Views expressed in this blog are mine alone and are not intended to represent Williamson County policy nor intended as legal advice.


3/17/2020

COVID-19 and YOU

The first thing I want to say is – DON’T PANIC.

Be concerned. Be vigilant. But don’t panic.

The thing to understand about this virus is this:

• It looks enough like the flu and other respiratory diseases that you may not even know you have it.

• Therefore, the best way to protect yourself is to follow the basic precautions that you’ve all heard – wash your hands frequently, disinfect surfaces, cough into your elbow and practice social distancing.

• Confirmed cases are not the same thing as true cases – many more people have the virus than we know, some of them showing little to no symptoms.

• People over 65 and anyone with a chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, immune diseases, and lung disease are at the highest risk for severe illness and death.

• Nationally as of 3/16, there are cases in 49 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and US Virgin Islands.

• If you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive to COVID-19, you should self-quarantine for 14 days.


12/27/2019

Funny videos, memes and click bait.

Disinformation - from the Russian dezinformatsiya. The intentional use of false and misleading information to deceive public opinion, usually through the media. Propaganda. Fake news.


12/18/2019

Repair and Remedy

In Texas, withholding rent will get you evicted.

It seems straightforward. You’ve asked your landlord to repair problems with your apartment or rental property. They have failed to do so. So, you decide to withhold your rent to “encourage” them to fix the problem. However, if you do this, in Texas at least, you can and likely will be evicted for non-payment of rent.


10/15/2019

I am

I’ve spoken before here about mental health and my own experiences. I am a strong proponent of mental health and its destigmatization. Our court is constantly looking for ways we can assist those who enter our building by taking care of their mental health. In particular, I’ve looked for ways to provide help to our juveniles. I’ve created self-help guides, researched practitioners and software-as-a-service to bring new ways of helping youth and parents in our court.


10/1/2019

WHY GETTING YOUR KIDDO TO SCHOOL EVERY DAY IS AN INDICATOR OF FUTURE SUCCESS

Getting your children to school is part of every parent’s responsibility. The state considers school attendance important enough that it is mandated by law and includes criminal charges for parents who contribute to non-attendance and civil charges for older youth who are truant. The state defines truancy as unexcused absences exceeding 10 days in all or part. This means once your teen has skipped 11 periods in a single semester, the school SHALL begin truancy proceedings. It also means that every time your child is late to school or an individual class by more than 15 minutes, they will be marked as absent. Do that often enough, and you can be criminally charged and your child, if they are older than 12, can be charged with truant conduct. Either charge results in a visit to my court for both of you.


9/9/2019

WHERE TO FIND LEGAL ADVICE

At JP4, my staff cannot give out legal advice. We can give you legal information which generally consists of where to go or who to contact for more information. We have several sites listed on our webpage where you can go to get legal information. For example, we have a packet of information available for you to use to prepare your suit. It contains all the forms needed to file. We can give you some information on how to fill out those forms but determining what the precise amount to sue for should be falls under legal advice.


8/8/2019

OUR FIRST 8 MONTHS

Since taking office on January 1st of this year, Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 has made significant changes and updates to improve our processes and make our building more welcoming and efficient.


8/5/2019

WE NEED MORE THAN THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

Dayton

Chicago

El Paso

Pomfret, MD

Suffolk, VA

Elkhart, IN

Southaven, MS

Haskell, OK

Rosenberg, TX

Columbus, OH

Chippewa Falls, WI

Philadelphia

Gilroy, CA

Washington, DC

Chicago

Uniontown, PA


7/17/2019

WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL*

My daughter has a t-shirt with this phrase emblazoned across it, including the asterisk. Below the phrase is another list, a typical disclaimer. It reads: Must be 18 years or older, not available in all 50 states, some restrictions apply. Sadly, that disclaimer does apply in all aspects to our Pledge of Allegiance.


6/27/2019

What to do when your landlord won’t fix what’s broken

Withholding rent to force your landlord to make repairs is not as simple as many think. The Texas Property Code has specific requirements that must be met before a tenant can force the issue. It also has limits on how much you can deduct from your rent.


6/13/2019

Mental Health Part Two

Terminal Uniqueness, Toxic Individualism, and Mental Health.

I take two medications daily. Likely, I’ll be taking them for the rest of my life. Both are for chemical imbalances. One of those drugs and the disorder it treats would raise no eyebrows. It’s common drug therapy for a common problem. The other is much the same but the disorder it treats carries a stigma.


6/12/2019

Mental Health Part One

As of this moment, I have run 60 death inquests. Of those, I have 3 whose pending outcome is still somewhat in question. Nearly half are natural causes. (I get a lot of hospital deaths since I have the county trauma center and two other hospitals in my Precinct.) Of the remaining deaths, 20 are accidents and 9 are suicides.


