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South Texas College of Law Houston names new dean, president

South Texas College of Law Houston named Michael F. Barry, assistant dean and practitioner in residence at St. Mary’s University School of Law, as its new dean and president. He will assume the new roles prior to the 2019-2020 school year and will replace Don Guter, who has served as dean since 2009.

“I am delighted and fully confident in turning over the reins of South Texas College of Law Houston to Mike Barry, a proven and successful leader, businessman, and scholastic innovator,” Guter said in a press release. “His impressive track record of integrity, leadership, and ingenuity will serve STCL Houston and its students well as they approach the law school’s 100th year of excellence in legal education.”

Barry was a member of the faculty of St. Mary’s University School of Law for four years. During his tenure there, he implemented Law Success, a three-year program designed to enable students to be successful in law school, on the bar exam, and in practice.

“I am honored to join the South Texas College of Law Houston family and look forward to becoming part of the Houston community,” Barry said in a press release. “The law school has a strong track record of exceptional teaching and scholarship, and South Texas graduates are known as capable, dedicated attorneys committed to serving their clients and their community. I am excited to work with the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community in support of the school and its students.”

Prior to St. Mary’s, Barry served as senior vice president and general counsel to USAA and as director, assistant general counsel, and associate general counsel to Capital One Services. He received his law degree from Yale Law School.

For more information about South Texas College of Law Houston, go to stcl.edu.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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SXSW: Social Media Ethics for 2019

A litany of rule changes have been made and ethics opinions issued by bar associations across the country in order to catch up with the pace of social media. A South by Southwest panel covered changes regarding competence, unintentionally transmitted communications, and disappearing data.

Competence with Social Media
Lisa Borodkin, founder and principal in Lisa Borodkin, Attorney at Law, covered updates to the competency requirement for attorneys as framed in American Bar Association Model Rule 1.1, comment 8 issued in August 16, 2018.

“It’s actually built into the competence requirement that lawyers must keep up with changing technologies and be competent not only in using new technologies, but also advising clients and those they supervise in using new technologies and all of the risks and issues,” Borodkin said.

Another change to competency was issued by California under Rule 1.1, renamed from former Rule 3.1.

“Now the rule of competence for attorneys generally says you have an ethical duty to handle matters that you are competent to handle,” Borodkin said. “What’s new in the California rule regarding experience is that it specifically says that you can refer a matter that you’re handling from an existing client to a competent attorney.”

Unintentionally Transmitted Writings
Hanna Shafran, an associate of Zaller Law Group, discussed new California Rule 4.4, which codified the 2007 ruling in Rico v. Mitsubishi.

Shafran said the Rico case regarded a plaintiff’s attorney inadvertently receiving information from the defense that he then disseminated to his co-counsel and used to impeach an expert witness. At the time, there was no rule governing the handling of unintentionally transmitted documents.

“Comment 1 to Rule 4.4 cites the Rico holding and suggests that an attorney who upon reading a communication that was received inadvertently,” Shafran said. “Immediately upon realizing that you had received a confidential communication, whether it was labeled as such or not, you should stop reading it and return it to the sender, and further reach an agreement to stop any inadvertent use. If you can’t reach an agreement on the inadvertently received information, seek the guidance of a tribunal.”

However, rules vary by jurisdiction and Shafran cited Texas Ethics Opinions 664 & 665 from 2017 as a counter to California Rule 4.4, Comment 1.

“In Texas, there is an obligation on the sender,” Shafran said. “They do it as more of a breach of the attorney-client privilege. The person who sent the information was the one who made the mistake. If you receive an inadvertent communication in Texas you’re allowed to use it—so long as you are acting truthfully.”

Keeping Clients Informed and Disappearing Data
California Rule 1.4, former Rule 3-500, “[i]mposes a duty on attorneys to keep clients reasonably informed of significant developments and promptly comply with request for information and significant documents,” Shafran said.

New to the rule is an addition and exception for this obligation, which in effect address the way information is transmitted, Shafran said.

“You may delay the transmission of information if it’s likely to cause imminent harm,” Shafran said. “There’s a feeling of instantaneous demand for information and I think it’s just to remind attorneys—that although you do have this obligation—to slow down and think about the information you’re conveying. Just because you can give it immediately doesn’t mean that you’re required to give it right this second.”

