as their parents drive through the night to make it to grandma's house -- there really are not many other options. I certainly hope that no one would think to include "wandering aimlessly around a parking lot" as a proper location for young kids. Despite this logic, two children were indeed discovered walking among parked cars in their apartment complex. Now, their mother is facing criminal charges.

Jantel Thomas of San Antonio told authorities that she needed to deal with a family emergency and decided to leave her two girls, ages 18 months and four years, alone in their apartment. The children found their way out of the relative safety of their home and took to the parking lot screaming for their mother. Fellow residents first tried to return the girls to their apartment but quickly realized that no adult was present. The police were called and the girls were taken to a children's shelter. They have since been placed with a relative.

Thomas has been taken to the Bexar County Jail on a $10,000 bond. She faces two counts of abandonment.

The attorneys at Bertolino LLP understand the sensitive nature of crimes involving children. We have criminal defense attorneys who can work with someone accused of such a crime in a way that respects all parties involved. We also have lawyers experienced in the area of family law. If safety of children is in question a new custody situation must be arranged, we can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today if you find yourself in need of legal assistance.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Houston Texan Player Fined for Message on Shoes

I am pretty sure that for as long as humans have roamed the earth, clothes have been used as a form of expression. In today's culture, we can share our opinions on politics, celebrities, or music through our choice of T-shirts. Some young women choose to offer self-descriptive words on the back of their shorts. With football season now underway, fans of the sport can be seen wearing jerseys to advertise their allegiance to a particular team. Even the football players themselves can use their attire to make statements. Unfortunately, such fashion choices can sometimes be costly. Just ask Dunta Robinson, cornerback for the Houston Texans.

Robinson wore shoes that read "Pay Me, Rick" on the heels during the Texans' loss to the New York Jets last weekend. Robinson is making $10 million this season, but apparently wishes that general manager Rick Smith could pay him more. Robinson has been designated as the team's franchise player, but new salary negotiations cannot take place until the end of the season.

The footwear fashion statement, which Dunta Robinson insists was meant as a joke, has been fined $25,000 by the Texans for conduct detrimental to the team. He also faces an additional $5000 fine from the NFL for a uniform violation. Robinson has indicated that he plans to pay any fines that he is issued without appeal, as he just wants to put the incident behind him.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who are experienced in the specific needs of sports law. If you are an athlete who is dealing with a difficult contract negotiation or a dispute with team management, our lawyers can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio offices today to discuss your case. And, in the meantime, keep all Sharpies away from your shoes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

85-Year-Old Austin Man Charged with Shooting City Workers

For generations, people have joked about the stereotypical grumpy old man who is always yelling at the kids in his neighborhood to get off his lawn. Many either fear turning into such a person as they age or revel in the idea of earning, through reaching a certain level of seniority, the right to yell at the people who have always caused you grief. In one Austin neighborhood this week, residents learned of their own very real version of the elderly man who protects his property to extensive ends. Unfortunately, in this case violence resulted and criminal charges have been filed.

Henry Ralph Schots, age 85, heard workers who had been hired by the city of Austin to clear brush. He thought that the seven men participating in this clean-up effort were trespassing on his property. Schots fired a total of eight shots at the workers, with some of the bullets coming close to causing harm. When the workers left the scene to meet with the police officers who had been summoned, Schots followed them in his car and was confronted by the officers. A search of his car revealed the gun that had been used against the workers.

Schots now faces seven felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. If convicted on all counts, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. At this time, he remains in jail awaiting the next steps in his legal process.

