Thursday, July 31, 2014

VICTORIES: Some Clients Never See Them (Until Later)

I like to go to trial.  Like Walter White said in the finale of the series Breaking Bad, "I did it because I liked it.  I was good at it."

But trials are not about the lawyer.  Trials are about what is best for the client/defendant.  It is a rare mix of circumstances that send a client to trial:  the innocence of the defendant; or the desire to extract a better resolution from strangers than a plea offer from the prosecutors; and the willingness to gamble in an imperfect system designed to seek justice based on unpredictable perceptions, beliefs, and biases.

Trials are intense for all of the parties.  The witnesses questioned by skilled lawyers, the lawyers who have to follow the rules which govern the procedure (unless the lawyers choose not to follow the rules), the victims who are wronged and sometimes traumatized, and the defendant who is unsure of his future and fate.

But sometimes trial is not the best option.  I plead a client  to 10 years in prison this week 45 minutes before a jury was going to decide his fate on three felonies, all of which were enhanced to 25-99/life.  At the moment that reality sets in for these clients and they take a deal, the fact that I would have made more money in trial dissipates and the realization that my advice spared him decades of his life behind bars makes it worth the effort.

He probably won't realize the bullet he dodged until later, but only then will he recognize that he would be better off than the other option of dying in prison.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

TRIAL DOGS 2013: ACCOLADES AND RECOGNITION

AFTER LONG DELIBERATIONS AND CONTENTIOUS DEBATE, THE COMMITTEE FINALLY VOTED THE TRAVIS COUNTY AWARDS:

BEST QUOTE OF 2013

"You better keep tabs on what you are saying little lady, you and that little roach man sitting next to you!"  -Defendant responding to cross-examination in his murder trial

*Multiple Category Winners

TRIAL DOGS OF 2013
[For those who went the distance.]
Brad Urrutia-11 Felony Jury Trials
Ray Espersen-9 Felony Jury Trials

HONORABLE MENTION
Russ Hunt
Ariel Payan
Jon Evans
Charlie Baird

BEST DRESSED MEN
[Those who show style under fire.]
Chris Baugh*
Jim Sawyer
Lucio Del Toro*
Novert Morales
Russ Sablatura
Ben Blackburn
Todd Dudley
Mike Burke*
Adam Reposa
Cesar Rodriguez

WORK HORSE(S) OF THE YEAR
[For those who enable their bosses to take those exotic vacations.]
Robert Smith (Law Offices of David Chambers)
Mike Burke* (Peek and Toland)

WORST DRESSED LAWYERS
[Having trouble distinguishing lawyers and clients?]
Anyone who wears bluejeans, tennis shoes, clogs, or sandals in a court of law.

BEST NAME FOR A DEFENSE LAWYER
Lucio Del Toro*
Jack Bacon
Curtis Woodcock
Kenovan Carter
Bristol Myers

BEST BEARDS
Chris Baugh
Jason Knutson
Mike Burke*
Marc Chavez
James Gill
Eric Rosen
Chris Holub

BEST HAIR
Randall Slagle
Alex Calhoun
Jeremy Sylestine
Lucio Del Toro
Yvonne Patton
Katie Sweeten
Eloisa Ontiveros-Gomez
Monica Flores

SPECIAL AWARDS
Guillermo Gonzales-Negotiated higher appointed fees for lawyers
Charles Popper-Receives the Del Valle visitation award for most frequent visitation of clients.

The Committee is a highly secretive process.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE

WHEN MOTHER NATURE CALLS

     Being charged or investigated for an environmental violation is not only time consuming, but expensive, stressful, and humbling.

     The Travis County District and County Attorney have joint and statewide jurisdiction of all environmental prosecutions at the state level in Texas.  Their investigative and prosecution powers extend to civil as well as criminal penalties.

     On the civil side, the powers of these governmental entities extend to the enforcement of subdivision regulations, stormwater violations, fire code violations, floodplain violations, and nuisances.  On the criminal side, violations can be prosecuted under the Health and Safety Code, Transportation Code, or the Texas Water Code, and others.

     The substantive areas covered are WATER, LAND, and AIR.

   WHO IS RESPONSIBLE--Individuals and non-individuals can be held criminally responsible.  Non-individuals include: corporations, LLC's, partnerships, associations, and trusts.  Also, facilitators such as those involved in the causing, suffering, permitting, or allowing of the activity.

     PUBLIC NUISANCES/SOLID WASTE--Anything that typically interferes with the use and enjoyment of the land is generally considered a public nuisance.  Generally, land conditions such as junked cars, refuse, unsightly, unsafe, or unsanitary conditions will draw the attention of these enforcers.  Solid waster regulation usually falls under Health & Safety Code Chapters 361 & 365, 30 Texas Administrative Code 330, and various County Codes.  What is the difference?  LOCATION, DURATION, & CONDITION!

     Solid Waste can be garbage or litter, Municipal or Industrial.  It can be in an unapproved place or disposed of in an unapproved manner.  It can depend on how it is processed, stored, transported, or received.  It can be prosecuted according to weight or volume.  It doesn't matter if the accused didn't dump it, or it was on their own property, or they are recycling it, or they didn't know it was wrong, or they are still using it.

     WATER/AIR POLLUTION--For water, the relevant codes are Texas Water Code Chapters 7 & 26.  The Discharge of waste or pollutants can be either permitted or non-permitted.  For air, the Health & Safety Code Chapter 382, Texas Water Code 7.177(s)(5) and 30 TAC 101, 106, 111 govern.  Yes, outdoor burning is governed by these codes, but there are exceptions-What, Why, How, Where, & When.

      What is not proper to burn?  Insulation, treated lumber, plastics (non-packaging), non-wood construction and demolition materials, heavy oils, asphaltic materials, potential explosives, chemical wastes, items containing rubber, tires, furniture, and carpet.  This can include smoke, fumes, or odors that harm humans, animals, or vegetation.

CONTAMINANTS-Pb, HAPs, VOCs, PM10, NOx.  Permitted?  Maybe, for surface coating, food processing, surface preparation, metallurgy.

CONCLUSION-Mother nature laws can be tough, encompassing, expensive, and time-consuming.  My office will diligently pursue a defense to any accusations and fight to minimize any effect on your business or personal exposure to civil or criminal liability.