A popular new method of conveying information to clients has been through disappearing data, Borodkin said.

Disappearing data regards information that lawyers and clients exchange through apps designed to not create a record of that exchange.

“The host does not keep the information after it’s sent,” Shafran said. “Once the recipient receives the information, views it for whatever time period is allotted, then it’s lost and gone forever.”

Borodkin said disappearing data figured prominently in Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies, Inc. when the Uber counsel used Wickr, an app specializing in disappearing data, to communicate with clients.

The judge scolded the attorneys for Uber at the time, but did not sanction them, Shafran said. However, there is no concrete ruling about disappearing data, so usage remains unclear and is up for ethical debate.

After Waymo v. Uber, Jennifer DeTrani, general counsel to Wickr, was interviewed by Law360.com about disappearing data, Shafran said.

“Using disappearing data shows an intent by the attorney to keep attorney-client communications privileges because you know it’s going to disappear and no one else is going to see it,” Shafran said, summarizing DeTrani’s argument. “[DeTrani] contrasted that by text messages, which she was citing as less secure. She was saying how texting with clients was almost less secure and almost showing less intent of keeping attorney-client privilege.”

Another opinion on disappearing data was an article from Duquesne University School of Law associate professor Agnieszka McPeak published in the Wisconsin Law Review, Shafran said.

“There is a duty under the federal rules to preserve data for discovery, but it’s not clear what your obligations are in using it under a disappearing data context,” Shafran said, summarizing McPeak.

Catfishing and Lawyering Don’t Mix
A number of new California Rules were issued, including Rules 3.4, 4.1, and 4.3, to address how attorneys behave on the internet, Borodkin said.

“You can’t be a sock puppet or an anonymous coward and then go on the internet and do your private investigation work or try to sway public opinion,” Borodkin said.

Borodkin said the new rules in California are an extension of the attorney’s duty to be honest at all times.

“In general, the reasoning is a lawyer is required to be truthful all the time not just when dealing with clients or opposing counsel but even third parties,” Borodkin said.

That honesty also extends to attorneys communicating with unrepresented persons online, which was addressed in ethics opinions from the New York City Bar Association, Oregon State Bar, and the Texas State Bar, Borodkin said.

“Lawyers may not anonymously contact witnesses,” Borodkin said in regards to Texas Ethics Opinion 671 from March 2018. “It’s another violation of the duty to be honest and not to mislead.”

No Anonymous Trolling
Borodkin cited the ruling in the Supreme Court of Louisiana in In Re Perricone as a warning to attorneys attempting to act anonymously online. The case involved Salvador Perricone, a former U.S. attorney, posting pseudo-anonymous comments on the Times-Picayune website regarding a trial he was involved in.

“This attorney would go online and make comments like ‘they’re obviously guilty’ or ‘the jury is definitely going to convict them,’” Borodkin said. When the judge learned of the comments regarding the case, they were forced to set aside the conviction of the defendants, Borodkin said.

The final decision in In Re Perricone resulted in the disbarment of the attorney, Borodkin said.

“It’s very, very clear now that commenting anonymously on an active case is not only an ethical violation, it is so severe that it can result in disbarment,” Borodkin said. “The consequences can be quite dire.”

Even framing a current case as a hypothetical can be dangerous, Borodkin said, and cited ABA Committee on Ethics Formal Opinion 480 from March 2018.

“Attorneys must be hyper aware and hyper careful when framing real-client situations, even as hypotheticals, that it isn’t a case where the identity of the client could be derived,” Borodkin said. “That is disciplinary cause for investigation and discipline.”

Judges Can Be Facebook Friends
Shafran reviewed the 4-3 ruling in Law Offices of Herssein & Herssein, P.A. v. United Servs. Auto Ass’n, a Florida Supreme Court case, dealing with whether a judge must recuse if they are Facebook friends with an attorney in their trial.

“[The Florida Supreme Court] did the classic analysis of looking up the definition of friendship,” Shafran said. “They went through Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, pared out what it means to be friends, applied it to traditional friendships—face-to-face—and what that means today.”

The majority opinion stated that Facebook friendships did not equal a friendship in the traditional definition of the word, calling them far more casual and less direct in nature, Shafran said.

