Friday, June 2, 2017

Former Judge Kevin Fine Resigns Law License




The United States and Syria Against The World? Trump Pulls Out Of The Paris Accord

by jonathanturley

In fulfillment of his campaign promise, President Donald Trump has defied the world and pulled our country out of Paris Accord.  The United States will now join only Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries outside of the agreement.  You really cannot include Nicaragua because it did not sign in protest of the agreement not going far enough (a valid objection).  That leaves us and our environmental fellow traveler, Syria.


VFW Declares Kathy Griffin Unprotected By First Amendment

by jonathanturley
Veterans_Of_Foreign_Wars_LogoWe have been discussing how Howard Dean and other Democratic leaders have been declaring that there is an exception for speech that they claim to be hate speech. Now they appear to have been joined by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) which have declared that Kathy Griffin’s photo of Trump's severed head is unprotected under the First Amendment.


San Antonio, Austin suing Texas over immigration law
By Julián Aguilar
The cities of San Antonio and Austin have announced they will file suit to stop the state's new immigration enforcement law, Senate Bill 4.


Rachel Rose





        After being taken off life support John Hernandez, 24, died Wednesday night. John had been beaten and strangled to death by the husband of Harris County Sheriff's deputy Shauna Thompson at a Denny's Restaurant. She arrived at the scene after the incident which was investigated by Harris County Sheriff's deputies. There were no reports of any injuries sustained by Terry Thompson. He was not arrested.

           "John's 3 year-old daughter witnessed the killing and begged the killer to stop hitting her daddy" said the mother Maria Toral, "There was such hate and rage in his eyes (referring to the killer)."    

John Hernandez.jpg
--John Hernadez

       "I have asked Sheriff Gonzalez to allow for an outside investigation of this strangulation killing." said civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen, "Despite changes occurring nation-wide Harris County has chosen to remain in the Dark Ages when it comes to transparency."

      "If all lives matter then someone who takes the time to strangle someone to death should not be allowed to go home and walk free just because they are married to a law enforcement officer," said Cynthia Cole, activist and Executive Director of  the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

There will be a press conference in front of the Harris County Sheriff's Department at 1200 Baker Street the Family of John Hernandez, concerned community leaders and attorney Randall Kallinen:
DATE:         Friday, June 2, 2017, 1:00 P.M. 
PLACE:       Outside Harris County Sheriff Department at 1200 Baker Street, Houston, Texas 77002  
CONTACT: Randall Kallinen: 713.320.3785



Federal judge is 'sick and tired of lawyers from white-shoe law firms' helping clients avoid charges

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis. Wikimedia Commons.
A federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, who once criticized Kirkland & Ellis for sending an associate to court had another criticism for BigLaw on Wednesday when he imposed a sentence in a bribery case.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis wanted to know why the only person facing prison in a bribery case was the man he sentenced to two years in prison, Samuel Mebiame, the son of the former prime minister of the African nation of Gabon, report Bloomberg News, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the New York Daily News.
Mebiame was sentenced for paying bribes to help a joint venture partly owned by the hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group win mining deals in Africa. Och-Ziff obtained a deferred prosecution agreement. Garaufis contrasted Mebiame’s treatment with that of other participants who are “out on a golf course.”
“I’m sick and tired of lawyers from white-shoe law firms marching into my courtroom and getting a deferred-prosecution agreement for their clients,” Garaufis said.
“I’m not going to hold Mr. Mebiame for all the evils of corruption in Africa,” the judge also said. “It’s time for people who are responsible for these actions to be held accountable.”
Och-Ziff Capital Management agreed to pay more than $400 million under the deferred prosecution agreement, but it will win dismissal of criminal charges if it stays out of trouble for the next three years. One of its units pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe officials and is awaiting sentencing.

Garaufis said Och-Ziff was represented by high-priced lawyers, while Mebiame had no lawyers when he cooperated with U.S. officials. “This defendant shows up at the door of the [Internal Revenue Service] without any legal representation,” Garaufis said. “Even a fare-beater on the New York City subway… gets legal representation.”


President Trump announced at the White House on Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
Trump Will Withdraw U.S. From Paris Climate Agreement


The withdrawal process could take four years to complete, meaning a final decision would be up to the American voters in the next presidential election.