If you believe that people are trespassing on your property and your life is not in imminent danger, the solution should not be to make an attempt on their lives. Instead, unless you are afraid or unable to do so, I suggest that you try talking to the people first. However, if you should choose to aim your gun at innocent city workers, you will need a lawyer. The law offices of Bertolino LLP has attorneys who are experienced in the area of criminal defense. If you are facing criminal charges, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Anotonio office today and let's discuss how we can help.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

San Antonio Ranks High in Repeat Teen Births

San Antonio has received one of the top national rankings in a category that the city would have preferred to go unmentioned. Child Trends, a nonprofit group that focuses on child development, has released a report showing that San Antonio has the third-highest percentage of repeat teen births among large cities. Out of all of the teen births that take place in the city, 26% of them are repeat births. Another city in Texas, Dallas, has the highest number of repeat births among teens and Jackson, Mississippi ranks second. With the national average of repeat teen births dropping over the past two decades, why are cities like San Antonio seeing an unfortunate increase in their numbers?

Dr. Janet Realini of Healthy Futures, a nonprofit group based in San Antonio that focuses on the prevention of unplanned and teen pregnancies, offered her opinion on why San Antonio's number of teen births is so high. She believes that a lot of young people from minority or economically disadvantaged homes do not feel that they have many options concerning their future and are often without role models to show them alternatives to early sexual activity and teen parenthood. Also, the problem may stem from the fact that teenagers are not educated on how to prevent pregnancy, either from the schools or their own parents.

In the cases of teen pregnancy, the chances are greater that the baby is being born into an unstable home environment. The couple probably is not married, meaning there are likely issues of child custody and financial support that must be resolved. The family law attorneys at Bertolino LLP have the experience to handle the delicate issues involving children. We have offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio ready to serve you. Whether you are a teen mother or a parent entering into a divorce after decades of marriages, our lawyers can help.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Man Robbed Outside San Antonio Strip Club

In an act that demonstrated some questionable skills in terms of determining the optimal time to find a great deal of cash on a man, a patron of a strip club in San Antonio was robbed after spending some quality time at the establishment. The suspect approached the victim as he was exiting Tiffany's Cabaret and demanded money at gunpoint. When the victim refused to hand over the money that remained following his evening at the gentleman's club, the suspect pistol whipped the man across the face and took his wallet, which contained both cash and credit cards.

The suspect fled in a white Dodge Charger with chrome rims. The victim, who suffered only minor injuries and was not going to let a gun to the face keep him down, followed the suspect in his own vehicle until multiple gunshots were fired at him. He understandably made the decision to let his assailant escape at this point, but not before writing down the license plate number on the getaway car.

I certainly never would encourage the victim of a crime to take any action that may bring them further harm, but I am impressed with this man's desire to fight back against the violence he encountered. He managed to keep his senses about him and gather evidence that may prove crucial to the police investigation. I hope that his efforts soon will result in the capture of his attacker.

At Bertolino LLP, we recognize that every person accused of a crime, from minor offenses to the most heinous acts, deserves his day in court. Therefore, we have experienced criminal defense attorneys with our firm who will fight for you aggressively and thoroughly in the face of criminal charges. If you are in need of legal representation, whether you have been accused of a rather ineffective pistol whipping, a robbery, or any other crime, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Whistleblower Brings Suit Against Bandera County Sheriff

You often hear of police auctions in which cars that were confiscated from drug dealers or other criminals are sold to the public. This provides a way to keep well-functioning cars on the road and bring a little extra revenue to local law enforcement. Do you ever wonder what happens to other evidence that is collected as part of an investigation? You probably do not assume that a glass beaker used in a meth lab would become a police officer’s new fish bowl or that shotguns used in the commission of a crime would be used during hunting trips. However, allegations of such misuse are being brought against Sheriff Weldon Tucker of Bandera County. And now, the deputy who exposed the alleged crimes is claiming he lost his job as a result.

Deputy Scott A. Sharp contends that he was fired by Tucker in retaliation for reporting “unlawful, irregular and corrupt activities” to federal authorities. Sharp has now filed a lawsuit seeking at least $2 million in damages and naming Sharp, two other administrators, and the county itself as defendants. Tucker has denied any wrongdoing and insists that Sharp was fired due to insubordination. The case will be played out in the U.S. District Court in San Antonio.