“Just knowing a judge isn’t immediate grounds for disqualification of that judge,” Shafran said.

The minority opinion suggested a Facebook friendship between judge and attorney was a categorical disqualification, Shafran said.

While in agreement with the majority, one justice wrote a concurring opinion where “he suggested that judges, upon being confirmed, delete their social media and delete their Facebook to avoid any potential conflicts to alleged impropriety,” Shafran said.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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In Memoriam – March 2019

The State Bar of Texas’ Membership Department was informed in March 2019 of the deaths of these members. We join the officers and directors of the State Bar in expressing our deepest sympathy.

• Laura R. Allbritton, 66, of Pipe Creek, died February 17, 2019. She received her law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1981.
• Harold B. Berman, 92, of Dallas, died March 25, 2019. He received his law degree from Harvard Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1950.
• Rachel H. Blumenfeld, 56, of Knoxville, Tennessee, died February 17, 2019. She received her law degree from Memphis State University College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1989.
• T. Wayne Brimhall, 77, of Hilltop Lakes, died February 7, 2018. He received his law degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
• Charles Lee Caperton, 81, of Dallas, died February 16, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.
• Alfred J. Coco, 84, of Denver, Colorado, died January 21, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1960.
• Lauren Cook, 38, of Kaufman, died March 11, 2019. She received her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2007.
• Scott S. Cramer, 66, of Fort Collins, Colorado, died December 6, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1980.
• James A. Cribbs, 86, of Pantego, died March 15, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1955.
• James E. Cummins, 90, of Corsicana, died February 24, 2019. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1981.
• James R. Dallas, 75, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, died January 28, 2019. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
• Houston Lee Daniel, 73, of Liberty, died March 6, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
• John J. Davis, 73, of Angleton, died June 16, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
• John Jay Douglass, 96, of Houston, died January 24, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975.
• David L. Elmers, 68, of Belden, Mississippi, died November 16, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1977.
• Bryant W. Ferrell, 97, of Garland, died March 21, 2019. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1949.
• Michael John Foley, 77, of Key West, Florida, died January 31, 2019. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1976.
• Marlin L. Gilbert, 80, of Georgetown, died May 14, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
• Edmund Gomez, 68, of Dallas, died March 3, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1977.
• David F. Gossom, 61, of Wichita Falls, died February 28, 2019. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1982.
• Ralph Hall, 95, of Rockwall, died March 5, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951.
• James F. Hart, 86, of Clovis, New Mexico, died February 7, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1962.
• Joel Held, 79, of Edmond, Oklahoma, died March 17, 2019. He received his law degree from Boston University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
• Ben E. Jarvis, 93, of Tyler, died September 19, 2018. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951.
• Vincent R. Krist, 70, of Irving, died February 20, 2019. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
• J.D. Lambright, 69, of Conroe, died March 9, 2019. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1999.
• Victor Eugene Lanfear Jr., 89, of San Antonio, died January 21, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1952.
• Israel Lerner, 92, of Houston, died February 28, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951.
• Fredia J. Lewis, 78, of Houston, died December 27, 2017. She received her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1978.
• Ruth Diane Lown, 62, of San Antonio, died August 17, 2018. She received her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1981.
• John L. McConn Jr., 95, of Houston, died January 6, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1949.
• William C. McDonald Jr., 90, of Fort Stockton, died March 14, 2019. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1956.
• James Nowlin, 63, of San Antonio, died March 22, 2019. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1980.
• John W. Payne, 90, of Ennis, died March 16, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1961.
• Warren Young Pennington, 91, of LaGrange, died June 22, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1953.
• William Charles Powers Jr., 72, of Austin, died March 10, 2019. He received his law degree from Harvard Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1980.
• Harry Ton Price, 77, of Napa, California, died February 12, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1968.
• Leslie Rasner, 95, of Waco, died November 22, 2017. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1950.
• Patrick J. Sheehy, 69, of Washington, D.C., died January 8, 2019. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
• H.C. Sibley Jr., 76, of Dallas, died March 25, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
• Charles A. Thompson, 84, of Dallas, died March 13, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1966.
• Oscar Turner III, 81, of Katy, died January 15, 2019. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.
• Donald Ray Uher, 81, of Bay City, died March 9, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1962.
• William D. Vaughn, 68, of Austin, died October 5, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975.
• Samuel N. Vilches Jr., 87, of Dallas, died February 22, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.
• James Vincent, 80, of Reddick, Florida, died March 3, 2019. He received his law degree from Drake University Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1993.
• Rhonald Walker, 80, of Garland, died February 20, 2019. She received her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1968.
• Patrick David West, 58, of Fort Worth, died February 26, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
• John Doty Williamson, 84, of Dallas, died March 1, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1957.
• John Houston Withers, 83, of Dallas, died March 18, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.

