Courts

TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Stiles on Bill White's donor-appointees, M. Smith on a form of meritless lawsuit that's still legal in Texas, Ramshaw on what federal health care reform means for the future of physician-owned specialty hospitals, Galbraith's interview with the chairman of the Public Utility Commission, Philpott on the latest flap over federal education funding, Grissom on the finally-in-compliance Dallas County Jail, Titus on the oiled pelicans of the BP spill, Hamilton's interview with the new chancellor of the Texas State University System, Ramsey on the political and legal definitions of residency, Hu on Barack Obama's visit to Austin and Aguilar on what the U.S. could be doing to aid Mexico: The best of our best from August 9 to 13, 2010.

Full Story 
Graphic by Todd Wiseman

Sued Into Silence

Plaintiffs in so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, use the court system to bury opponents in a crush of legal fees and paperwork of Bleak House proportions. They're not concerned about winning damages. They usually don’t expect to be successful, and the targets often don’t have the money to adequately defend themselves. Yet in otherwise tort-reform-happy Texas, there is no prohibition on filing this particular form of meritless suit — yet.

Full Story 
Debbie Riddle Campaign

TribBlog: No "Terror Baby" Records

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston, says "former FBI officials" are the sources of her information about a terror baby plot. When the Tribune asked her office for records of any such conversations, her chief of staff said they don't exist.

Full Story 
Caleb Bryant Miller

Jailhouse Revival

Since 2004, the the Dallas County Jail has failed every year to meet state jail standards, racking up dozens of violations. But on Wednesday, more than six years and $138 million later, the massive lockup finally earned a certificate of compliance.

Full Story 

The Fox and the Hen House

Five of the nine members of the state's Commission on Jail Standards, which oversees the 245 county lockups, are elected officials from or employees of the counties whose facilities they regulate. Advocates say that's a conflict of interest, and they're calling for a change in the commission's makeup.

Full Story 
Graphic by Todd Wiseman

TriBlog: Harris County Jail Controversy to Be Continued

It wasn't so much a grilling as a polite discussion this morning between Harris County officials and members of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Despite continued overcrowding at the county's four facilities and ongoing concerns about inmate conditions, the county is expected in November to ask the commission for permission to continue filling the jails with hundreds of so-called "variance beds" — beds beyond the capacity for which the buildings were designed.

Full Story 
Graphic by Todd Wiseman

The Big House Isn't Big Enough

At today's hearing of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Sheriff Adrian Garcia will be grilled about efforts to control overcrowding at Harris County's four jail facilities, which have seen a dramatic population spike. At the urging of Houston lawmakers, Garcia will be pressed to explain why he wants to keep housing more inmates than the facilities can accommodate, and why some recommendations by the county's own consultant for ways to reduce its jail population have gone unheeded.

Full Story 
Graphic by Todd Wiseman

Reservoir Dogged

In 2004, two brothers thought they had found the perfect ecologically friendly business venture: create a wetlands preserve on 4,000 acres of neglected farmland along the Sulphur River in Northeast Texas and make a pile of money selling mitigation credits to developers who build over environmentally sensitive lands elsewhere. Seven years later, the only thing stopping them from realizing that dream is the state of Texas, which has plans to submerge their property under 80 feet of water.

Full Story 
Graphic by Todd Wiseman

TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Stiles' and Torres' three-parter on the changing Texas political map, Ramsey on questions about Brian Birdwell's voting history and residency, Aguilar on the Obama administration's immigration crackdown, Reed on hospitals that won't induce early labor, Stiles on what Troy Fraser left off his financial disclosure form, the latest installment of Hu's Face-Off video debate series, Grissom on the problem-plagued Driver Responsibility Program, Galbraith on the controversy over fracking and M. Smith's interview with former Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O'Neill: The best of our best from July 26 to 30, 2010.

Full Story 
Bob Daemmerich

TribBlog: More Calls for Innocence Commission

Michael Anthony Green was supposed to be freed today after serving 27 years for a rape he didn't commit. The exoneration is the second in two weeks to come from Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos' Post Conviction Review Section. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said the findings give more credence to his argument that Texas needs a state innocence commission.

Full Story 

A Conversation with Harriet O'Neill

After nearly two decades on the bench, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O'Neill stepped down earlier this year. She talks with the TT's Morgan Smith about her legacy and what's next.

Full Story 

Hide in Plain Sight

A few elected officials and municipalities in Texas are asking a federal judge to throw out the state’s open meetings law, which they claim is an infringement on free speech. Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports.

Full Story