Legislature Adjourns Sine Die
On Monday, the 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature adjourned Sine Die. The Governor has 20 days after the session concludes to veto legislation, making Sunday, June 18 the last day Governor Abbott can take action. 
Over the course of the 140-day legislative session: 

  • 6,631 bills were filed;
  • 1,211 bills were passed;
  • 169 joint resolutions were filed; and
  • 9 joint resolutions were passed.
Sunset Bills
SB 302 by Watson (D-Austin), relating to the continuation and functions of the State Bar, and SB 303 by Watson (D-Austin), relating to the continuation and functions of the Board of Law Examiners, were finally passed on Sunday, May 28 and were sent to the Governor on Tuesday, May 30.
2018-2019 Budget
A two-year, $217 billion state budget was approved by legislators and sent to Governor Abbott, up from $209 billion for the current biennium. The Judiciary portion of the budget, found in Article IV, appropriates approximately $823.6 million in all funds, which amounts to 0.4% of the total state budget. 
The conference committee report for SB 1 is available here. Additional information about the budget process can be found here on the Legislative Budget Board’s website.
State Bar Legislative Program
The following bills, included in the State Bar’s 2017 legislative programchanged status this week.
Construction Law:

  • SB 807 by Creighton (R-Conroe), relating to choice of law and venue for certain construction contracts, was sent to the Governor on Sunday, May 28. 
Family Law: 
  • HB 1480 by Thompson (D-Houston), relating to a writ of mandamus by a court of appeals against an associate judge in certain cases, was sent to the Governor on Tuesday, May 30.
  • HB 1501 by Thompson (D-Houston), relating to child custody evaluations, was signed by the Governor on Monday, May 29, and goes into effect on September 1, 2017.
  • SB 1233 by Rodriguez (D-El Paso), relating to a writ of mandamus by a court of appeals against an associate judge in certain cases, was sent to the Governor on Sunday, May 28. 
Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law: 
  • HB 995 by Wray (R-Waxahachie), relating to the form and revocation of medical powers of attorney, was sent to the Governor on Tuesday, May 30.
  • HB 1787 by Wray (R-Waxahachie), relating to the execution of a declaration for mental health treatment, was sent to the Governor on Friday, May 26.
  • HB 1974 by Wray (R-Waxahachie), relating to durable powers of attorney, was sent to the Governor on Tuesday, May 30.
  • HB 2271 by Wray (R-Waxahachie), relating to decedents’ estates and certain posthumous gifts, was sent to the Governor on Tuesday, May 30.
  • SB 39 by Zaffirini (D-Laredo), relating to guardianships for persons who have physical disability or who are incapacitated, was sent to the Governor on Sunday, May 28.
  • SB 511 by Rodriguez (D-El Paso), relating to a written declaration to designate a guardian before the need for a guardian arises, was signed by the Governor on Monday, May 29, and goes into effect on September 1, 2017.   
State Bar: 
  • SB 302 by Watson (D-Austin), relating to the continuation and functions of the State Bar, was sent to the Governor on Tuesday, May 30. 
  • SB 416 by Watson (D-Austin), relating to the composition of the board of directors of the State Bar of Texas, was sent to the Governor on Tuesday, May 30.
Annual Meeting
Make plans to attend the 2017 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Dallas, June 22-23. A number of Legislative Updates will be provided by State Bar Sections. For more event information, click here.
September Bar Journal
The September issue of the Texas Bar Journal will include a legislative update. The articles published will identify major changes to specific areas of law and offer some preliminary analysis on how those changes may affect Texas lawyers and their clients.
Dates of Interest

  • June 18: Deadline for the Governor to veto legislation.
  • September 1: Date most legislation takes effect unless otherwise noted in the bill.

President Vladimir V. Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday. He said that hackers
Maybe Private Russian Hackers Meddled in Election, Putin Says


The Russian president denied any state role, but said that cyberattacks might have been the work of private citizens. "Anything is possible in this virtual world," Mr. Putin said

The architects of the Affordable Care Act, under President Obama, aimed to broadly expand access to contraception.
Trump Rule Could Deny Birth Control Coverage to Hundreds of Thousands of Women


A new rule nearing approval would greatly expand the number of employers and insurers that could claim moral objections to contraception coverage.


