Interim Update: August 2017 Recap

            Texans helping Texans—it’s why we love living here, isn’t it?

 

Recap

            Not much to report legislature-wise since the end of the special session, so let’s talk storm impact.

            Remember that old nursery rhyme, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage”? Applied to Harvey, that tune could be re-written as, “First comes wind, then comes rain, then comes flooding in the bayou/creek/river basin.” While some areas are already starting to clean up and take stock of where to start rebuilding, many others must wait for the rain and flooding to subside before they can even think about the next step. Furthermore, the original “Harvey Triangle” of damage that ranged from Nueces County up to Travis County and over to Harris County may soon turn into a “Harvey Trapezoid” that adds large swaths of Southeast Texas to the counties originally impacted by the storm. As a result, it could be several weeks before the full extent of the damage can be assessed.

 

Opportunities to help

            While this unprecedented storm event is still happening, there is little for many of us to do until later this week or next except “pray and pay.” There are a number of charities accepting monetary donations from individuals for the benefit of those impacted by this event; for a good list of options, check out those in this Forbes.com article.

            Looking ahead, there will also be opportunities to help for those of you interested in providing targeted aid directly to your fellow prosecutors and their employees. Taking a page from the book of our friends in Louisiana who had to deal with catastrophic flooding last year in Baton Rouge and neighboring parishes, the TDCAA Board of Directors is exploring the possibility of helping local offices set up temporary tax-exempt charitable entities that would directly benefit those offices’ employees who have lost their homes and belongings due to Hurricane Harvey and its related floods. The board is also considering ways to provide more direct, “boots on the ground” help for those TDCAA members whose homes have been flooded and will need demolitions help before mold destroys what the storms and floods did not. It will take a few weeks to nail down all the details, so bear with us while we research the need for that type of relief and work out the related details.

            Lastly, we have received calls from members in dry areas asking whether prosecutors may engage in pro bono work to assist victims of the flood, such as through the State Bar volunteer program recently made available through this web portal. The short answer is “yes,” according to Gov’t Code §41.014, which authorizes such work so long as it does not interfere with a prosecutor’s official duties.

            We will provide more information on various volunteer and giving opportunities at the Annual Criminal and Civil Law Update in San Antonio. More than just Texans helping Texans, let’s have Texas prosecutors helping Texas prosecutors!

 

Legal issues

            While our prayers go out to all our members whose homes and families have been personally affected by this storm, many of them also still have a job to do—and that can be even more difficult if they don’t have a courthouse in which to do it. The damage or destruction of local court facilities brings with it numerous challenges, so we have prepared a brief one-page memo (attached as a PDF) to help point courts displaced by the weather in the right direction.

            One caveat to all of this is that the statutory authority for such relocations is limited to the coastal counties listed in the applicable statutes, which may not include all victims of the recent floods. Fortunately, that limitation does not apply to a recent emergency order jointly issued by the state Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals that authorizes trial and appellate courts to modify or suspend any and all deadlines and procedures required by statute, rule, or order in any civil or criminal case in Texas. This order lasts until September 27, 2017 (subject to further extension at that time), and should help ease problems associated with looming deadlines and other procedures benchmarks that have been compromised by Hurricane Harvey and related weather events.

            For the curious who want to check on the status of courts closed throughout the state, visit http://www.txcourts.gov/court-closures-delays/ for updated information. If you are a neighbor to one of these jurisdictions that has been evicted from its courthouse, please consider offering your staff and facilities to those who have been displaced by the recent storms.

 

Revised Legislative Update schedule

            The threat of Hurricane Harvey caused us to cancel our Legislative Update seminars in Edinburg and Conroe last Friday. If you were registered for one of those classes, know that we are working on make-up dates in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for those details. Meanwhile, we will be holding two penultimate classes this Thursday in Midland and Georgetown (for which online registration is closed, but walk-ins are welcome), and the finale in San Antonio on September 19 is still open for online registration HERE. All attendees qualify for 3 hours of CLE and/or TCOLE credit and will receive a copy of our 116-page Legislative Update book. TDCAA members who register online receive a $25 discount off the $125 registration fee, but online registration closes a few days before the seminar, so don’t delay, register today!

 

Order your 2017–2019 code books!

            We are now shipping new and fully updated Penal Codes, Codes of Criminal Procedure, and other books! Order online now at www.tdcaa.com/publications or by calling 512/474-2436.

 

Quotes of the week

“This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”

            —Bill Rogers, Port Aransas resident who did not evacuate before Hurricane Harvey and rode out the storm with his wife and dogs in the cab of their Ford F250 pick-up with water up to the dashboard.

 

“You’re reminding me why you pissed me off during the session.”
            —State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), during a heated exchanged with Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback at an interim hearing last week on implementation of the Sandra Bland Act, which Coleman authored.

 

“Re-elect me as your Lt. Governor so I can continue to stand up to the Speaker and keep pressure on those who do not support the Texas conservative majority.”
            —Excerpt from a recent email sent by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) to his political supporters, referring to House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio); click on that link to learn more about why “Texas is a two-party state, and both parties are Republican” (according to that columnist).

 

“We will be back in two years to see about striking those last remaining minor knife restrictions in Texas. We won’t stop until Texas is a free as everyone thinks Texas is.”
            —Statement from Knife Rights, the advocacy group that lobbied the Legislature for the recent legalization of many previously illegal knives in Texas as of September 1 of this year.

 

“Nobody wants to be a cop anymore.”
            —Keith Lawrence, Executive Director of the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA), providing one of several reasons why Dallas and Houston are struggling to adequately staff their police departments.

 

“It’s historic, it’s epic, but I tell you, it happened in Texas and Texas can handle anything.”
            —President Trump, addressing crowds who greeted him in Corpus Christi earlier today.

 

“This is the history-making hurricane. This the one people will always be talking about.”
            —Ruben Sazon, Rockport business owner, on the impact of Hurricane Harvey on his community.

 

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PDF icon Court Location - Disaster.pdf239.81 KB