If you would like to have a memorial for a loved one published in the Texas Bar Journal, please go to texasbar.com/memorials. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Texas Bar Journal at (512) 427-1701 or toll-free at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1701.

Original author: Adam Faderewski
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Celebrating 50 Years of Texas Pattern Jury Charges

Once again, after many months of hard work by attorney-authors and in-house staff, TexasBarBooks has successfully updated the civil series of the Texas Pattern Jury Charges. For 50 years, the Texas Pattern Jury Charges have been valued tools for both the bench and the bar for drafting questions, instructions, and definitions in a broad variety of cases.

To reach the point of publication, volunteer committees meet regularly to discuss legislative and caselaw changes that affect the volumes and new topics that should be covered in them. TexasBarBooks staff publications attorneys and editors then review and fine-tune the material provided by these committees, after which the printed books go into production and the digital downloads are created.

The State Bar of Texas Book Fund was established in 1960, and the first book designed to assist lawyers in their practice that appears to have had substantial staff support was Texas Pattern Jury Charges, Volume 1, published in 1969. “This year we celebrate 50 years of the esteemed Texas Pattern Jury Charges,” said TexasBarBooks Assistant Director Jill Hoefling. “We are proud to present the 2018 civil editions and wish to thank the members of our PJC committees, who work tirelessly to ensure that every word in new and existing jury charges correctly reflect current law, and our dedicated staff for its hard work and diligence in getting these volumes into the hands of Texas lawyers.”

Original author: Lara Talkington
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Secretary Whitley Convenes The 86th Texas Legislature

"Texas Secretary of State David Whitley convened the 86th Legislative Session today, presiding over the opening ceremonies for the Texas House of Representatives and conducting the election of Texas' new Speaker of the House, Representative Dennis Bonnen."
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Secretary Whitley Hosts Meeting With State Party Chairs On Election Administration

"Texas Secretary of State David Whitley today hosted a meeting with Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey to discuss ways to improve communication and efficiency in election administration in the State of Texas."
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Secretary Whitley Issues Advisory On Voter Registration List Maintenance Activity

"Texas Secretary of State David Whitley today issued an advisory to county voter registrars regarding voter registration list maintenance activities, which include identifying any non-U.S. citizens registered to vote in the State of Texas."
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Secretary Whitley Announces Expanded Opportunities For Businesses To Help Fight Human Trafficking

"Our TBAT participants are leading the way in addressing a serious issue that affects so many lives throughout Texas and the nation"
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Secretary Whitley Meets With Public Officials, Community Leaders During Rio Grande Valley Engagement Tour

"Texas Secretary of State David Whitley visited the Rio Grande Valley this week to meet with public officials, economic development organizations, and community leaders in order to strengthen relationships with local stakeholders throughout the border region."
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SICYMI: Secretary Whitley Visits Alice High School, Encourages Eligible Students To Register To Vote

"On Monday, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley visited his alma mater, Alice High School, to address the senior class on the importance of registering to vote and civic engagement. "
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Legal Opinions Resources

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Texas Securities Act Revised and Codified

The Texas Securities Act recodification has been filed.   Attached please find a MS Word version of the liability provisions.  And you can find additional analysis HERE.  Please provide comments as soon as possible as the Legislature is in session and I am told that the pace will pick up this week now that SXSW has left town.   

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Model Company Agreements

See the paper attached HERE.  

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MODEL COMPANY AGREEMENTS

See the paper attached HERE.  

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Top 10 from Texas Bar Today: Cell Phones, Gift Cards, and Video Games

Originally published by Joanna Herzik.