In Texas, public employees such as police officers are protected under state law if they find it necessary to act as whistleblowers. You should not worry that your job will be threatened if you choose to report illegal activity occurring at your place of employment. If you have lost your job due to your decision to be a whistleblower, the labor and employment attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We have offices in San Antonio, as well as in Austin and Houston, with lawyers ready to fight for your career and your reputation. Please contact us today.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Austin City Council Approves Ban on Texting While Driving

This morning, the Austin City Council voted to approve a preliminary ban on typing and sending text messages while driving your car. Once the final legislation is written and put up for a vote in a few months, you no longer will be able to text your spouse that you are stuck in traffic or read that e-mail that you just did not get around to opening before you left the office. The legislators also approved a three-foot driving distance between other vehicles and users of the road. Together, these measures have the intention of putting the driver's focus back on the road and his surroundings. The question is, will these new restrictions make any difference?

Recent studies clearly have shown that texting while driving is a dangerous activity. The main proponent of the bill, Councilman Mike Martinez, shares that “You’re 20 times more likely to get into an accident texting while you’re driving.” Those quick messages you send with your Blackberry have proven to lead to more car crashes than talking on the phone or even driving while intoxicated. Not only are your eyes diverted from the road in front of you, but you also are removing your hands (or at least your thumbs!) from the steering wheel.

There were more than a dozen bills presented before the Texas state legislature this year concerning the use of cell phones while driving and most of them failed. A primary concern is how a ban on texting could ever be enforced. A police officer would either have to catch a driver texting, which is difficult when the phone is hiding on a driver's lap, or a witness would have to be presented who could offer a reliable account that texting had occurred. In the seventeen states in which texting while driving is already banned, many drivers continue the practice with the assumption that they will not get caught. In New York, a state in which a texting ban was enacted in 2001, the level of texting returned to pre-ban levels within a year, once drivers realized that enforcement was not taking place.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a driver who was texting and therefore distracted from the road, the personal injury attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We have offices in Austin, as well as Houston and San Antonio. Please contact us today and let us work with you to get the compensation you deserve.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Austin City Council to Discuss New Requirements for Those Seeking Contracts with City

There are definitive protections in place at both the federal and state levels for many forms of discrimination in the workplace. You cannot be denied consideration for an open position, passed over for a promotion, or laid off from your job based solely on the reason of religion, race, disability, or a variety of other factors. One area of discrimination that does not receive the same comprehensive protection, and also provokes a great deal of debate whenever considered by a legislative body, is any action taken against a person based on his or her sexuality. On Thursday, the city of Austin will be discussing a resolution that would award contracts only to companies that have nondiscrimination policies including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Austin already requires companies to sign a form declaring that they do not discriminate based on a long list of identifying factors. This new resolution would take the requirements a step further and require proof from the companies that they already have a nondiscrimination policy already in place. This resolution would only apply to companies that are bidding for contracts greater than $50,000. If a company is interested in consideration for a contract and does not have an appropriate nondiscrimination policy in place, the resolution allows for the creation of standard language that the company could add their policy manuals in order to be compliant with the new requirements.

At Bertolino LLP, we strongly believe that every employee should have the opportunity to perform and excel at their chosen profession without fear of discrimination. We also understand that employers sometimes face false accusations of prejudice against an employee and need legal representation as well. We have employment and labor law attorneys at our offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who are ready to assist you with any work disputes you may be facing. Please contact us today!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Houston Mom Accused of Injuring Her Son Stands Trial This Week

As I have discussed repeatedly on this blog, no crimes receive more feelings of anger and calls for revenge than those that are done against children. We look at these most innocent members of our society and wonder how anyone could think of bringing harm to them. It is understandable, then, that when someone stands accused of hurting a child and faces her day in court, the media is going to follow every moment of the proceedings. Therefore, you can expect the reporters will be focused on the Harris County Courthouse starting this Thursday, August 6.

