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August 8th, 2014:

Friday random ten – Kiss me, Kate

Another all-in-one-name list for the letter K.

1. Pull Me Out Alive – Kaki King
2. Differently – Kat Parsons
3. Rocket Man – Kate Bush
4. Village Green Preservation Society – Kate Rusby
5. Best Song Ever – Katie Armiger
6. By My Side – Katie Hanley & Company (from “Godspell”)
7. Jumping Trains – Katie Herzig
8. Walking On Sunshine – Katrina and The Waves
9. Hitsville U.K. – Katrina Leskanich
10. Roar – Katy Perry

Yes, Kaki is a variant of “Katherine”, too. Oddly, I have no music by a woman whose name is a variation on “Catherine”. Make of that what you will.

HERO repeal lawsuit moves back to state court

Are we dizzy yet?

PetitionsInvalid

Conservative activists seeking to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance trumpeted a small victory Thursday when a court hearing resulted in the ordinance being suspended pending an Aug. 15 hearing.

Mayor Annise Parker, anticipating a lawsuit, had already said she would not enforce the ordinance until there was more legal clarity, but plaintiff and conservative activist Jared Woodfill said Thursday’s result was important.

“I think it makes a big difference because now you have a court order saying you can’t enforce it, even if you change your mind and you wanted to,” Woodfill said.

Woodfill characterized the suspension as having been ordered by visiting State District Judge Jeff Shadwick, a suggestion that prompted a chuckle from City Attorney David Feldman.

“This is not the judge ordering us, this is the city stipulating that it would not enforce, consistent with the mayor’s public representation,” he said.

See here for the previous update, and here for a copy of Judge Shadwick’s order. A hearing on August 15 is cutting is awfully close for this year’s election. If the petitioners ultimately win but can’t get onto the ballot till 2015, will the suspension of enforcement continue? Because if it is allowed to be enforced, I think the haters are going to have an awfully hard time maintaining the illusion that there’s anything harmful about the HERO. Who will believe their lies if they can see for themselves that they’re not true? So much easier to get away with lying when there’s no time for a fact-check. Oh well, sucks to be them.

State bar grievance filed against Paxton

It’s getting to be hard to keep track of all of the complaints and legal actions being filed against the man who would be the state’s top lawyer. This one is a grievance filed with the State Bar of Texas by another watchdog group.

Sen. Ken Paxton

In its grievance, the Austin-based Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability requests that the state bar investigate whether Paxton broke at least four rules involving the disclosure of conflicts of interest.

“Like every other Texas lawyer, Mr. Paxton must comply with the legal ethics rules that govern the legal profession,” the coalition said in a news release.

Once a grievance is filed with the state bar, the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s lawyers review it to see whether it actually alleges violations of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. If it does, it becomes a complaint that can lead to an airing of the issue in district court or before a panel of state bar lawyers from across Texas. If sustained, the complaint can result in the suspension or disbarment of an attorney.

Anthony Holm, a spokesman for the Paxton campaign, called the grievance “yet another political stunt” by a group with Democratic ties, pointing out the acting executive director does not have a law license. “Frankly, it’s a bit silly,” Holm said in a statement.

The coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but in announcing the grievance said it aims to hold lawyers accountable regardless of their political affiliations.

As you may recall, a criminal complaint was filed in July, and a complaint with the SEC was filed in May. I didn’t recall hearing about the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability before, but I did note the complaint they filed in 2011 against Ken Anderson, John Bradley, and Mike Davis over the Michael Morton case. As a reminder, to myself as much as to you, they are “a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public and advocating the public interest to hold the Texas Legal profession accountable to its statutory, constitutional, and ethical obligations”. Their origin story is that the TCLA was established in 2010, initially to provide input from the public perspective on the proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Here’s a letter they sent to then-Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson outlining their concerns. They eventually won a victory over this issue in 2011, when the proposed changes were voted down by the bar members.

Anyway. They’re definitely on the do-gooder side of things, but I wouldn’t dismiss their track record. Here’s their statement on the grievance, which outlines the basics of Paxton’s admitted and alleged bad deeds, the complaint narrative, which is the long version of the story, and the actual complaint form that they filled out. Any lawyers want to weigh in on this?

The state’s puppet witnesses in the HB2 lawsuit

The Austin Chronicle tells the story.

Among the state defense witnesses who took the stand on the third day of trial against Texas’ abortion-restricting House Bill 2 were two women with overt objections to abortion and one physician whose testimony in support of abortion regulations was recently discredited by a federal court.

Additionally, questions arose whether the Attorney General’s office coached and aided in witness testimony.

After two days of plaintiff testimony in U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel’s courtroom, it was the state’s turn to offer its witnesses. On Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Mayra Jimenez Thompson, a Dallas-based OB-GYN testified, and it was clear from the outset that Thompson was anti-choice; she said had not performed an abortion in 20 years because of her “religious” beliefs. In cross-examination, plaintiffs repeatedly asked Thompson if the Attorney General’s office and specifically, Dr. Vincent Rue, a representative of the office, had provided guidance or advice in her expert testimony report.

