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The Vethan Law Firm represents Turner in a suit against Lopez, who is represented by Cweren. Vethan hired Wright as a paralegal to work on Turner’s case. Wright exchanged emails with lawyers, communicated with Turner, reviewed confidential information, drafted an engagement letter, and attended meetings in which Vethan attorneys discussed Turner’s case. Wright’s employment ended weeks later. Cweren hired Wright months later. To screen for potential conflicts, Cweren apparently asked interview questions based on the applicant’s resume. Wright did not disclose her employment at Vethan on her resume nor did she volunteer any information during the interview. Wright worked for Cweren on the Turner matter for several months, largely in a clerical capacity. After Vethan noticed Wright’s initials on Cweren documents, Vethan asserted that Wright’s participation required Cweren to withdraw as Lopez’s counsel. Wright denied that she had worked on the Turner matter while employed by Vethan. Cweren refused to withdraw but instructed Wright not to discuss the case with other employees, barred her from viewing any Turner files, and shifted all responsibility for the case to other paralegals. Vethan unsuccessfully moved to disqualify Cweren. The Supreme Court of Texas reversed. A court must grant a motion to disqualify a firm whose nonlawyer employee previously worked for opposing counsel if the nonlawyer obtained confidential information about the matter while working at the opposing firm and then shared that information with her current firm. Both requirements are met here. View "In re Turner" on Justia Law

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Mother had a history of drug use, had been incarcerated for heroin use, and was observed injecting heroin days before the San Antonio Department of Family and Protective Services filed a petition with respect to two-year-old M.M. Months earlier, M.M. had suffered a cigarette burn on her arm. At pretrial hearings, the court found that Mother was not in compliance with her service plan. The Department expressed concern regarding the Mother’s mental stability. Before trial, Mother signed a statutorily compliant affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights,TEX. FAM. CODE 161.103. Mother testified that she had signed the affidavit without coercion and that she signed it truly believing that doing so was in M.M.’s best interest. The caseworker testified that relinquishment of Mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest and that M.M. was in the care of a grandmother providing a safe and secure home. The court rendered a final judgment terminating the Mother’s parental rights. Mother changed her mind and appealed. The court of appeals reversed, reasoning that “the Department was not relieved of its burden to prove best interest" when a parent executed a voluntary affidavit of relinquishment. The Texas Supreme Court reversed. Because Mother’s appeal is not “limited to issues relating to fraud, duress, or coercion” under section 161.211(c), but was based on insufficiency of the evidence, the appeal is foreclosed by statute. View "In the Interest of M.M., a Child" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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A taxpayer that conducts business in multiple states must apportion its business revenue among the states in which it does business. Texas Tax Code section 171.106 provides for such apportionment under a single-factor formula, which compares the taxpayer’s gross receipts derived from its Texas business to its gross receipts everywhere. Section 141.001, however, adopts the Multistate Tax Compact, which sets out a three-factor formula for apportioning“business income” for an“income tax” and provides that a taxpayer subject to a state income tax may elect to apportion its income “in the manner provided by the laws of such state” or may elect to apportion using the Compact’s three-factor formula. The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment, holding that apportionment of the Texas franchise tax is exclusively the province of chapter 171. The Supreme Court of Texas affirmed. Section 171.106 provides the exclusive formula for apportioning the franchise tax and, by its terms, precludes the taxpayer from using the Compact’s three-factor formula.The Compact is severable and contains no unmistakable language waiving the state’s exercise of the sovereign tax power. Nothing in the Compact expressly prohibits the states from adopting an exclusive apportionment method that overrides the Compact’s formula. View "Graphic Packaging Corp. v. Hegar" on Justia Law

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The San Antonio Department of Family and Protective Services brought suit on behalf of K.S.L., an infant, stating that Mother had tested positive for drugs. Father later admitted he had relapsed. There was an open legal case concerning the parents and another daughter. The affidavit detailed several incidents of possession, use, and sale of illegal drugs by both parents, including a high-speed chase with the children as passengers. The Department initially sought reunification but the court concluded that the parents were not able to provide K.S.L. with a safe environment and that returning her to the parents was not in her best interest. Both parents signed affidavits of voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, represented by counsel. The caseworker testified that the relinquishments were in K.S.L.’s best interest and that arrangement had been made for an uncle to adopt her. The court signed an order of termination, finding by clear and convincing evidence that the parents had signed irrevocable affidavits of relinquishment, and the terminations were in K.S.L.’s best interest. Days later, both parents appealed on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to support the best-interest finding. The court of appeals reversed, holding, “the Department did not meet its burden to establish ... that termination … is in the child’s best interest.” The Supreme Court of Texas reversed, rejecting due process arguments. The parents’ affidavits complied with all statutory directives, Family Code sections: 161.001(b) and 161.211. View "In the Interest of K.S.L., a Child" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the court of appeals and the trial court in this interlocutory appeal arising from Respondent’s lawsuit contesting the validity of a sex offender residency restrictions ordinance enacted by the City of Krum. Respondent sued the City, challenging the City’s authority to pass the ordinance. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Respondent lacked standing to sue. The trial court denied the plea, and Respondent filed an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed the order denying the City’s plea to the jurisdiction. The City filed a petition for review. While the petition was pending, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1111, codified at Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code 341.906, and the City amended its ordinance. The Supreme Court held that Respondent’s challenge to the ordinance was moot in light of these changes in the law. Therefore, the courts lacked jurisdiction over Respondent’s claims. The court vacated the judgments of the court of appeals and the trial court and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "City of Krum, Texas v. Rice" on Justia Law