Katherine Nadal stands accused of cutting off the genitals of her five-week-old son, Holden Gothia, while he slept back in March 2007. Nadal has maintained her innocence, claiming that the family's dachshund committed the horrible act, but the physical evidence points to a cut with a sharp and precise instrument instead of showing a jagged tear that would appear with a dog bite. She tested positive for both cocaine and methadone the day after she was arrested for the injuries to Holden, and therefore also faces charges of abusing drugs while being the sole provider for her son. If convicted, Katherine Nadal could spend the rest of her life in jail. Holden Gothia is now living with his aunt and her husband, who received full custody of the child.

Under the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, everyone who stands accused of a crime is guaranteed representation and a fair trial. This right holds true even when the court of public opinion has already issued its verdict in a highly-charged case. At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who are experienced in the field of criminal defense. If you have been accused of criminal activity, we are ready to provide you with an aggressive and thorough representation in court. If children are involved and custody issues need to be resolved, our family law attorneys can work with you on this delicate and emotional situation as well. Please contact our office today.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Texas Medical Board Strips Houston Doctor of Professional License

Actions taken on Friday should serve as a reminder to all medical professionals in our state that the Texas Medical Board often becomes the body which determines your professional fate. Just ask Dr. Bernard Albina of Houston, an orthopedic surgeon who has been accused of molesting young boys over the many years in which he practiced his profession. While District Judge David Mendoza released Dr. Albina last week on $400,000 bail and allowed Albina to continue practicing medicine while awaiting his trial, the members of the Texas Medical Board had other plans.

The Medical Board decided to strip Dr. Albina of his right to practice medicine anywhere in the state of Texas. As shared by Board spokeswoman Jill Wiggins, "“No one but the medical board has the authority to allow him to practice medicine. And that requires a free and active license, which he no longer has.” Dr. Albina chose not to appear at the suspension hearing to speak in his own defense. The convincing evidence, hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the sexual abuse of minors, was allowed to speak for itself without Albina's refutation. The suspension of Dr. Albina's license will remain in effect until he is able to provide clear and convincing proof that he is physically and mentally able to practice medicine.

The attorneys at Bertolino LLP, particularly those who work in the Austin office, have a great deal of experience with appearing before the Texas Medical Board. If you are a medical professional and someone has filed a complaint against you, please contact Bertolino LLP before you move ahead with the investigation process. No matter the exact nature of the charges against you, you have a right to a hearing that is thorough and presents all possible evidence on your behalf. Our lawyers who work in the area of medical licensing and boards will make sure that you are provided the best possible defense of your professional reputation.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Texas House Votes for Resolution Supporting States' Rights

The federal government can dictate a lot to the individual states by loosening and tightening its Congressional purse strings or by simply mandating a decision that will impact all of us. Recently though, through "tea party" protests and our own governor's reminder that secession is always an option, the decisions of our elected officials in Washington, D.C. have come under increased scrutiny. The citizens of Texas have always had a strong independent streak, so it should be no surprise that, this past weekend, its legislative body took up the very idea of asserting its strength over the federal government.

HCR 50 is a non-binding resolution that was introduced by Rep. Brandon Creighton, a Republican from Conroe. The text of this resolution supported the idea of "states' rights" as determined by the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. Creighton believes that the federal government should stay out of the lives of Texans as much as possible, but insisted that he was not calling for secession. In his own words, "It's about succeeding in the union, not seceding from the union." Apparently, many of his many fellow House members agreed with this sentiment, as the resolution passed with a vote of 99-36.

Those who opposed the resolution pointed to the fact that states' rights has historically been an argument used by those who wanted to deprive equal rights to minorities, and most of the votes in opposition came from African American and Hispanic Democrats.

There are countless areas of law and policy that are determined by a partnership between the federal and state government, including education, abortion, drugs and alcohol, taxes, and many others. What are your thoughts? Do you think that the people and elected officials of Texas should have more autonomy over what happens in our state? Or, do you believe that our country benefits from having unified policies? Please let us know what you think!

