Friday, February 27, 2009

Houston Apartment Complex Being Shut Down By City

When you are planning to move to a new city and examining the options for housing, I imagine that, in 2009, you would like to find a facility that includes the luxurious feature of running water. In addition, your mind probably would be set as ease if you knew that the apartment complex towards which you were leaning had never been cited for unsafe electrical conditions. The city of Houston has removed one set of apartment buildings from your consideration, due to the problems mentioned above as well as many others. The current residents of Almeda Chateau are being ordered to vacate and find a new place by Monday, March 9.

The owner of the Houston apartment complex, who has been identified as David Wise from California, owes the city $83,000 in water bills that have gone unpaid since last July. Checks that were sent from Mr. Wise over the last several months all bounced. According to Houston's deputy director for planning and development, Andy Icken, “We don’t have any reason to believe anything he tells us. In fact, we have a lot of reasons not to believe anything he tells us. I think our patience has run out.”

The residents of Almeda Chateau likely will not find their forced evacuation as much of a surprise. The management had ceased to post its certificate of occupancy, which indicates that a property is fit for residents. And, without running water, people there had been filling jugs with water using a nearby hose. City officials will present a plan by early week to help residents find new places to live.

Have you been the victim of poor management by your landlord? Are you the owner of an apartment complex and being unfairly accused of not tending to your property? We have attorneys at Bertolino LLP who practice in the area of real estate law and can help address these problems. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Texas Governor and Legislators Rally for "Ultrasound Bill" in Texas

With a lengthy presidential campaign finally over and a new leader being closely watched for his decisions, most of the attention concerning abortion is on the federal level. What effect will President Obama's eventual Supreme Court picks have on Roe v. Wade? How are pro-life groups responding to the President's decision to resume the funding of abortions in foreign countries? But, don't think that all of the abortion debate is happening in Washington, D.C..

Supporters of a controversial bill that has been put before state legislators in Texas took part in a rally in downtown Austin yesterday. House Bill 182, which has been coined the "ultrasound bill," found vocal supporters during the gathering from Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and several prominent state lawmakers. If passed, this bill would require every doctor who performs abortion to allow women who choose to do so to see an ultrasound and hear the fetal heartbeat at least two hours before the abortion procedure is supposed to occur. Obviously, the hope of those who support this bill is that more women will choose not to have an abortion and instead carry the baby they just saw and heard to term.

Rochelle Tafolla with Parent Parenthood of Houston believes that such a law would infringe on the patient doctor relationship. Also, she believes that legislators who are opposed to abortions should instead work to "prevent the unintended pregnancies."

If this bill is passed into law, doctors will be required to abide by its mandates in order to maintain the expected level of care for their patients. Professionals who do not comply may face reprimand from the state medical board. At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who practice in the area of administrative law and the process of appearing before medical boards. We will be watching this bill, and all other proposed legislation in Austin, to make sure we are always able to provide you the best possible representation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Houston Texans Quarterback May Be Leaving for Minnesota

The Superbowl was less than three weeks ago, but the NFL combines are already under way and the draft will be here before we know it. In addition to this offseason action, there is plenty of gossip concerning who may be playing where next year and how the salary cap may affect each team's chances at the playoffs. Will Marvin Harrison leave Peyton Manning and the Colts to find a greener pasture (and bank account) elsewhere? Will anyone take on the challenge that is Pacman Jones? Here in Houston, the rumor is that quarterback Sage Rosenfels may be preparing to live in a colder climate.

Mr. Rosenfels, who started nineteen games over the past three years in place of the injured Matt Schaub, is reportedly near a deal that will make him the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Apparently, this is a trade for which Rosenfels has been advocating, as he grew up in Iowa, played for Iowa State, and wants the opportunity to be a starter on a regular basis.