Rachel Rose


Is The White House Gearing Up For A Privilege Fight Over Comey Testimony: Kellyanne Conway Says Trump Has Not Decided Whether To Invoke Executive Privilege

by jonathanturley
624246174001_5322739003001_5322726507001-vsIn an interview on Good Morning America, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said that the decision had not been made whether the President would invoke executive privilege to bar former FBI Director James Comey from discussing his conversations with Trump regarding the Russian investigation.  The invocation of executive privilege could raise some provocative and problematic issues for the White House. (For full disclosure, I taught Conway at GW law school).





Former Judge Kevin Fine Resigns Law License As Part of Plea Deal in Drug Case

, Texas Lawyer

Kevin Fine.
Kevin Fine.

In a public fall from grace, former district judge Kevin Fine has resigned his law license in an attorney discipline case as one condition of a plea deal in a felony drug case. But he's still facing a second drug charge and he's incarcerated in Kerr County as it winds its way through the court system.
Fine, a Boerne lawyer who has said in the past that he struggled with drug addiction, was already on probation with the State Bar of Texas for mismanaging a client's money, and his resignation came in a second matter that involved similar financial misconduct. He also faced two criminal cases in Kerr and Kendall Counties for attempted possession of a controlled substance in penalty group 1, in an amount between 4 and 200 grams.
No one answered the phone at Fine's law office. His criminal defense lawyer, Wallace Ferguson, didn't return a call seeking comment before deadline.
Fine gave up his law license as one condition of a plea deal that he entered on May 9 in his Kendall County case, said Katherine McDaniel, first assistant district attorney in Kendall County. She said a judge sentenced Fine to 10 years in jail, which was probated for five years, the maximum allowed under the law for this level of crime. Fine will have to complete community service and he's being sent to a lockdown substance abuse felony treatment facility, which offers a six- to nine-month therapeutic program.

On May 24, Fine was transferred from the Kendall County Jail to the Kerr County Jail, where he will stay pending the outcome of his second criminal case. It's currently set for trial on Sept. 25. 216th District Attorney Lucy Wilke didn't return a call seeking comment before deadline.
Separately from Fine's criminal cases, he has faced discipline with the State Bar of Texas. On May 10, he asked the Texas Supreme Court if he could resign his law license. The high court accepted his resignation on May 30.
In that discipline case, a woman hired Fine—and paid him $20,000—to represent her husband in a criminal case, said the Commission for Lawyer Discipline's response to Fine's motion to resign. The client "discharged" Fine before he finished the case. Fine refused to return the rest of the client's money, or he charged an illegal and unconscionable fee. Fine wouldn't give the woman an accounting of the money when she asked for it.
Fine's probation through February 2019 was for a case involving a similar problem with handling clients' money. A March 2 agreed judgment of probated suspension said that a client hired Fine and paid him $10,000. Fine didn't keep the client's money separated from his own funds, and he didn't communicate enough for the client to make informed decisions. He failed to complete the representation, and then he wouldn't return the client's money. One of the terms of Fine's probation was to submit to random drug screenings.
The bar's Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel uses such probation conditions when it wants to help a lawyer who struggles with drug addiction.
"We work so closely with [the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program] and have our own compliance team to track these things. Any time drugs, alcohol, depression … are an issue, we want to try to work with the attorney so he or she can get better and hopefully get back to being a responsible lawyer. It doesn't always work out, but we try to balance that desire with protecting the general public from attorney misconduct," according to an email by Claire Mock, spokeswoman of the chief disciplinary counsel's office.
TLAP director Bree Buchanan said she couldn't discuss any lawyer's specific situation. Generally, she noted that a lawyer with a substance use disorder might mismanage finances as his addiction advances, making his life increasingly unmanageable and chaotic.
"Basic things like keeping accounting measures together step by the wayside," Buchanan said. "There are instances where lawyers start to take client trust funds to use to finance their addictions. I'd say that's an end-stage situation. I think more often you see lawyers who—their lives just become chaotic."
Lawyers are good at hiding their addiction, she added. Their personal lives suffer first, yet they still hold it together at work, getting the boxes checked in a to-do list in their law practices.
"By the time they start committing grieveable offenses at work, it's not uncommon for their addiction to be quite advanced," said Buchanan. "When you start to see these things come up in their professional practices, not showing up for court—a lawyer may not do that—I promise you, this issue is very severe and you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg."




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