U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Citizenship Question on Census: County Attorney Ryan Brief Part of Record

A court brief filed by Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan will be part of the record considered by the U.S. Supreme Court today in a lawsuit seeking to prevent the U.S. Census Bureau from including a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census.

 Ryan was joined in Harris County’s brief filed earlier this month by Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George and the City of Marfa.  The brief asks the Supreme Court to affirm a district court judge’s ruling that the citizenship question cannot be included.  The ruling came in a lawsuit filed against the Census Bureau by the State of New York.

 “We join in the concerns expressed across the country that a question on citizenship will reduce the number of people participating in the 2020 Census,” said County Attorney Ryan.  “This question will intimidate our immigrant population.  We want everyone to participate—whether they are citizens or not.”

 The brief states that the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Decennial Census will cause an undercount of each jurisdiction’s significant foreign-born population resulting in disproportionately low representation at the local, state, and federal levels along with corrupt data inadequate for effective governance.  An undercount will also hurt the amount of federal dollars coming to these communities in programs based on population.

 Harris County’s growth has always been driven by immigrants intertwined with new industries creating diverse economic engines for Texas and the country, Ryan points out in the brief.  Neighboring suburban Fort Bend County has exploded in growth, diversity and affluence in the last few decades electing its first non-Anglo chief executive since the 1800s, immigrant K.P. George.  While the tiny City of Marfa has not seen such explosive growth, it shares a high foreign-born population with Harris and Fort Bend at risk for a net undercount in the Decennial Census.

 Ryan says the current intense climate of fear among immigrants makes it all the more likely that the net differential undercount will be more acute in Texas should the citizenship question be added to the census.  In the past, as with the decades-long practice of using “white primaries” to disenfranchise African-American voters, the Supreme Court was the only source of protection to the constitutional rights of people wishing to engage in the civic sphere. 

 “Now, the Supreme Court’s intervention is needed again, to ensure the integrity of the data for representation and effective governance is protected,” County Attorney Ryan said.  “Judge George, the City of Marfa and we agree with the New York district court’s finding that the undocumented and Hispanics will be disproportionately undercounted if the citizenship question is left in the Census.”

 Ryan said this issue is so important that he has had his court brief translated into multiple languages so more Harris County residents can learn about this issue and what his office is doing to prevent the use of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.  The translations can be found on the County Attorney’s website at www.harriscountycao.org.

Texas Lawyer: Commissioners Vote to Replace Judge Who Inadvertently Resigned

Harris County Civil Court-at-Law No. 4 Judge William “Bill” McLeod is off the bench, after accidentally resigning by declaring his interest in running for the Texas Supreme Court. His replacement is Lesley Briones, a 2007 Yale Law School graduate formerly of Vinson & Elkins.

Harris County commissioners voted to replace the judge who accidentally resigned by declaring his interest in running for the Texas Supreme Court, not knowing that the Texas Constitution provision said it meant he automatically had to step down from the bench after announcing his candidacy.

Harris County Assistant County Attorney Doug Ray said that his legal opinion is that McLeod did trigger the automatic resignation provision in the Texas Constitution. He said the County Attorney’s Office found that McLeod had announced to multiple groups that he was running for the Supreme Court, there was a website about his candidacy and McLeod filed paperwork that listed a treasurer for his campaign.

In the meeting where scores of people declared passionate support for former Harris County Civil Court-at-Law No. 4 Judge William “Bill” McLeod, asking commissioners to allow him to keep his bench as a holdover official until a special election in 2020, the audience was booing and yelling loudly as commissioners voted to appoint his replacement.

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack against, to appoint Lesley Briones, a 2007 Yale Law School graduate who worked at Vinson & Elkins for four years before becoming COO and general counsel of the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, a major philanthropic nonprofit headquartered in Houston.

More at Texas Lawyer.

Houston Chronicle: San Jacinto Waste Pits Watchdogs

Waste pit watchdogs: Residents near San Jacinto Superfund site maintain constant vigilance

Emily Foxhall 

Houston Chronicle, Feb. 8, 2019 

Four days before Christmas, Beach City’s new mayor learned something worrisome: A company was seeking a permit to dredge near hazardous waste pits in the San Jacinto River. The firm wanted to dump the potentially toxic sludge 15 miles away on a neighborhood lot next to the only park in Beach City, which stretches along the coastline south of Mont Belvieu and Baytown.