Rosenfels had some great moments last season with a Texans team in which he proved that he is a tough competitor. Of course, there was also his infamous collapse against the Colts in which he turned the ball over three times in the final minutes, but why dwell on that? We certainly wish Rosenfels great success if he does indeed become the quarterback in Minnesota. That is, of course, unless his schedule brings him to Reliant Stadium for a game.

If Sage Rosenfels is reading this blog and is still looking for a great attorney to read through a contract once it is proposed by the Vikings, Bertolino LLP can help. We have attorneys who practice in the area of sports law and cand handle situations involving player contracts, endorsement deals, and any problems with personnel you may be experiencing. Please stop by our Houston office today to discuss the trade. We will even drape the office in purple and gold in your honor.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Texas State Rep Wants to Legalize Aerial Hog Hunting

Whether or not you agree with her positions on key issues or McCain's decision to pick her as a running mate, there is no doubt that Governor Sarah Palin has impacted the political landscape beyond her home state of Alaska. She was the first Republican nominee for Vice-President, she was the first nominee for a major party to reside in our 49th state, and she prompted Tina Fey's return to the stage of Saturday Night Live. One of her more notorious pastimes, shooting wolves from the air, may have inspired a piece of proposed legislation in the Texas legislature.

State Representative Sid Miller, of Fort Worth, wants to legalize the practice of shooting wild pigs from helicopters. There are two million of these hogs in Texas and they manage more than $52 million in crop damage every year. And, the problem is not just limited to farm destruction. Cars and hogs are having more frequent high-speed encounters and weekend golfers who are expecting a relaxing morning on the course find turf that is uprooted by hog activity. While ranchers in Texas have long hired professional hunters to fly in and thin out the pig population, Rep. Miller believes it is time for everyday sportsmen to have their shot ... literally ... at the destructive animals.

Other methods of controlling the pig population have proven difficult. These huge beasts have no natural predators. Their size and viciousness are too much for the even the most eager attackers. The pigs have become wise to the traps that have been set for them. And, efforts to develop wild hog birth control are still not complete. So, we will see if aerial hunting by weekend sportsmen is determined to be the best possible option.

Please remember that, for the time being, shooting wild hogs from the sky is illegal. So, please do not rent a helicopter and gather up some of your buddies for a hunting adventure. You will be charged with a crime. On the off chance that the idea of killing pigs from a high vantage point is just too appealing to pass up and you end up getting arrested, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP will be here to help. We have offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio to assist you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

San Marcos Makes Home Loan Offer to Professors

When you discover that a college professor and her family are moving into the house across the street, your first reaction probably is not, "Well, that's just great. So much for this being a nice, quiet neighborhood for my children. I guess my property value is shot!" The City of San Marcos is instead hoping that its residents will welcome a greater number of educators to the community, and that research and desirable commercial development will follow. The City Council is offering a forgivable home loan of $5000 to professors at Texas State University who will move to San Marcos and help to create a community of educators and learners that connects the school with the rest of the city's residents. As long as those accepting the money stay in their homes and work for the university for at least five years, they will not have to pay back the loan.

San Marcos, which is located southwest of Austin, is a town that could use some stimulus for its 52,000 residents. The increased property and sales tax would help San Marcos during these difficult economic times. Also, as Mayor Susan Narvaiz points out, the city needs some help with the way it looks on paper. San Marcos has the lowest per capita income in the area at $13, 486 and the percentage of adults who hold college degrees is significantly lower than their neighbors in Austin. Narvaiz said that "when a major company wants to bring good, high-paying jobs here, they don't necessarily want to come into a community" like the one offered by San Marcos. So, the effort is of benefit both for the professors who want a nice home that is close to campus and to the other residents who will enjoy all that a university setting has to offer.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who practice in the area of real estate law. If you are a professor at Texas State who plans to take up the City of San Marcos on their generous offer, please contact us. We can make sure that the entire process goes smoothly for you. We have offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thousands of Claims from Hurricane Ike Still Unresolved

Right after Hurricane Ike hit Texas and devastated the Galveston area as well as caused great damage in and around Houston, I used this blog to urge readers to file their insurance claims as quickly as possible. Other recent natural disasters in our country had proven that the agencies responsible for distributing money had not been as efficient in processing claims as many home and business owners would have liked. So, the faster you could submit your paperwork and the more thorough you could be in detailing the damage, the better your chances were of receiving a timely settlement. Five months after Ike made its presence felt in Texas, thousands of claims are still awaiting payouts so the the rebuilding process can begin.

