Houston Lawyer Calls SCOTUS Decision on Smartphone Search a Good Thing (Of Course)

Categories: Courts

Photo by West Midlands Police
You cell is safe from police search, without a warrant.
If you've ever wondered if, when you get into trouble, cops can just run up in your smartphone and start looking at your pictures, and emails and stuff then you can thank the Supreme Court for helping to protect your rights.

The court ruled unanimously today that cops cannot search your phone after they stop you. In most cases, they'll need a warrant.

Here's a summation from the court:

Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand
does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell
phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple -- get a warrant.

More »

UPDATED: Time Running Out for Charges in Spindletop Dog Refuge Case

Categories: Courts

The clock is ticking.
Update -- June 27: Katie Jarl, Texas director of the Humane Society of the United States has given us a statement that makes us even more puzzled about what has taken Holifield so long. She tells us in an email that "part of our assistance involved documenting the condition of the dogs through medical exams and photographs. These records were organized in binders and included each animal's individual medical exam and multiple photographs....of all obvious injuries. Every photo shows the animal and their unique identifying number. This documentation was turned over to the country directly following the seizure."

Moreover, Jarl says, "Final documentation -- the expert veterinary statement -- was given to the county more than one year ago."

She adds: "The HSUS believes the evidence collected warrants cruelty charges and has reached out on several occasions since the seizure to offer further assistance." Specifically, she says, "We spoke with Holifield on multiple occasions and each time reiterated to let us know if we could be of further assistance regarding the case."

If it's true that Holifield had well-organized medical reports and photographs shortly after the seizure and has been sitting on expert veterinary testimony for more than a year, what could possibly account for this delay?

Update -- June 26: We heard back from Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant, who tells us "Our office has aggressively prosecuted animal abuse cases (for example the donkey dragging case) over the last few years, and we will review the Spindletop case with the same eye. We cannot review it, however, until we get a completed investigation. We look forward to reviewing that offense report when it is referred to our office. I will reach out to [investigator Tim Holifield's] office this morning to see if there is anything our office can do to expedite the investigation."

We don't believe the January 2014 conviction of Marc Saunders for dragging a donkey behind his SUV is analogous to the Spindletop case. In that case -- which took 15 months to go to trial -- the animal survived, and the physical evidence and witnesses statements were overwhelming. We find it inconceivable that any prosecutor could actually lose such a case. In a complex case like Spindletop, involving alleged mistreatment of hundreds of dogs over a period of years, and an allegation of 38 dogs actually baking to death in a building, a little more investigative and prosecutorial effort might be required.

Update: We want to point out that the statute of limitations for misdemeanor animal cruelty charges is two years. However, a state jail felony charge has a three-year statute of limitations.

If Montgomery County authorities wish to file animal cruelty charges against Spindletop dog refuge owner Leah Purcell, they only have three weeks left: July 17 marks the expiration of the two year statute of limitations.

That will be the anniversary of the day sheriff's deputies and personnel from the Humane Society of the United States seized nearly 300 dogs from Purcell's facility in Willis, where authorities say the dogs were found living in filthy conditions. Investigators also learned that approximately 38 dogs asphyxiated in a building on the property that lacked air conditioning.

More »

"The Rooster" Is Back in Houston, This Time Against His Will

Photo by Jim Bahn

A Mexican national notorious for trafficking women in the Houston area landed in the United States yesterday and will face charges from the U.S. Attorney's Office relating to his smuggling of women.

Gerardo Salazar, 47, of Mexico City, arrived in Houston yesterday after being arrested in Mexico. He will make his initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge Friday.

More »

Lawsuit: Houston Man Blind in One Eye After CVS Gives Him Eardrops Instead of Eyedrops

Categories: Courts

Photo by Michael (a.k.a. moik)
CVS is being blamed for blinding a Houston man, according to court records.
A Houston man is suing CVS Caremark for allegedly screwing up his prescription, giving him eardrops instead of eyedrops, causing him to go blind in one eye.

Claudis Alston picked up the prescription from a CVS pharmacy at 12601 Tomball Parkway in 2012. But instead of the eyedrops meant for treating his pinkeye, the 64-year-old Alston received a solution used to treat ear infections, the suit claims.