Mayor Jackey Lasater heard about it not from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which received the application, but because of an advocacy group, which in turn was tipped off by a Channelview resident the Corps notified by mail. At the time, Lasater was on his way to Arkansas to visit his father, who fell and had hip surgery. But the 15-day public comment period for the project was halfway over. The mayor and others got to work.

This was their reality. With clean-up of the waste pits planned but not yet started, local politicians, nonprofits and residents still vigilantly watch what takes place around the river’s Superfund site, a scary sounding name for a spot, visible from Interstate 10, where waste from a paper mill was dumped decades ago and is today unsafe. Pollutants like that are not a concern in Beach City, where residents rely on water from wells.

More at the Houston Chronicle.

Huffington Post reports on Texas’ Allegations Of Voter Fraud

Many are skeptical about claims from Texas’ Secretary of State David Whitley (R) and Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) that 95,000 noncitizens may be on the voting rolls and that 58,000 of them voted in at least one election since 1996. Election officials, lawyers and experts said that number is likely inflated because of people who applied for driver’s licenses when they were legal permanent residents and later became naturalized.

Douglas Ray, a special assistant Harris County attorney, said officials were “very skeptical about the accuracy of this list.” He said the county previously received inaccurate data from the state, including in 2011, when the state sent a list of allegedly deceased voters, some of whom turned out to be alive.

More at Huffington Post.

County Attorney Vince Ryan Appoints Ieshia Champs Assistant County Attorney: Mother of 5’s law school pics went viral

Ieshia Champs has been appointed Assistant County Attorney to work in the Children’s Protection Practice Group. Champs was sworn in on January 9 at the Harris County Attorney’s Office at 1019 Congress in downtown Houston.

Champs previously interned with the County Attorney’s Office and received national attention when she graduated from the Thurgood Marshal School of Law at Texas Southern University and a photo of her and her five children went viral. Champs, who has experienced periods of homelessness and who is raising her children as a single mother, graduated from law school with honors before passing the Texas bar and beginning her career as an attorney with the County Attorney’s Office.

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Houston Public Media: In Latest Development About Bail System Lawsuit, Misdemeanor Judges Withdraw Appeal

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said in a statement he supports the newly-elected judges in their effort to resolve the case “on terms they find acceptable.”

Ryan added his office is “confident” the parties “will be able to reach a settlement that maximizes the number of misdemeanor detainees who are eligible for prompt release from jail without secured bail and that also provides due regard for the rights of victims and protection of the community while preserving the independence of the judiciary.”

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County Attorney Ryan Encourages Awareness Of Revised Sexually Oriented Business Regulations

A revised Harris County ordinance regulating Sexually Oriented Businesses (SOB’s) went into effect January 1, 2019, and will apply to areas of unincorporated Harris County.

The regulations include additional sections on prohibited conduct by employees, contractors and customers of SOB’s. Among the revisions is a specific prohibition against using “an anthropomorphic device or object”—a so-called sex robot—for sexual activities in a business. The ordinance has also been rearranged into sections based on SOB type to make reading and enforcement easier.

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Harris County sues after exploding Glock injures deputy

From the SE Texas Record:

HOUSTON – Last March, a Harris County deputy was allegedly seriously injured when his handgun exploded.

On Dec. 31, the county filed suit against the makers of the gun, Glock Inc., along with the makers and sellers of the ammunition, Olin Corp., in Harris County District Court, seeking up to $50,000 in damages.

According to the lawsuit, Deputy Herman Sanders was on duty on March 1, 2017 and injured as he pulled the trigger of a Glock 21, 45 caliber handgun “that exploded in his hand and face.”

Sanders was training at the firing range when the incident occurred.

“The bullets were ejected out of the barrel of the gun,” the suit states. “The round never left the pistol and blew back into Deputy Herman Sander’s face and hand.”

The county alleges the defendant companies negligently placed defective products into the stream of commerce.

The county is suing to recover worker compensation benefits paid to Sanders.

Harris County Attorney Yvette Jircik represents the county.

County Attorney Vince Ryan Wins Order to Cleanup Unlicensed Salvage Yard

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has obtained a court order to require the cleanup of an unlicensed automotive salvage yard that has been damaging the environment by allowing automotive fluids to contaminate the ground and water near the business.

District Court Judge Caroline Baker ordered Aloysius Ikwuezunma on October 26 to cease operating an automotive wrecking and salvage yard at 5607 Charrin Drive in north Harris County until he obtains a license from Harris County.

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Harris County Moves to Ban “Robot Brothels”

From Houston Public Media:

Harris County commissioners are prepared to ban so-called robot brothels, just as Houston did last week.

