courts

Crime & Justice
11:04 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Texas Facing 'Judicial Vacancy Crisis,' Report Claims

A new report says Texas' 10 vacant seats judicial seats translate into backlogged cases.
Credit Flickr user Brian Turner, https://flic.kr/ps/VxiMo

Texas is in a judicial vacancy crisis according to a report released today by the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington and Austin-based Progress Texas.

The report shows Texas has the most vacant federal judge seats of any state, with 10 spots open as of March 19. The report warns those 10 vacancies could grow to 13 if no action is taken, since three more seats are set to open up next year.

Those 10 vacant seats translate into backlogged cases, with especially high caseloads along the U.S.-Mexico border, the report notes. The majority of current and future vacancies also happen to be concentrated in the southern and western parts of the state.

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Privacy
2:33 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Federal Judge Rules NSA Bulk Phone Record Collection Unconstitutional

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 3:31 pm

A federal judge in Washington says the National Security Agency's program for bulk phone record collection violates Americans' reasonable expectation of privacy.

The ruling (pdf), however, has been stayed pending a likely appeal.

Judge Richard Leon says the sweeping NSA collection of U.S. phone metadata constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

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Keller Day Care Case
5:02 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Jailed For 'Satanic Abuse' Few Believe Happened, Fran & Dan Keller Free After 21 Years

Jordan Smith's 2009 article on the Keller case set the couple’s appeal in motion.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Dan Keller walked out of the Travis County Jail this afternoon after 21 years in prison. He was greeted with an embrace from his wife Fran, released from her own imprisonment last week.

As the two left the jail, Dan Keller denied any bitterness over his two­-plus decades in prison. 

“I forgave everybody,” Keller said. “It’s no use to hate somebody … man ain’t supposed to do that. Lord didn’t hate anybody when they put him on the cross. He said ‘I forgive you,’ and I forgave them. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

Original story (Nov. 27): A Central Texas woman is now free after spending more than 20 years behind bars.

Fran Keller and her husband Dan were both sentenced to 48 years for so-called “satanic ritual abuse” at their Austin-area day care.

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Internet Privacy
10:38 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Can Texas' Supreme Court Force Google to Unmask Anonymous Bloggers?

"We haven't had a high court decision in our state to determine how hard, or how easy, it should be for a company to unmask an anonymous blogger,” says professor Nicole Casarez.
flickr.com/grahamsblog

Let's say you're angry with your boss.  You go online and vent in an anonymous post. It's therapeutic, sure. But now your boss wants to sue for defamation.  

In Texas, courts haven't settled on guidelines for online defamation. But a little-discussed case before the Texas Supreme Court could help determine if the state can force companies like Google to identify anonymous bloggers.

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Energy & Environment
8:24 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Why Are Texas Children Suing Environmental Regulators?

Children are suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, saying the agency should regulate air pollution under the Public Trust Doctrine.
KUT News

Texas children are suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, claiming the TCEQ should have to protect the quality of the air the same way it’s required to protect the quality of water.

As part of a nationwide movement, the youth are asking the agency to protect water under the public trust doctrine – the historic idea that the state is responsible for the quality of a shared resource.

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Justice
6:03 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Texas Couple Appeals Sentence for 'Satanic Ritual Abuse'

Fran Keller at the Crain Unit in Gatesville on August 26, 2013.
Karen Bernstein for KUT News

In 1989, Fran Keller and her husband Dan wanted to find work with a purpose – something that could bring them closer to their community. They opened a day care in their rented house in Oak Hill, with a desire to take in pre-school age children and toddlers, even those who had a history of behavioral problems.

But Fran Keller says she never expected to find herself where she is now: serving her 23rd year in prison at the Crain Unit in Gatesville, Texas.

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Business
7:16 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Alamo Drafthouse, Threadgill's & 27 More Texas Businesses Sued Over ADA Compliance

Members of ADAPT of Texas in front of the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz today

ADAPT of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project held a press conference today announcing the filing of 29 lawsuits against establishments across Texas, including Austin mainstays like the Alamo Drafthouse and Threadgill's. The complaint ? Not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA, signed into law by Pres. George H.W. Bush in 1990, promises protection against discrimination based on disability. According to ADAPT, the defendant establishments are in violation of the act due to their inaccessible locations.

