The Supremes Won't Hear Gay Marriage Cases, So What About Texas?

Categories: Courts

supremes.jpg
The deciders who've declined to decide. For now.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court shocked the hell out of everybody when they declined without comment to hear any of the cases brought before them appealing state bans on gay marriage in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana. The move made gay marriage legal in those states, but it left Texas and other states in limbo on the issue. It was also the thing no one was expecting from the nine.

"It was a bit of a surprise," Aaron Bruhl, a professor of Constitutional law at the University of Houston, says. "Ordinarily, the court doesn't hear cases when there isn't some clear division in the lower courts, but, given the importance of the question, many people expected they would take this on even in the absence of division."

Of course there was plenty of theorizing about why the justices decided to continue to dodge the whole thing. Were they waiting for more states to make gay marriage legal? Were they just not feeling controversial this term? Were they waiting for one or two of the justices to drop or retire in the hopes that the vote would change?

More »

Lawsuit Claims Child-Predator Pastor First Met Victim During Outreach at a Public School

Categories: Courts, Crime

chadfostermug.jpg
Chad Foster, a former youth pastor, pleaded guilty to raping and sexually exploiting teenage girls.
The attorney suing two massive Houston-area churches for employing a youth pastor that sexually exploited young churchgoers claims the minister first found one of his targets during outreach at a local public school.

Last week attorney Cris Feldman filed a lawsuit against Second Baptist Church and Community of Faith Church on behalf of the parents of a teenage girl who fell victim to 35-year-old Chad Foster, a former youth minister with both churches who pleaded guilty to raping one teenager and soliciting another for sex via Facebook and Skype three years ago.

Feldman claims Foster met the girl while doing outreach for Second Baptist at a middle school in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, on the city's northwest side. The lawsuit, which does not name the district as a defendant, claims Second Baptist had a "simple yet effective marketing scheme" in which youth pastors would recruit young members by showing up during public school lunch hours and giving students free McDonald's and Pizza Hut lunches.


More »

'American Insurgent Movement' Leader Pleads Guilty to Plot to Overthrow Government, Rob Banks and Blow Up Mosques

splctalbotmug.png
Screenshot from the Southern Poverty Law Center
Robert James Talbot Jr.
A Katy man who the FBI says tried to form an "American Insurgent Movement" to rob banks, blow up mosques and overthrow the government with "blood and bullets" has pleaded guilty in federal court.

Court records show Robert Talbot Jr., 38, admitted to plotting his revolution in a hearing before federal district court Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. on Friday. The charges, including attempted interference with commerce by robbery and solicitation to commit a crime of violence, could put him in prison for 20 years.

The FBI opened its investigation into Talbot in August 2013, apparently after finding Talbot's Facebook posts searching for "like-minded" recruits to join his cause. Unbeknownst to him, his three "like-minded" recruits ended up being undercover FBI agents.

What's truly remarkable about the case is the amount of crazy Talbot let spill out into the open, on his Facebook page, for everyone (including federal law enforcement) to see. Here are some of the more stunning posts, culled from court records:


More »

Jury Clears Patti LaBelle in Airport Assault

Categories: Courts

labelleflickr.jpg
Sandra Alphonse
A federal jury on Tuesday cleared the Patti LaBelle and her entourage in the beating of a West Point cadet at George Bush International Airport.

Richard King sued LaBelle, her son, her hair dresser, and a 400-pound body guard after the March 2011 brawl. Attorneys for LaBelle and her crew claimed that King was drunk -- and with a blood alcohol level of 2.8, we think "drunk" might be an understatement -- and fresh off a flight home for Spring Break when he picked a fight with the Godmother of Soul. An airport security video showed King pushing a man near LaBelle's limo before the crew sprang into action, beating King back toward a pillar.

More »

Ex-Jailer Fired After Inmate Death Sues to Get Job Back

Categories: Courts

harrisCoJail111810.jpg
Taylor says if the guy who threw the punch was rehired, he should be too.
A Harris County detention officer fired in the wake of an inmate death is suing Sheriff Adrian Garcia and the Civil Service Commission in a bid to get his job back.

Christopher Taylor claims that he was unfairly singled out, because two other officers fired after the 2011 incident were later rehired. One of those officers punched the inmate -- a 72-year-old man with a history of schizophrenia -- who later died at Ben Taub, according to the suit, filed Tuesday.

More »

Appeals Court Strikes Down "Improper Photography" Law

Categories: Courts

cameras.jpg
chris white
A Texas appeals court has ruled the state can't ban "improper photography" in public places, striking down a sweeping law that criminalized photos taken in public "with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person."