Harris County already bans live sex acts at any place of business. Robert Soard, First Assistant County Attorney, said that, in his reading, that includes sex with “anthropomorphic devices.”

“Now, that being said, because of changing technology, it might be a good idea to amend the current sexually oriented business regulations,” Soard said.

The Office of the Harris County Attorney has been working with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on the amendment.

Click here for the article.

Harris County Attorney Ryan’s effort To stop Sale of Fraudulent “Miracle Solution” Upheld by Appeals Court

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan’s effort to stop the sale of a fraudulent medical treatment has been upheld.

The Fourteenth Court of Appeals in an opinion issued last week affirmed an injunction obtained by Harris County Attorney Ryan that halts the promotion and distribution of a fraudulent medical treatment known as the “Miracle Mineral Solution.”

After Ryan filed a lawsuit in 2017, District Judge Randy Wilson ordered Shane Hawkins D/B/A Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, Chapter #119 to stop promoting or selling the “Miracle Mineral Solution.” This alleged medical treatment was called a “health sacrament” of the church and was touted as a cure for 95 percent of human diseases. The solution, also marketed as MMS, is actually a sodium chlorite product used in disinfectants and as an industrial bleaching agent.

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Harris County Attorney Ryan Celebrates National Voter Registration Day

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan celebrates National Voter Registration Day today by making training for lawyers available online.

Ryan recently hosted a Continuing Legal Education session about voting issues that could be raised by government officials or members of the public.  It included an overview of the Texas Election Code and Voter ID laws. That seminar is now being offered free online for any lawyers who wish to view it.  CLE credit will be given.

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Alleged plot to eliminate Third Ward voters with ‘registration challenges’ isn’t what it seems

According to Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party's Ballot Security Committee Alan Vera, matched addresses against a data base to find things like a post office box, for example.  And that's not a good enough reason to submit a challenge.

“Many people have for instance post office boxes because they get a lot of mail or they have some personal reason for not wanting their personal address out there for the public,” Ryan said.

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KUHF-FM: Federal Court Allows Harris County Judges to Keep Setting Bails

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals grants a stay of the order from Judge Lee Rosenthal

AL ORTIZ, KUHF-FM

AUGUST 15, 2018

The latest development in the lawsuit against Harris County’s bail system means judges and hearing officers will be able to keep setting the amount of bail for people arrested for misdemeanors.

An opinion filed Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a stay requested by 14 Harris County judges with the goal of continuing the setting of bails. The stay will be implemented while the litigation keeps moving through the courts.

The opinion also put a temporary hold on an order from Federal Judge Lee Rosenthal that said people arrested for misdemeanor should be automatically released from the county jail if they stated they didn’t have money to post bail.

The opinion means Harris County judges and hearing officers will make the decision on bail amounts within 48 hours of an arrest.

Praise and criticism

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan praised the opinion and said in a statement that the it means the rejection of “a system that automatically releases offenders with no consideration of the rights of the victims or the protection of the community.”

Ryan added Harris County remains “committed to a settlement that maximizes the number of misdemeanor detainees who are eligible for prompt release from jail without secured bail.”

Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who advocates for reforming the bail system, criticized the opinion and said it “fails to provide an adequate interim remedy for protecting the rights of poor defendants” while the litigation goes on.

Ellis added the time spent behind bars can cause “significant harm to defendants who may lose their jobs or be unable to care for their families simply because they cannot afford bail.”

https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2018/08/15/300279/harris-county-judges-will-keep-setting-bails-as-litigation-over-bail-system-goes-on/

 

County Attorney Files Lawsuit Seeking to Stop Prostitution and Human Trafficking Along “Bissonnet Track”

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan today filed a lawsuit to stop the prostitution and human trafficking that pervades an area on Houston’s west side known as the “Bissonnet Track.”

Ryan is asking the court for  temporary and permanent injunctions to create the “Bissonnet Anti-Prostitution Zone” and forbid the 86 named defendants-- pimps, johns, and prostitutes-- listed in the lawsuit from entering the Zone or if in the area from engaging in any activities that lead to buying or selling sex or other crimes.  If the defendants violate the injunction, they would be in contempt of court and subject to a fine or jail time or both.  This type of anti-prostitution injunction is the first filed in Texas.

“For years, the residents and business owners in this area have been under siege due to the large number of people buying and selling sex and committing other crimes on and around the track,” said Ryan.  “Despite efforts by the County Attorney’s Office, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and non-governmental organizations to try to stop the proliferation of prostitution and sex trafficking in this area, the crime has not decreased.  Today’s lawsuit is seeking a new tool in this long battle.”