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The proceedings involving the forfeiture of two handguns pursuant to Tex. Code Crim. Proc. 18.19 are civil in nature such that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction, but, in this case, conviction for possession of a weapon did not authorize a forfeiture under article 18.19(e), which allows forfeiture based on conviction of an offense involving use of the weapon. Defendant was arrested and convicted for the unlawful carrying of two handguns. Thereafter, the State moved under section 18.19(e) for forfeiture of the guns. The trial court granted the motions. The court of appeals determined that the forfeiture proceedings were civil in nature, severed the appeals of the forfeiture orders from the appeals of the convictions, and affirmed the forfeiture orders on the basis that “use” of a weapon under article 18.19(e) includes simply possessing the weapon. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) jurisdiction was proper in the Supreme Court; but (2) the trial court’s forfeiture orders made pursuant to article 18.19(e) were not valid when they were based on Defendant’s conviction under Tex. Penal Code 46. View "Tafel v. State" on Justia Law

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The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendants’ motions to dismiss this health care liability action when it read several experts’ reports together to satisfy the requirement of the Texas Medical Liability Act that Plaintiffs serve each defendant with an “adequate” expert report or face dismissal of their claim. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 74.351(1). Plaintiff filed health care liability claims against three defendants, alleging that their respective negligence led to her mother’s death. Plaintiff filed four separate expert reports to satisfy the Act’s requirements. Each defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for failure to serve adequate reports. The trial court denied the motions to dismiss. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff’s four reports - even when read together - did not constitute a good-faith effort to show that Plaintiff’s claims had merit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s four expert reports provided enough information for the trial court to conclude that they constituted a good-faith effort. View "Miller v. JSC Lake Highlands Operations, LP" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal from a slander-of-title judgment was how the special or economic damages should be measured. When Marc Pieroni and Bonnie Allen-Pieroni divorced, Bonnie was awarded $500,000, which Marc paid in monthly installments. Thereafter, Marc purchased a new home, and Bonnie recorded in the county property record an abstract of judgment reflecting Marc’s $500,000 debt from the divorce decree, thus creating an ostensible lien on Marc’s property. When Marc was preparing to close on the sale of his property years later, the sale fell through because Bonnie refused to release her lien. Marc sued Bonnie to quiet title and for damages, asserting an equitable action to remove her lien and a tort action for slander of title. The trial court rendered judgment for Marc and awarded damages of $98,438. The court awarded damages based in part on the difference between the disparaged property’s contract price and the owner’s mortgage balance - the amount the property owner would have received from the property’s sale but for the defendant’s disparagement of his title. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the damages awarded for slander of title were based in part on an erroneous measure and unsupported by the evidence. Remanded. View "Allen-Pieroni v. Pieroni" on Justia Law

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If a plaintiff sues both public employees and their employer, section 101.106(e) of the Texas Tort Claims Act requires that the employees be immediately dismissed upon the employer’s motion, and this statutory right to dismissal accrues when the motion is filed and is not impaired by later amendments to the pleadings or motion. Respondent sued a government unit and some of its employees. The Attorney General moved to dismiss all but the tort claims against the employer, arguing that Respondent's contract claim against the employer, a state agency, was barred by sovereign immunity and that the tort claims against the employees were required to be dismissed under section 101.106(e). Thereafter, Respondent amended his petition to drop his tort claims against the employer, leaving the employees as the only tort defendants. The amended petition’s only claim against the employer was for breach of contract. The trial court dismissed Respondent's contract claim against the employer but denied dismissal of his tort claims against the employees. On appeal, the Supreme Court rendered judgment dismissing Respondent's state-law tort claims against the employees, holding that, following Respondent's amended petition, Defendants remained entitled to dismissal of the tort claims asserted against the employees in Respondent's original petition, as requested in Defendants’ original motion to dismiss. View "University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston v. Rios" on Justia Law

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In this tort suit arising from a real estate transaction, the Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief to Relators from an order denying leave to designate Plaintiffs’ legal advisors as responsible third parties. Relators’ motion to designate was filed long after an initial trial date but seventy-six days before a new trial setting. The trial court denied the motion to designate without granting leave to replead. The court of appeals denied mandamus relief. The Supreme Court conditionally granted Relators’ petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the trial court erred in denying Relators’ motion because it was filed more than sixty days before the trial setting and the court did not afford Relators an opportunity to cure any pleading deficiency. View "In re Coppola" on Justia Law