First Court of Appeals finds County not liable in police chase case

   The First Court of Appeals has affirmed a summary judgment in favor of Harris County in a case in which the plaintiffs sued Harris County, claiming a deputy constable improperly engaged in a police chase that ended when the deputy’s car crashed into the car occupied by a mother and her two children. The Court concluded that the County conclusively established that the officer, who was driving a car, acted in good faith when, pursuant to policies established to promote the safety of law-enforcement officers, he took over a pursuit previously initiated by another law-enforcement officer on a motorcycle. The Court said that over the course of the pursuit which lasted about seven minutes, no subsequent developments altered the balance of need and risk factors sufficiently to require an end to the chase.  

   The Court said, Harris County Constable’s guidelines provide that a constable in a cruiser generally should take over any pursuit initiated by a law-enforcement officer on a motorcycle. The policy promotes the safety of motorcycle officers, for whom a pursuit is more dangerous as compared to officers driving cars. The officer properly determined that the fleeing driver posed a danger to the general public. While speeding, the fleeing driver forced several other drivers from the road during the pursuit. Though the deputy recognized that the pursuit itself posed some risk, he concluded that the fleeing driver posed a greater risk to the public.

The case is Martinez v Harris County. Assistant County Attorneys Steve Smith and Bruce Powers were the attorneys in charge of this case.

County Attorney Vince Ryan obtains order shutting down unlicensed after-hours bars in Brays Oaks

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan obtained a court order shutting down an unlicensed, after-hours bar known as Insomnia at the corner of Bissonnet Street and the Southwest Freeway. 

Judge Elaine Plamer of the 215th District Court of Harris County entered a temporary retraining order closing the bar at 9301 Bissonnet Street and ordering it to remain closed until a valid liquor license is obtained. The bar advertises on social media that is an after-hours bar, open from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., which is illegal in Texas.

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Harris County launches Senior Justice Assessment Center, connects agencies to care for older adults

   Harris County launched the Senior Justice Assessment Center today, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, at 2525 Murworth in the Medical Center area. The Center is designed to better investigate and prosecute elder abuse in Harris County.

   The Center, the first of its kind in Texas, will be similar to the county's Children's Assessment Center, pulling together experts in geriatric medicine, protective services, civil and criminal prosecution and law enforcement.

   “I think this is a tremendous step forward,” Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said at this morning’s program launch. “This [partnership] is another statement by Harris County that we care and want to do something about it.”

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Deputy Director at Harris County Law Library Recognized with Emerging Leader Award

Joseph D. Lawson, Deputy Director at Harris County’s Law Library, has been named as a recipient of an Emerging Leader Award by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes newer AALL members who have made significant contributions to the Association and/or law librarianship and who have demonstrated potential for leadership and continuing service.

“I am honored to receive this year’s Emerging Leader Award,” Lawson said. “AALL membership is essential to my professional success and I look forward to contributing more to the organization, my law library and my community for years to come.”

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Be Ready: Protect your Paperwork In Case of a Storm

By: Vince Ryan
Harris County Attorney

Hurricane season has just begun. We’ve all heard about being prepared with bottled water, batteries and other necessities for riding out a storm. But is your legal paperwork safe and secure?

If your home floods, will your important documents be safe? If you have to evacuate, could you quickly put your hands on medical records? If you file insurance claims, would you be able to provide your policy and records of your possessions?

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Deputy, County not liable in wrongful arrest lawsuit

Harris County Vince Ryan’s Office has obtained a summary judgment in favor of Harris County and a Sheriff’s deputy in a lawsuit filed by a man who claimed he was wrongfully arrested when he returned to the Red River Dance Hall and Saloon in Tomball after being banned from the bar.

Michael Bradshaw claimed he was arrested in retaliation for a Facebook Messenger conversation he had with an employee of the bar that occurred the night he was banned from the bar in July 2013. In the profanity laden Facebook exchange Bradshaw described his encounter with the deputy, accusing the deputy of being a coward and calling him a “Barney Fife buddy” of the employee.