Initially, Thompson steadfastly denied any involvement from the OAG, saying she alone had drafted the document. However, in hopes of “refreshing her recollection,” plaintiffs produced several damning e-mail exchanges between her and Rue indicating constant assistance in drafting and modifying versions of the report. (Correspondence from Rue included: “I’m still drafting, will keep you posted”; “Tried to use as much of your material as I could, but time ran out”; “Just want you to review, I’ll keep working on the draft.”) Thompson defended the assistance, saying she was a medical doctor, not trained in legalese and the proper “wordage” of court testimony.

Rue isn’t just lending a hand to the Texas case; he’s a behind-the-scenes fixer for other states that are imposing anti-abortion laws, including Alabama and Wisconsin. Rue coined the term “post-abortion stress syndrome” – an alleged disorder thoroughly discredited by major medical groups, including the American Psychological Association, yet still endorsed by anti-choice activists. Rue’s testimony in previous cases, including the landmark Planned Parenthood v Casey, was rejected for lack of credibility. It’s reported that for his services in other states, Rue has received nearly $50,000.

While Thompson answered “no” when asked if she had financial/ownership interests in ambulatory surgical centers, plaintiffs recounted her deposition testimony, which showed Thompson is affiliated with the North Central Surgical Center in Dallas. Thompson countered the center was no longer an ASC and had become a full-fledged hospital in recent years. Thompson also admitted to failing to review eight of the nine studies on abortion mortality rates provided by plaintiffs before giving testimony.

Similarly, the next witness, Dr. James Anderson, an emergency room and family practice physician, also received aid from Rue, or as he phrased it, “wordsmithing.” In fact, Anderson holds a prior professional relationship with Rue, assisting him with reproductive rights and anti-abortion legislation in other state cases since 1997, including some concerning parental consent laws.

When questioned about Rue’s influence on his testimony, Anderson downplayed the degree of involvement, saying the legal draft was a “team effort” and “a collaboration.” Anderson said Rue provided sources for his testimony, including material from the Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-choice group. When asked about the group’s ideological motivations, Anderson conceded the source “risks bias, but still validates the need for the law.” Plaintiffs pointed out that just this week a federal district judge in Alabama discredited the majority of Anderson’s testimony in support of anti-abortion legislation in a suit filed by Planned Parenthood “due to concerns about his judgment or honesty.”

The witnesses provided by the state grew even weaker as the day wore on.

Hard to imagine, I know. See here for the background, here for the AusChron’s coverage of the plaintiffs’ case, and here for the rest of the state’s case. Some recent rulings from the federal courts give hope for the good guys, but remember that we’re still ultimately dealing with the Fifth Circuit here, so don’t get too much hope just yet. See Andrea Grimescoverage in RH Reality Check for more.

Lots of same sex marriage appeals about to happen

Busy times in the federal appeals courts.

RedEquality

Federal appeals courts soon will hear arguments in gay marriage fights from nine states, part of a slew of cases putting pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a final verdict.

If the appeals judges continue the unbroken eight-month streak of rulings in favor of gay marriage, that could make it easier for the nation’s highest court to come down on the side of supporters.

If even one ruling goes against them in the four courts taking up the issue in the coming weeks, it would create a divide that the Supreme Court also could find difficult to resist settling.

“We’re going to be racking up more courts of appeals decisions, and every one we get puts more pressure on the Supreme Court to weigh in,” said Douglas NeJaime, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine. “It’s very likely the Supreme Court ultimately settles this question. Given how quickly things have moved, it’s hard for the court to avoid this in the short term.”

[…]

Arguments similar to those [that were] heard Wednesday will take place Aug. 26 in the 7th Circuit in Chicago, for bans in Wisconsin and Indiana, and for Sept. 8 in the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, for bans in Idaho and Nevada. The 5th Circuit in New Orleans is expected to soon set a date to hear arguments on Texas’ ban.

The flurry of arguments means an upcoming spate of rulings, possibly all issued this autumn, that could profoundly alter the nation’s marriage laws.

If the four federal circuit appeals courts rule in favor of gay marriage, then nine states with pending appeals stand to have their bans stricken down altogether or ordered to recognize out-of-state gay marriages: Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Idaho and Nevada, though the decisions likely would be put on hold for a Supreme Court ruling.

Five additional states under those four circuit courts have gay marriage lawsuits awaiting decisions by federal judges: Alaska, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Montana.

Observers say the 6th or 5th circuits could deliver the first victory for gay marriage opponents.

We know about the Sixth Circuit, in which arguments were heard this week. We still don’t know when the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments there, but we do know that 63 Texas legislators have signed a brief in the appeal in which they declare that same sex marriage is icky and they totally have Greg Abbott’s back. Hey, remember when something like that would have been bipartisan? This one was an all-R effort, with the TDP and these troglodytes’ two LGBT colleagues firing back. I’m so glad those days are over, even if there are still a few laggards on the issue. In any event, the national picture will almost certainly be a lot clearer, or a lot more complicated, in the next few months.