Either way, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP are experienced in both federal and state laws and work aggressively to keep our clients in good standing with both Austin and Washington, D.C. If you have any legal question or concern, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Legislature Grants Approval for Texas Mother to Sue State

If you live in Texas and follow the news at all, you are probably familiar with the case of Haseeb Chishty. Mr. Chishty is a man in his thirties with mental disabilities who had been living in the Denton State School in order to improve his eating and behavioral skills. In 2002, he was beaten by a school employee who later pled guilty to the assault and admitted to being high on drugs at the time. Mr. Chishty now requires around-the-clock care that is similar to what is needed by an infant, with these duties being shared by his mother, his two siblings, and an aide who is compensated through Medicaid. Since the incident, his mother has been testing the accepted standard of where the blame for tragedy should be placed.

Farhat Chishty wants to be able to sue the state of Texas for what happened to her son while he was in the care of a state-run facility. As an entity, the state enjoys sovereign immunity and the legislature must approve any efforts to bring a case against Texas. In the past, only twenty-three out of 307 filed resolutions to sue have been approved by the state. Mrs. Chishty can now state that she is number twenty-four. On Wednesday, the Senate approved a House resolution that will allow the Chishty family to sue both the residential facility and the agency that oversees it, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. The measure now goes to the governor for his signature.

Texas has long been under attack for the quality of care provided in their state facilities, with the legislature approving hundreds of millions of dollars this session in an effort to improve the situation. I imagine that this resolution on behalf of Haseeb Chishty is another way in which our elected officials are trying to set things right.

The law offices of Bertolino LLP have personal injury attorneys who will work with you to get the compensation that you deserve. We know that a traumatic injury to a loved one affects the entire family and has a lasting emotional impact. We want to remove some of that burden from you. If you need legal assistance, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Changes Coming to Automatic Admissions Policy for University of Texas

For more than a decade, Texas students who graduated in the top ten percent of their high school class enjoyed the comfort of knowing that they could attend the state public university of their choice. This measure was adopted by the Texas legislature in 1997 as a way of increasing the diversity of the student population at University of Texas-Austin. However, the law has come under scrutiny from our elected officials this year, at the request of university officials, and it appears that changes to the policy are coming.

The State Senate has agreed to go along a House bill that will limit the number of students granted acceptance under the ten percent policy to seventy-five percent of entering freshmen from Texas. Eighty-one percent of the freshman at the school this past year were accepted based on the ten percent rule. While University officials had hoped for the cap to be more like fifty or sixty percent, they are pleased that UT-Austin will have more discretion over its incoming classes with the passage of this law. As Governor Rick Perry has already stated his support for limiting the automatic admission law, his signature of approval is expected.

We know that changes to policies in higher education affect families all across Texas. You may have been counting on your child's strong ranking in his graduating class to be his ticket to Austin, and now those plans may have to change. What the future holds for your son or daughter regarding higher education, even if those plans are still years away, impacts your business plans, the way in which wills are written, or even your child support settlements. At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who practice in all of these relevant areas. If you have any legal questions regarding your child and education policy in this state, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Concealed Weapons on Campus Passes in Texas Senate

As I have discussed on this blog before, the Texas state legislature has grappled this session with the controversial idea of allowing students to carry their concealed handguns on campus. The proposed legislation, which stemmed from the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech two years ago, would allow students and employees who are at least twenty-one years old who already have a license to carry a concealed weapon to bring their guns into campus buildings. Exceptions would be made for campus medical and athletic facilities. Last week, the bill came one step closer to being law.

The Texas Senate gave final passage to the campus handgun bill with a 19-12 vote. As the sponsor of the bill, Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), said, "“I would feel personally guilty if I woke up one morning and read that something similar [to the tragedy at Virginia Tech] had occurred on a Texas campus." Opponents continue to argue that adding more guns to an environment is not going to improve a gun-related problem.

The bill must now go back to the House for debate and a vote by the same lawmakers who allowed the proposal to die last week by not discussing it before the deadline. As of this post, exactly half of the members of the House have pledged their support for the bill.

If the bill gets signed into law, students at all state universities would be able to put their concealed weapon permit into use. Private institutions would be able to opt out of the law if they so choose.