10. Not-so-subtle hint about CasteelDavid Coale @600camp of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst, LLP in Dallas

9. Workers Paid with Gift CardsThomas J. Crane @tomjcrane of Law Office of Thomas J. Crane  in San Antonio

8. Can an Independent Executor Alter How my Property is Distributed? –  Rania Combs of Rania Combs Law @raniacombs in Houston

7. Lawyers: Do you have the fire in your heart?Cordell Parvin @cordellparvin of Cordell Parvin LLC in Dallas

6. Big Picture Perspectives for the Final Weekend of Bar Prep: “See It–Do It–Teach It” – Scott Johns of the Law School Academic Support Blog

5. Copyright Infringement of Dance Moves in Video Games – Peggy Keene of Klemchuk LLP @K_LLP in Dallas

4. Ongoing Struggle with Cell Phone GPS and Right to PrivacyJohn T. Floyd of John T. Floyd Law Firm @HoustonDefender in Houston

3. Stunning Dallas Jury Verdict for $37 Million AwardedBill Berenson @LawyerFortWorth of Berenson Law in Fort Worth

2. A Tale of Two Arbitration Waivers: HTC Corporation v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson – Kyle Bailey of Karl Bayer @karlbayer in Austin

1. The KonMari Method to Effective Law Firm MarketingBruce Vincent of Muse Communications, LLC @MuseCommLLC in Dallas

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: Joanna Herzik
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Can an Independent Executor Alter How my Property is Distributed?

Originally published by Rania Combs.

A man who was named independent executor in a Will called me. Someone told him that because he was named as the independent executor, he had the right to distribute Testator estate any way he wished. He was calling to ask if that was true.

It is not!

The role of an executor is to carry out to carry out the Testator’s wishes. After an application to probate the Will has been filed and the Court has authorized an executor to act on behalf of the estate, the executor will be authorized to:

collect and inventory the testator’s assets; manage and safeguard the assets during administration; receive and pay the valid claims of creditors and tax collectors; pursue any claims owing to the estate; and distribute the remaining assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries as the testator instructed in the Will.

An  executor is legally obligated to follow the testator’s directions and may  not change the beneficiaries of the will or how and to whom the testator’s property is distributed. In fact, executors have a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of the estate’s beneficiaries.

The fact that a Will names an “independent executor” does not mean that the executor has the authority to disregard the testator’s wishes. It simply means that in carrying out the executor’s duties, the executor may act almost entirely without the supervision or control of the probate court.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: Rania Combs
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Tech Giant Google to End Mandatory Arbitration for Employees

Originally published by Kyle Bailey and Beth Graham.


Multinational technology company Google has reportedly announced it will no longer require mandatory arbitration of employee disputes with the company effective March 21, 2019.  The company’s new arbitration policy will apply to Google employees as well as individuals who work for entities that exist under the Google legal umbrella such as the Access broadband unit and the DeepMind artificial intelligence program.  The mandatory arbitration change will not, however, apply to other related companies that are owned by Alphabet but outside of the Google legal entity.  Although the arbitration change will technically apply to the company’s temporary and contract workers, Google will not require staffing companies to alter their own employment contracts.

The elimination of Google’s mandatory arbitration requirement came after a group of Google employees placed public pressure the company to back away from mandatory arbitration. Last November, a number of Google employees participated in a global walkout to protest the way Google handled sexual harassment claims filed against the company’s top executives. Following the walkout, Google and other leading technology companies such as Microsoft Corporation waived their policies for mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims. At the time, however, Google maintained its mandatory arbitration requirement for other employee claims.

Google’s announcement means employees will now have the option of choosing to resolve any future claims against the company through either court or arbitral proceedings. Despite the policy change, Google will not reopen employee claims that have already concluded arbitration or have previously settled.

Photo by: Benjamin Dada on Unsplash

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: Kyle Bailey and Beth Graham
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Weekly Round Up – Ag Law

Originally published by tiffany.dowell.

 

Happy Friday and happy FFA week!  I, like many of you, credit FFA for so much of my success in my life and career.  I hope you take a moment to think back on what FFA has given  you and think about ways you might be able to give back to the organization.

This was me, being named New Mexico State Star Farmer in 2001.