The Texas Windstorm Association, which is responsible for processing this essential paperwork, shares that 10,500 pending claims are still without resolution either because they involve large commercial cases or the policyholders have not effectively proven whether the damage to their property was caused by wind or storm damage. If wind is determined to be the culprit, compensation will be given for the damage. On the other hand, problems caused by storm surge are not protected. In some instances, detailed computer modeling is taking place to conclude which act of nature destroyed someone's property. There also are issues of inexperienced adjusters who have been given an overwhelming task, people not understanding the specifics of what is covered by their insurance policies, and disputes over how much reconstruction actually needs to occur.

Many private insurers have gotten out of the business of protecting against hurricanes due to the high risk, and the Texas Windstorm Association has filled this gap by becoming the largest writer of windstorm insurance. Amazingly, even while trying to process the thousands of existing claims, the windstorm pool receives 150 new claims every week. This startling fact brings me back to my recommendation to make insurance claims a top priority after any disaster.

If you are battling insurance agents and believe that you are not receiving the compensation that you deserve, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today and let's review your situation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two Austin Women Arrested for Robbery Attempt Involving Frying Pan

There are plenty of ways in which cooking utensils can be used to inflict some sort of pain. Knives are certainly the most obvious weapon of choice to be found in a typical kitchen. Even particularly bad cooking can leave physical and emotional wounds that last for days. Please be careful when deciding on the perfect quantity and combination of spices if you will be sharing your culinary skills with others. I must admit, though, that the violent use of a frying pan is not one that I have often seen outside of the Sunday funny papers. However, two women in Austin decided that the heavy appliance that is commonly used to cook bacon would be their weapon in a robbery effort.

Linda Jimenez was arrested last week and has been charged with aggravated robbery. Along with her cohort Crystal Ybarragoff, who was arrested last month on the same charge, Jimenez knocked on a man's door in Austin and asked to use his phone. When the trusting resident allowed the two women into his home, they tried to steal his wallet. The resulting fight that took place ended with a frying pan being smashed into the man's head. Apparently not content to depart on foot, as perhaps they had expended all possible energy splitting a guy's face open, the two women stole the victim's truck.

Jimenez and Ybarragoff are now being held at the Harris County Jail on $20,000 bond. The charge of aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony, so the two women may be looking at more jail time in their future.

We recommend that you leave the frying pans securely on the stovetop or safely tucked away in a cabinet. However, if you have found yourself accused of a crime, involving cookware or not, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today to discuss your situation.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Houston Teens Arrested for Shooting Food and Rocks at Cars

I know that one of the most common refrains of teenagers is "I am so bored. There is nothing to do in this town!" I imagine, though, if these young people spent a few minutes brainstorming, they could come up with a few great ideas to pass the time. I'm sure there are some senior citizens in the local retirement home who would love a friendly visit. How about finding an elementary school that is in need of some math or reading tutors? Or, I have no doubt that their parents would not mind some assistance with yard work or errands. Maybe the teenagers who are now being arrested in Houston for their chosen extracurricular activity will consider one of these more wholesome options the next time that they have a few moments to fill.

Apparently, a group of teenagers decided that it would be a great idea to head to an overpass and then use a pressurized gun to shoot rocks and food at cars driving by on the Katy Freeway. This wonderful game of vandalism came to an end around midnight on Friday when the target of an airborne egg was a Houston Police Department patrol car. The officers managed to arrest one teenager, who quickly spilled the names of his cohorts in this dangerous adventure. So far, three teenagers have been charged with other suspects to come. These guys should consider themselves fortunate that the only damage done was a few dented vehicles and broken windshields. Injury or even death certainly could have been a tragic result to this poor decision to interfere with traffic.