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County Attorney Vince Ryan Obtains Order Shutting Down Unlicensed After-Hours Bar in Southwest Houston

 Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan obtained a court order on Friday shutting down Avani Lounge, an unlicensed bar in Southwest Houston. When Houston Police officers served the court order early Sunday morning, they found 600 patrons inside the bar with alcoholic drinks.
   Judge Michael Landrum of the 113th District Court of Harris County entered a temporary restraining order on May 12 closing the bar at 6603 Harwin Drive and ordering it to remain closed until a valid liquor license is obtained. Avani Lounge operates as an after-hours bar, serving alcohol after 2 a.m., but does not have a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

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County Attorney Vince Ryan obtains asset freeze after federal drug raid against smoke shop owners selling kush

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan won a restraining order and asset freeze against the owners of two smoke shops and their supplier to stop the sale of synthetic marijuana, an illegal drug known on the streets as “kush.” .The lawsuit stemmed from a lengthy investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, Conroe Police Department, and Houston Police Department to target the distributors of synthetic marijuana.

The restraining order prohibits the owners of Discount Smoke & Gift Shop at 11106 Veterans Memorial and Mr. Smoke & Gift Shop at 2946 Gears Road from selling kush and other illegal substances.  Narcotics officers executed a federal search warrant and retrieved large quantities of kush, as well as hashish, ecstasy, marijuana, hydrocodone, and other controlled substances, which were hidden throughout the stores. 

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Harris county attorney shuts down Alief smoke shop accused of selling Kush

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan is taking steps to shut down a store that was believed to be illegally selling synthetic marijuana.Ryan obtained a restraining order Wednesday against the owners of the Smoke & Tote Shop at 12127 Bissonnett Street.

They were told to cease operations. Investigators said the store was participating in criminal activity. Ryan also ordered the Lock Lim Management Trust, the owner of the shopping center in which the store is located, to take steps to close the store immediately.

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County Attorney Vince Ryan obtains court order Against Alief shopping center where Kush is sold

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan won a restraining order Wednesday from a Harris County civil district court against the owners of an Alief shopping center and their tenant to close the store and stop the sale of synthetic marijuana.

Judge Randy Wilson, of the 157th Civil District Court of Harris County, ordered the owners of the Smoke & Tote Shop located at 12127 Bissonnet to cease operations, finding the store participated in criminal activity. He also ordered the Lock Lim Management Trust, the owner of the shopping center, to take measures to close the store immediately.

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Wrongful conviction lawsuit dismissed

   A federal district judge has dismissed all claims against Harris County and a former district attorney by a woman who claimed she was wrongfully convicted for possession of cocaine because of a defective field test kit. Judge Ewing Werlein, Jr. held that the county's employees who were involved in the prosecution were "acting in the prosecutorial capacity to enforce state penal law" as agents for the State of Texas and the county cannot be liable for any constitutional violations that may have occurred.  The judge also ruled that any claims against the district attorney are barred by absolute prosecutorial immunity.  The case is Albritton v. City of Houston, et. al.

Harris County files lawsuit against Baytown gas station allowing illegal activity

BAYTOWN, Texas - The Harris County Attorney’s Office said on behalf of the State of Texas, it has filed a lawsuit against a Chevron truck stop accused of not stopping illegal activity.

According to the lawsuit that was filed on Thursday, it states that the gas station, located at 1901 East Freeway, is well known to the community and law enforcement for drugs, prostitution, assaults on the property and illegal gambling.

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Harris County Attorney Ryan Wins Court Order Closing Unlicensed Night Club

Club had been location of numerous crimes, including murder

   Harris County Attorney Ryan has won a temporary restraining order closing down an unlicensed club that was the scene of many serious criminal offenses, including a murder. The lawsuit against Club Life at 3704 Fannin also accuses the club of selling alcohol without a state license.
   Judge Sylvia A. Matthews of the 215th District Court ordered the club closed in an order signed March 20, after the County Attorney filed a lawsuit which outlines the numerous crimes that have been committed at the club. These include a murder late last year where police found 30 shell casings outside the club, assaults by both club employees and customers, sexual assault and weapons offenses. Club Life does not have a permit to sell alcohol from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, yet it continues to sell alcohol and advertises that it sells alcohol.
   “Club Life is a danger to the patrons, employees, residents living nearby, and to law enforcement,” said County Attorney Ryan. “The frequent assaults and liquor violations result in serious and sometimes fatal injuries and incidents that harm the public.”
  Defendants are the owners and operators of the club, the owner of the property where it is located, as well as the property itself. Sticky Productions LLC, which is employed by Club Life to promote the club, is also a defendant in the suit. Sticky Productions was a defendant in a previous lawsuit involving a club called Limelight and was ordered to stop promoting Limelight.