The County Attorney lists 86 defendants in the lawsuit consisting of pimps, johns and prostitutes, —and says they are a public nuisance.  Each of these defendants has been arrested in the zone for a prostitution-related crime; many of them have multiple arrests.  Several of the defendants are currently charged with aggravated offenses consisting of sex trafficking and aggravated assault.

The lawsuit includes an “opt out” provision that would permit a defendant who has been a victim of sexual assault or human trafficking, to receive social services and opt out of the injunction.  The County Attorney’s Office will work with victim’s rights organizations to ensure each defendant receives needed assistance.

The lawsuit points out that more than any other area in Houston, the Bissonnet Track attracts buyers and sellers of sex from all over the country. The Bissonnet Track is listed on international websites as “Houston’s Red Light District.”  From January 2016 to July 2018, the Houston Police Department received reports of nearly four thousand crimes in the area, with one-fourth of them related to prostitution.  Law enforcement makes many arrests but unfortunately the crime continues. The County Attorney’s Office in the past has sued several motels, smoke shops, restaurants and spas to target prostitution and trafficking in this area.

The “Bissonnet Anti-Prostitution Zone” proposed by the County Attorney covers an area that is generally north and south of Bissonnet from Highway 59 to the Sam Houston Toll Road.  Included in this area are apartments, retail businesses, churches, banks and restaurants, as well as an elementary school. 

“We have to remember that prostitution is not a victimless crime,” said County Attorney Ryan.  “Many women engaged in prostitution have been coerced.  Many are brought from other countries and even from small communities around the United States with promises of jobs.  We recognize the traumatic effects of sexual assault and human trafficking.  That is why we have included an opt-out provision.”

The lawsuit was filed in cooperation with the Houston Police Department and is part of the County Attorney’s Community Protection Program with the Southwest Management District.

Arkema, CEO indicted for 'reckless' chemical release during Hurricane Harvey

From the Houston Chronicle: 

A Harris County grand jury on Friday indicted the French chemical company Arkema and two executives for the "reckless" release of toxic chemicals during Hurricane Harvey last August, a move that alarmed industry leaders and surprised environmental advocates.

The company, CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle put residents and first responders at risk when the Crosby plant caught fire as Harvey dumped record rainfall on the Houston area, according to the Harris County District Attorney's office.

Click here for more.

FEDERAL JUDGE DISMISSES FLOOD DISTRICT FROM ADDICKS BARKER FLOOD CASE

Federal judge Ewing Werlein, Jr. has dismissed civil rights claims filed against the Harris County Flood Control District by the surviving spouse of a man who drowned allegedly as the result of the release of water from the Addicks and Barker reservoir after Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston area in 2017.

Plaintiff sued the Harris County Flood Control District and the United States claiming that the Army Corps of Engineers and the District “deliberately began releasing water from both reservoir systems … out of fear that water would spill over and cause uncontrolled damage to downtown Houston.” 

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HARRIS COUNTY ATTORNEY VINCE RYAN'S OFFICE WINS ORDER TO SHUT DOWN SMOKE SHOP SELLING VAPE OIL LACED WITH DANGEROUS SYNTHETIC SUBSTANCES

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan’s Office obtained a Temporary Restraining Order on Thursday, June 21, to close down the Time Zone Smoke Shop, 5853 W Gulf Bank Road, in north Houston for selling synthetic cannabinoids, illegal gambling, and selling alcohol without a permit. The Houston Police Department Narcotics Division found laced vaping oil, large amounts of synthetic marijuana, PCP, natural marijuana, synthetic urine, 18 gambling machines, large amounts of cash, alcoholic beverages, and numerous credit cards in different names inside the store.

Syed Abidi and his sister, Tabbasum ("Tabby") Bhimji, owners and operators of the smoke shop, were named in the lawsuit along with the landlord, White Lotus Investments LLC.

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Harris County Attorney Ryan Celebrates First Year of Senior Justice Assessment Center

In honor of World Elder Abuse Day on June 15, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan is lauding the accomplishments and contributions of the Harris County Senior Justice Assessment Center (SJAC).

In its first year, the SJAC has compiled a successful record of serving senior victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation. The County Attorney’s Office works collaboratively with several agencies and experts at the SJAC to help Harris County victims over the age of 65. The facility is the first of its kind in Texas.

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