Regardless of your age, please take the time to consider all possible consequences of what you might first consider to be a silly prank. This is a particularly difficult task to ask of teenagers, most of whom believe themselves to be infallible. If you or your child has made a poor decision that resulted in criminal activity, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, and San Antonio office today. And, please leave all perishable goods at home.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Phelps Will Not Be Allowed to Complete in Texas Meet Next Month

In this age of ever-present technology, we have to walk around with the assumption that every move we make, every word we speak, and every email we type may be accessed by people who do not have our best interest at heart. This reality is especially true of celebrities whose bad behavior may be worth millions to the nearby observer who has a cell phone or camera at the ready. Christian Bale recently had his penchant for strong language shared with the world when his verbal abuse of a stagehand was recorded. Britney Spears received notoriety when the paparazzi caught her ... well, there are too many instances to mention. And, just a few days ago, a photograph was released of Olympics swimmer and gold medal record holder Michael Phelps smoking pot at a college party. The fallout from the publicity of this questionable decision by Phelps will have a direct effect on swimming fans in Texas.

Michael Phelps was scheduled to compete in his first swimming meet since the Beijing Olympics next month in Austin. He was supposed to appear March 5 to 7 in the Texas Grand Prix at the Texas Swimming Center. However, Phelps has been suspended from competitive swimming for three months by USA Swimming, a decision which leaves him out from participation in meets until early May. A statement released by USA Swimming shared that the governing body "decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people." Despite the fact that Phelps did not violate any anti-doping regulations, he must still face consequences for the impact his behavior has had on the young fans of the sport.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who practice in the area of celebrity, sports, and entertainment law. If you are an athlete whose reputation and income has suffered as a result of some unfortunate photographs, we can help you with the legal steps necessary to earn back your status and livelihood. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mother Found Guilty in Baby Grace Trial

A case that has evoked strong emotion across Texas, as well as throughout the United States, reached a conclusion for the first of two defendants yesterday. Most of my readers are familiar with the tragic story of "Baby Grace," the two-year-old girl who was viciously abused and ultimately murdered outside of Houston in 2007. Her mother, now 20-year-old Kimberly Dawn Trenor, was convicted in a Galveston courtroom on charges of capital murder and will spend the rest of her life in jail without the possibility of parole. Trenor's husband and the girl's stepfather, Royce Clyde Zeigler II, will be tried separately on the same charges.

Riley Ann Sawyers became known to the nation as "Baby Grace" when her body was discovered by a fisherman in Galveston Bay. Her identity was unknown for weeks, until the little girl's paternal grandmother recognized police sketches that were broadcast on the news. After a name was put to the broken body, the horrifying details of her death were revealed. During a day of "breaking" Riley in order to teach her manners, she was subjected to whippings with a belt, getting her head stuffed into a pillow, being held in a bathtub filled with cold water, and having her body flung against a tile floor. After attempts to relieve the symptoms she suffered from a fractured skill and other injuries over her body proved unsuccessful, the couple stuffed Riley's body into a plastic box for up to two months before dumping her into the water.

Trenor's defense attorney tried to paint his client as a young woman without family who was in a controlling relationship. The prosecution described a strong woman who had an active role in the beatings and who viewed her daughter as the one roadblock to complete happiness in her marriage. In the end, the jury took less than two hours to decided that, whatever the specifics of her personality may be, she was culpable for her daughter's death.

The story of Baby Grace and her last day of life understandably shocked and disgusted everyone who read about it. Still, Ms. Trenor received the legal defense to which she is entitled under the Constitution. If you have been accused of any crime, no matter how large or small, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office to discuss your case.