6/6/2019

The legal fiction of corporate personhood

Generally, corporate personhood allows companies to hold property, enter contracts, and to sue and be sued just like a human being. In fact, many times a small business owner will incorporate to protect themselves from personal liability. In other words, if you want to sue your auto repair person for faulty workmanship but the company he works for, even if he is the owner, is a corporation or LLC, you can’t sue him directly. You must sue the corporation or business.


6/4/2019

Bullying

“You’re ugly.” “You smell.” “You’re stupid.”

Pushed into a locker. Tripped getting to your seat. Books knocked off your desk.

Being isolated. Having no one willing to sit with you. Whispers and rumors and giggles following you.

These are all forms of bullying. They happen every day in our schools. They are NOT acceptable, normal behavior. They hurt everyone involved – the child who’s bullied, the child who bullies, the bystanders, the teachers and the parents. It’s directly related to an increased risk of truancy. Addressing the bullying problem in our schools starts with acknowledging the problem.


5/29/2019

VOLUNTEERING IN WILCO

One of the options we give people who have a hard time paying their fines is community service. Sometimes, community service is part of their remedial order, especially for juveniles. I thought I’d go over some of the options available in our area.

We tell people that they can volunteer with any non-profit in the area that will agree to sign off on their hours. Goodwill is a common source of hours, but there are plenty of other options.


5/24/2019

Food Deserts in Wilco

A food desert is defined as an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. "Many poor people live in food deserts—where they have plenty of food but none of it healthy". Where are the food deserts in our county, specifically in Precinct 4, and what can we do about them?


5/21/2019

DONATING YOUR BODY AND ORGANS

We’ve talked about death and inquests. Now, let’s talk about donating your organs and/or body after death. There are several ways your decisions today can help numerous others after your death. You can donate organs, tissue and even your full body.


5/20/2019

PAYING YOUR FINE – INDIGENCY, COMMUNITY SERVICE AND PAYMENT PLANS

In the Justice Court, all class C cases are punishable by fine. The maximum fine for any class C misdemeanor is $500. Court costs vary but are generally under $100, with a few exceptions. Traffic tickets have set maximum amounts that may be less than $500 depending upon the offense. What happens when an individual is unable to pay the fine and court costs? Defendants have several options to pay their fines – payment plans, community service and indigency.


5/13/2019

Anxiety and Depression in Youth

It’s rare for me to go through a day in truancy court and not hear from a teen that part of the reason they have excessive absences from school is their anxiety or depression. In fact, the CDC says that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety and another 3.2% of that age group have been diagnosed with depression. Having another disorder is most common in children with depression: about 3 in 4 children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety (73.8%) and almost 1 in 2 have behavior problems (47.2%).


5/6/2019

Protective order? Restraining Order? Peace Bond?

Protective order, restraining order and peace bond are three legal terms regarding people’s behavior that vary in important ways. Only one of these are issued by a Justice of the Peace. The others are matters for higher courts. People often confuse these terms and think they are interchangeable since they all deal with placing restraints on behavior.


5/3/2019

So you want to loan a friend some money

Folks loan friends and family money all the time. Most of the time, nothing untoward happens. The money gets repaid or the loan forgiven and all is well. But sometimes, well, things go south. The money never gets repaid and relationships suffer.


5/2/2019

Death Inquests and You

Death is a part of life. Most of us try to avoid thinking about this essential fact, but it comes for us all. When it comes for you or someone you love and circumstances dictate law enforcement involvement, this is when I, as a Justice of the Peace, get involved.


4/30/2019

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL

Today is the last day to vote early in your local elections. You’re voting to choose new council members and mayors for your cities. The turnout for these local elections is usually abysmal. Often fewer than 5% of the eligible voters will cast a ballot. In a city the size of Taylor, which has an estimated population of 18, 254, that means roughly 912 people cast a ballot and decide the direction of city government. That assumes all 18,000 plus are eligible voters. They’re not. Some are too young to vote, some are not registered, some have lost the privilege. So, the number of people that decide Taylor’s government is much smaller. If voting trends hold true, well fewer than a 1,000 people will vote in Taylor. The same holds true in larger municipalities across the county.


4/27/2019

Perils of Pro Se

A pro se defendant is one who represents himself and has no legal counsel present. It’s a common occurrence in Justice Court to see one or both sides self-represent. It’s not necessarily a bad thing despite the adage that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.


3/29/2019

Let’s Talk Living Wage

The idea of a federal minimum wage began in the 1890s. In 1912, Massachusetts passed the first minimum wage legislation in the US. It wasn’t until 1938 that we had a federal minimum wage with the Fair Labor Standards Act. The rate was .25 cents an hour. That’s $4.45 in current buying power. Sounds like the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a significant improvement.


3/28/2019

Truancy in Texas

Once a week, I see truancy cases. Students and parents come in to my court to discuss why the student is missing school and what needs to change. In almost every case, there is more going on than a brief hearing can address. We work with schools to create plans to recover credits. The goal is always for the student to graduate or move on to the next grade level.