I also want to say a special welcome to those of you who are joining us after attending the Central Texas Farm Credit diner in Haskell this week.  It was an honor to speak with you all and I want to welcome you to the Texas Ag Law Blog.

Here are some ag law stories in the news over the past couple of weeks.

*SCOTUS will hear Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui case involving indirect discharges into groundwater.  In what some are calling the biggest environmental case before the US Supreme Court this year, the Justices have granted cert in in the Maui case to address the issue of whether an indirect discharge, such as one made into groundwater the eventually reaches a jurisdictional water, is regulated under the Clean Water Act.  [Read article here.]  To read more about this issue and the cases that led to a split among the federal circuit courts, click here.

*Comment period now open for new proposed WOTUS definition.  On Valentine’s Day, the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers published the new proposed WOTUS definition in the Federal Register.  [Read published rule here.]  That opened up a 60-day comment period during which anyone can comment on the published definition.  After that period has closed in April, the EPA and COE will take the comments under consideration, make any revisions they deem necessary, and publish a final rule.  For more information on the WOTUS rule, including a discussion of the differences between the 2015 rule and this new rule, click here to listen to my podcast episode with Jim Bradbury.  Also, if you are interested in making a comment, the Maryland Risk Management Education Blog  has compiled a list of the various ways to do that, which you may access here.

* Leon County judge rules that proposed Bullet Train is not “railroad” and, therefore, lacks eminent domain power. Last week, a Leon County judge ruled that Texas Central, the company planning to build the high speed rail between Dallas and Houston did not qualify under Texas law as a “railroad” or an “interurban electric railway” and, as such, does not have the power of eminent domain for the high speed rail project.  Texas Central has announced it intends to appeal this judge’s ruling, citing to a prior determination by the court in Harris County finding Texas Central to be a bona fide railroad company with condemnation power under Texas Transportation Code Sections 81.002 and 131.011. [Read article here.]

*Digital asset considerations when drafting estate plans.  I read an interesting article by attorney Sam Moak from Huntsville recently talking about the various problems that can come up when someone passes away and did not provide consideration to how digital assets should be dealt with.  From keeping a password list (in a secure location, of course) to backing up emails to social media accounts, there are a number of items to think about when drafting an estate plan these days.  [Read article here.]  Also, to see how this can be a major issue in the real world, check out this recent news article.

*Iowa will appeal “ag gag” ruling.  You may recall from this prior blog post that an Iowa court recently struck down the state’s “ag gag” law as unconstitutional.  [Read article here.]

*Class action lawsuit filed against Chipotle.  My friend Paul Goeringer recently wrote a blog post discussing a class action lawsuit alleging that Chipotle’s advertising campaign that products were “non-GMO” and “GMO free” violated consumer protection laws in CA, MD, and NY.  Plaintiffs argue the restaurant violated the law when they made such statements, but then served protein, cheese, and sour cream produced from animals t hat were raised on GMO feed and beverages made with GMO corn syrup.  In September, the federal court granted class action status, certifying a class of all persons in CA, MD, or NY who purchased Chipotle’s food products containing meat or dairy ingredients between April 27, 2015 and June 30, 2016.  The court has yet to consider the merits of the case, ruling only that the case would be allowed to proceed as a class action.  [Read blog post here.]

*Death on the family farm.  After a rough day back home last weekend, I wrote a little blog post about death on the family farm and the lessons that allows us to teach our children.  [Read post here.]

 

The post February 22, 2019 Weekly Round Up appeared first on Texas Agriculture Law.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: tiffany.dowell
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Big Picture Perspectives for The Final Weekend of Bar Prep: "See It–Do It–Teach It"

Originally published by Academic Support.

Next week, thousands will be headed to convention centers, etc., to show case the handy-work of their bar preparation efforts for the past two months. In preparation, bar takers have watched weeks of bar review lectures, worked hundreds and even…

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: Academic Support
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Governor appoints Brett Busby to Texas Supreme Court

Originally published by Lowell Brown.

Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday he has appointed former 14th Court of Appeals Justice Brett Busby to the Texas Supreme Court for a term set to expire on December 31, 2020. Busby’s appointment, which is subject to Senate confirmation, follows the retirement of Justice Phil Johnson in December.

Read the governor’s announcement.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

Original author: Lowell Brown
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