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.