A hearing is set for March 30 in the 215th District Court.

Follow the links for the petition and temporary restraining order.

Judge Rules for Harris Health in nurse's ADA claim

   A U. S. District judge has ruled that Harris County Hospital District did not violate the Americans with Disability Act when it discharged a nurse who could not perform her duties. Ajeleti, a long term nurse in the Obstetrics Unit at Ben Taub suffered a back injury at work and was medically restricted from performing tasks such as standing and lifting.  As an accommodation, Harris Health transferred Plaintiff to a sedentary position in the Ask My Nurse unit where her primary job duty was telephone triage of patients.  During the 90 day orientation period, Plaintiff had difficulty performing job duties related to telephone triage including problems navigating in EPIC, performing internet searches, and correctly documenting calls.  Plaintiff alleged that Harris Health’s comments related to her back injury, and resulting termination were pretext for disability discrimination. Plaintiff was terminated from her position due to her inability to perform nursing clinical duties in the Ask My Nurse department. Ajeleti filed suit alleging that she was terminated because of her disability in violation of the Americans with Disability Act. On January 24, 2017 Judge Alfred Bennett granted Harris Health’s Motion for Summary Judgment stating that “a reasonable juror could not find that Harris Health’s proffered reason for Plaintiff’s termination, namely, poor performance during the orientation period, was pretext for discrimination.”

Please click here to view the court order.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan Seeks to Stop Century-old Pasadena Refinery's Pollution

The hits just keep on coming for Pasadena Refining System Inc., one of the oldest refineries in Texas.

   Shortly after being slapped with a federal lawsuit in which two environmental groups alleged the century-old refinery has violated the federal Clean Air Act, the company, owned and operated by Petrobras, the state-run Brazilian petroleum company, has been tapped again, this time for alleged violations of state environmental laws. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan recently filed an enforcement action in state district court seeking to hold the company responsible for repeated violations of state environmental protection laws.
Ryan's filing came hot on the heels of the federal lawsuit filed last Thursday by the Sierra Club and Environment Texas, as we previously reported. Their suit is a citizen-enforcement claiming the refinery company has violated the Clean Air Act "thousands" of times, releasing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in amounts that violate hourly and yearly limits set by the law.

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Houston gentleman's club accused of violating city, state regulations

John Suayan, Southeast Texas Record
Feb. 21, 2017

   The State of Texas is pursuing legal action against one of the city’s gentleman’s clubs for alleged violations of city and state regulations, recent Harris County District Court records show.
   A lawsuit filed Feb. 17 in the Harris County 80th District Court claims that Xplicit Entertainment, LLC, doing business as Xplicit, operates an after-hours strip club located at 9373 Richmond Ave. that lacks proper permits and is privy to criminal activity.
   The state asserts that Xplicit does not have a permit from the City of Houston to operate as a sexually oriented business. Xplicit is further faulted for selling and serving alcoholic beverages without a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission-issued permit.
   Shootings, aggravated assaults, robberies, and other criminal activity have occurred at the establishment with the most recent incident being the shooting of two people in the parking lot last month, the original petition says.
   Consequently, the state seeks temporary and permanent injunctive relief.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan filed the suit on behalf of the state.
Harris County 80th District Court Case No. 2017-11314  

County dismissed from videotaping lawsuit

Federal Judge Gray Miller has dismissed Harris County from a lawsuit filed by a man who claimed his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested while videoing a deputy sheriff’s interaction with a motorist during a “seat belt” check. The court found that the plaintiff’s conclusory argument that there was no policy and little training in place was not sufficient evidence to establish the lack of a policy was a deliberate or conscious decision on the part of Harris County.  The court found that the plaintiff failed to provide any evidence that Harris County deputy sheriffs retaliating against civilians is a widespread practice or custom in Harris County.  The case is Basler vs. Harris County. Assistant County Attorney Laura Hedge represented Harris County.


Houston's ClubAtlanta hit with restraining order days before Super Bowl

    A Houston judge issued a Friday order forbidding the Galleria-area ClubAtlanta from serving alcohol, even with the big-business Super Bowl weekend just ahead.

   After police accused the club of blatantly advertising all-night hours in violation of state law, Judge Patricia Kerrigan slapped the troubled watering hole with an order "necessary to prevent the threatened or ongoing violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code," according to court documents.

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