More »

UPDATED: Federal Case Against Cop Who Shot Robbie Tolan Headed Back to Court

Categories: Courts

Get ready for round two.
A federal appeals court has sent a civil rights claim against a white Bellaire police officer who shot an unarmed black man in his parents' driveway back to trial court.

Issued today by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the ruling revives a claim filed by RobbieTolan against Officer Jeffrey Cotton, who shot Tolan after a traffic stop in 2008. Cotton was acquitted of state charges of first-degree aggravated assault in 2009.

More »

Gang Injunction Becomes Permanent in Harris County District's Safety Zone

Categories: Courts

Harris County Attorney's Office
The Bounty Hunter Bloods are among the groups authorities say operate in the east Aldine District
As a rule, nearly 50 gang members are personae non gratae in an area now known as the East Aldine Safety Zone in north Harris County. Most gang members might bristle at the Latinate for "we don't want you 'round here," or the sketchy legality (First Amendement right, hear me?) that is the recent embrace of so-called gang injunctions here in Harris County.

The injunction which was introduced earlier this year was made permanent this week by the 164th Civil District Court. Their target was gang activity, including recruitment and violence near the Haverstock Hills Apartments in the area. The area is just south of Bush Intercontinental Airport and east of Highway 59.

More »

Fo' Shizzle, Texas AG Sues Over Pizzle (i.e., Bull Penis)

Categories: Courts

is that a pizzle in your cart, or are you just happy to see us?
Hair Balls has always believed there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like to gnaw on a delicious slab of bull-cock (aka "pizzle"), and those who believe bull penis only belongs in dog treats. The Texas Attorney General is suing an Austin supermarket, alleging that the manager and employees breached the sacred divider between these two worlds by trying to pass off bull dick as notbull dick.

KXAN reports that the suit says the manager and several employees of the MT Supermarket on North Lamar allegedly sold "non-inspected, adulterated and misbranded beef pizzle as human food."

More »

Appellate Court Reverses "Crush" Video Decision

Categories: Courts

Federal prosecutors get a break.
A federal appeals court has reversed a lower court's decision that a law banning the production and sale of animal "crush" videos is unconstitutional, allowing prosecutors to refile charges against a Houston duo accused of recording the torturing of dogs and cats.

The decision revives the federal case against Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Wayne Justice, believed to be the first defendants charged under a 2010 federal statute banning crush videos. But U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake dismissed those charges in 2013, ruling that the statute was overbroad and that the content of the videos was not legally obscene. Under the statute, Richards and Justice had each faced up to 50 years in prison.

More »

County Attorney vs. Prominent Houstonians: Righteous Cause or Shakedown?

Categories: Courts

Who's cleaning up here?
In case you hadn't noticed, there's a war going on in River Oaks over a subject we're sure every human being finds endlessly fascinating: chemicals from dry cleaners leaching into groundwater.

On one side are the heirs to the Melcher family fortune, who own the property at 4202 San Felipe leased by River Oaks cleaners, where fancy people get their duds done. They say they are the targets of a shakedown by Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan's office, which is committing extortion masquerading as environmental protection. On the other side are the county attorneys and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who say the Melchers are responsible for their tenants allegedly allowing hazardous chemicals to get into the groundwater. These officials are demanding sanctions, which could range from $50 to $25,000 per day, from the day the contamination was discovered. Ka-ching.

More »

Houston Right-to-Life Group Sues Senator Over Radio Ads

Categories: Courts

Photo by Leon Brooks
Bill, says Texas Right to Life, gave hospitals too much decision-making power over who got to "pull the plug".
State Senator Robert Deuell is being sued by Houston-based Texas Right to Life because according to court papers the Greenville senator had his lawyers try and stop radio ads the pro-life group was airing against him.

First some background. Deuell, who is a doctor, had introduced SB 303, a bill that would alter the dispute process and lengthen the time period for families and others dealing with a loved on who was terminally ill.

The Texas Tribune explains the original law SB 303 was looking to change:

State law allows physicians to discontinue treatment they deem medically futile. If a physician's decision to end treatment contradicts the patient's advance directive or the judgment of the patient's surrogates, state law gives patients or their families 10 days to find another provider and appeal the doctor's decision to a hospital ethics committee.

More »

Now Trending

From the Vault