Like many free speech battles, the underlying case that triggered the ruling involves some rather creepy behavior. San Antonio prosecutors charged Ronald Thompson, a middle-aged Kentucky man, with "improper photography" alleging that in 2011 parents at a local SeaWorld waterpark found him swimming with and snapping photos of children in their bathing suits. "It's not a bunch of kids with smiles on their faces and that's it. I don't think you have a First Amendment privilege to invade someone's sexuality," Bexar County DA Susan Reed told the local paper when the case was appealed last year.


More »

Sheriff Unwittingly Rehires Investigator Forced Out by DA's Office

Categories: Courts, Crime

Cool_Hand_Luke_Poster.gif
Failure to communicate, indeed...
The curious case of Ruben Carrizal -- the investigator forced out of the Harris County District Attorney's Affice for misconduct only to be rehired by the sheriff's office three days later -- just didn't seem right to us when we first saw KPRC's report earlier this week. We just didn't understand how failing to get a judge's signature on a search warrant on a murder case, executing that search warrant, and then tampering with the search warrant to make it look legit wasn't enough to keep Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia from re-hiring someone as a homicide investigator.

Turns out what we've got here is a failure to communicate. According to sheriff's officials, the Harris County District Attorney's Office never told them about allegations against Carrizal before they re-hired him days after the DA's office let him resign in lieu of firing him over him backdating a search warrant.

More »

Attorney for Death-Row Inmate Slams State Secrecy on Eve of Execution

Categories: Courts

lethalinjectionroom.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
As is typical before any scheduled execution, attorneys for death-row inmate Willie Trottie are fighting the clock. As Trottie - a Harris County man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her brother in 1993 - awaits his date with the country's most active death chamber tomorrow, his appellate attorneys are fighting a battle that now seems to accompany every execution: Trottie's attorneys want detailed information about the drug Texas will use to carry out the ultimate punishment, which the state refuses to provide.

Texas, like many other death penalty states, says the source of its execution drug of choice - the sedative pentobarbital - can and should remain secret. Attorneys for death-row inmates insist the number of botched executions this year in other death-penalty states has made knowing the source and potency of those drugs all the more important. But in recent weeks, as Trottie's attorneys feverishly sought any info on Texas' current batch of pentobarbital (which is still of unknown origin), it looks like the Texas Department of Criminal Justice tried to run out the clock.

More »

Court Scolds Greg Abbott for Midnight Appeal on Abortion Ruling

Categories: Courts

AbortionProtest.jpg
Francisco Montes
When Federal District Court Judge Lee Yeakel knocked down a key component of the Texas' tough new abortion law Friday, we all knew Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott would immediately appeal the ruling. Apparently we underestimated just how quickly Abbott could pull together his argument.

While Abbott filed a notice of appeal with the federal Fifth Circuit appeals court Friday just after Yeakel's ruling, he apparently waited until midnight Sunday to actually send over his emergency motion asking for permission to implement the law this week. Had Abbott succeeded, more than half of the state's remaining clinics would have shuttered this week.

More »

Texas Supreme Court Rules in Internet Smear Case

Categories: Courts

internet.jpg
Jeremy Brooks
The Texas Supreme Court last week issued a ruling that could change how Texas lawyers fight defamation in the internet age.

The State Supremes ruled in the case of Robert Kinney, a Texas legal recruiter for BCG Attorney Search, Inc. who left the firm in 2004 to start a competing venture. Some time later, BCG's president Andrew Barnes posted a warning of sorts on the websites JDJournal.com and Employmentcrossing.com accusing Kinney of taking part in a kick-back scheme while at BCG. Barnes claimed he'd uncovered evidence that Kinney attempted to pay a recruiter at competing firms under the table to hire one of his candidates. Barnes says he fired Kinney immediately upon discovering the kickback scheme.

Kinney insists that's all false. The case landed in Travis County court when Kinney sued Barnes, BCG and two subsidiaries for defamation. The case entered questionable First Amendment territory when Kinney asked the court for a permanent injunction ordering Barnes to remove the (allegedly, since his case hasn't yet been decided) defamatory statements from his websites, to contact any third-party publishers and ask them to scrub the defamatory statements from their websites, to "conspicuously post a copy" of the court order on Barnes' website, to publicly retract said defamatory statements, and to issue a letter of apology that would appear on Barnes' website for six months. (Kinney has since dropped his request for an apology and retraction from Barnes.)


More »
Loading...