The attorneys at Bertolino LLP are aggressive defenders of your constitutional rights and follow all of the activity in Austin in order to know where you stand with Texas law. However, if you make the poor decision to take a gun into your engineering or psychology building before the state gives you the legal clearance, you will need legal representation. We have criminal defense attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who are ready to assist you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Today, most of us will pause from our normal work responsibilities to enjoy the unofficial start to summer that is Memorial Day. I hope that all of you are enjoying a wonderful day with family and friends.

In the midst of the grilling and the poolside lounging and nighttime fireworks, the most important act we do today will be taking the time to remember those brave service men and women who deserve our respect and honor not just on Memorial Day, but every day.

On behalf of the attorneys at Bertolino LLP, I would like to thank the members of our military who are stationed around the world in defense of our freedom. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the family members who are holding strong and playing such an important role on the home front. And, to those who gave all for this country, you are on our minds today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ten Houston Men Charged with Trafficking Arms to Mexico

As a border state, Texas is on the front lines of the many issues associated with immigration policy. Of increasing concern over the past couple of years has been the infighting taking place between various Mexican drug cartels, as well as between the cartels and the Mexican government. The violence has spilled over into the United States, and the very real possibility that Mexico could cease to exist as an organized state has daunting consequences for the people of our state, as well as throughout the world. Just yesterday, ten Houston men were arrested for contributing to the horrific bloodshed that is taking place every day just south of our border.

Most high school buddies spend their time reminiscing about that last-minute football victory or the senior prank that almost got them suspended. Instead, these ten guys, all in their twenties, used the bonds of their school days to traffic arms to Mexican drug cartel soldiers. They conspired to ship 151 weapons which were the civilian equivalent of M-16 assault rifles. Some of the weapons were discovered after being used by the cartel members to commit vicious kidnappings and murders. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has stated that Houston is the top location in the United States for weapons later discovered in Mexico.

The men are all charged with conspiracy to make a false statement to purchase a firearm and face up to five years in prison.

At Bertolino LLP, we have both immigration and criminal defense attorneys who can assist you if you have been accused of a crime involving the security of our borders. We are knowledgeable on all of the latest federal and state laws surrounding immigration and international disputes. If you are facing such serious charges, please do not face your day in court without legal representation by your side. We have attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who are ready to help you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Texas Legislatures Pass Measures to Keep More People Buckled in While Traveling

The 2009 legislative session in Austin is drawing to a close soon, with June 1 marking the date on which our elected officials will return to their home districts to tout their achievements for the year. So, you can expect there to be a flurry of activity in the Capitol over the next couple of weeks as there are still several issues of consequence to be tackled. One topic that received some attention in the latter part of this past week was who needs to be buckled into a moving vehicle, as well as specifically how certain riders should be restrained.

On Friday, the Texas Senate approved a bill that would raise the age of children who must be strapped into booster seats from all kids five years old and under to children who are under the age of eight. Those who violate this policy will have a grace period during which only a warning will be received, but a $25 fine will be enacted in September 2010 with fines for subsequent offenses possibly as high as $250. The money raised from these fines will be used to purchase booster seats for low-income families. This bill already has been approved by the House and now just awaits the governor’s signature. So, parents of young children, consider this your ample warning to do some booster seat shopping if you previously thought your kid was beyond the need for such an accessory.

The Texas Senate also approved this week a measure that would require everyone, regardless of age, to be buckled into a seat belt while riding in a car or truck. Under current Texas law, seat belts are only required for all riders in the front seat only and in the backseat for those age fourteen and under. The penalty for not wearing your seatbelt would be a misdemeanor fine of between $25 and $50. The bill still must be passed in the House.

We know that these proposed laws were written with the intention of keeping the people of Texas safer when traveling on our roads. However, while seatbelts and booster seats certainly have been shown to prevent or lessen injuries during an accident, it is impossible to avoid tragic situations altogether. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence or poor driving, the personal injury attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We have lawyers in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who are ready to listen to your situation and offer a plan to get you the compensation you deserve.