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Texas
1:29 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Five Legal Documents Same-Sex Couples Need in Texas

Those supporting expanded rights for same-sex couples gathered at the Texas Capitol this March. In Texas same-sex partnerships are not recognized by law.
Tyler Pratt, KUT News

A recent story of a North Texas man that took social media by storm has unique legal issues for same-sex couples across Texas.

Lon Watts says he was forced to move from his home of 12 years, and was banned from caring for his partner who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, after a legal battle with his partner’s family.

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Courts
3:14 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Federal Judge Faces Rare Review Over Controversial Remarks

This undated photo provided by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shows Judge Edith Jones.
Anonymous Court of Appeals via AP

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 2:09 pm

The story of U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones involves a controversial speech to the Federalist Society, calls of racism, last-ditch efforts to stop an execution and now a rare formal disciplinary review by the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit.

The case has been bubbling for the past couple of weeks. It's complicated, but interesting, so we'll tell you about it in chronological order.

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Texas
12:08 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Judge Overturns Ruling Reeling In Texas' Red Snapper Season

Texas' attorney general applauds a decision that overturned a proposed shortening of the state’s red snapper fishing season.
flickr.com/myfwcmedia

A federal district judge has overturned a federal emergency rule that would shorten the red snapper fishing season to as few as 12 days in Texas – down from a projected 22 days.

Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger says that he is disappointed in the ruling. The federal decision that would have shortened the season was put in place to stop the overfishing of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Courts
8:55 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Zeta Drug Money Laundering Trial Starts Today in Austin

Prosecutors say Morales laundered drug money through horse racing businesses.
flickr.com/cefeida

Opening statements in a drug money laundering trial get underway in an Austin courtroom today. 

Among the men charged: Jose Trevino Morales. Federal prosecutors call Morales the brother of two top leaders of the Zeta drug cartel, and say he’s involved in a money-laundering scheme for the cartel: hiding millions of dollars in drug money in the horse racing business in Texas and other states.

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Downtown
11:45 am
Fri December 7, 2012

Photos: Inside Downtown Austin’s New Federal Courthouse

The Jury Assembly room features natural light and colorful artwork.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

A new United States Courthouse for the Western District of Texas opened in downtown Austin this week.

The decidedly modern space, designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, is a departure from the stodgy, unimaginative architecture associated with government buildings. The 230,000 square foot building is stark, clean and geometric on the outside. Inside, wood tones warm the courtrooms, natural light works its way into common areas, and a stunning piece of artwork inside the entryway provides more color.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

In Judicial Picks, Perry Reaches Past Executive Branch

Gov. Rick Perry (left) and Jeffrey Boyd (right)
Abilene Christian University

Jeffrey Boyd will become the newest Texas Supreme Court justice, an appointment that scrunches the foreheads of Rick Perry critics who think it odd that the governor would name his chief of staff to the state’s highest civil court.

It’s the latest brick in a wall Perry has been building for a dozen years — a period that has seen him appoint 224 Texans to state district and appeals court judgeships.

His hold on the executive branch is well documented and regularly noted; Perry has been in office long enough to twice go through the entire cycle of six-year executive appointments.

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Courts
1:22 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Cleveland's Convicted Idiot Finishes Punishment; Says She's Learned Lesson

On Wednesday, Shena Hardin  held her sign of shame higher — as the judge said she should.
Marvin Fong The Plain Dealer /Landov

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 9:50 am

Update at 9 a.m. ET, Nov. 14: "It's A Learning Lesson ... I'll Move Forward."

Shena Hardin, the Cleveland woman ordered to stand on a street corner with a sign saying she was in idiot for driving on a sidewalk to get past a stopped school bus, finished that two-day punishment this morning and issued a statement saying she's learned a lesson.

As Cleveland's 19ActionNews reports, Hardin:

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Crime
12:24 pm
Fri November 9, 2012

Mark Norwood Indicted in Second Austin Murder

A booking photo of Mark Norwood.

Mark Norwood, the Bastrop dishwasher who was arrested one year ago for the 1986 murder of Christine Morton, was indicted by a Travis County grand jury on Friday for the January 1988 murder of Debra Masters Baker in Austin.

“It has been excruciating for all of us who loved Debra to wait for this day. Now, we finally have a face to put with her tragic murder,” Baker’s family said in a statement released by attorney Sam Bassett.

Norwood's attorney, Russell Hunt Jr., said his client maintains his innocence in both cases. Hunt said Norwood's mother had been subpoenaed to testify before a Travis County grand jury on Friday morning. 

"There's only one reason why" that would happen, he said. "That's if they intend to indict him."

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