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March 2009 Archives

Stanford Update: March 30, 2009

Activity in the SEC's federal suit in Dallas picked up last week. The Receiver filed a motion to obtain court approval for implementing a process whereby Stanford investors with brokerage accounts that remain frozen may submit information to the Receiver seeking the release of those funds. The process will apply to the approximately 4,000 brokerage accounts held by Pershing and JP Morgan Chase which are still frozen because the account holder has ties to CDs at Stanford International Bank (SIB) in Antigua. The Receiver estimates that these accounts have $1.7 billion.

South Texas College of Law Houston Gala

The South Texas College of Law Houston is having a gala honoring the South Texas Advocacy Program on Saturday, April 4, 2009. My mock trial partner, Rick Laminack, and I are honored to be the Co-Chairs of the historic event entitled "Celebration of the Century." The black tie affair will be at the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel and over 500 guests are expected to attend. Proceeds from the event will support the growth of the Advocacy Program for years to come.

My First Trial

Recently I had the opportunity to try my first case. I spent considerable time preparing for it with my client and I think that paid off in the end. Another tip that I had gotten from the senior members of the firm was to keep the deposition video clips short and concise. That is exactly what I did. We altogether played just over 20 minutes of video testimony. The other side played over two and half hours of deposition testimony from doctors. When I spoke to some of the jurors afterwards they liked the fact that I had presented our case in a concise and efficient manner. The two day trial seemed to go by really fast. Johnny Garza and Natalie Schultz from the firm went with me for support. Their input in the jury selection process was invaluable. At the end of it we had a very good result for our client and the Plaintiffs bar in general. The partners at the firm feel that it is integral to our (associates) training process to try cases. It was a great experience and I look forward to the challenge and excitement of trial.

SEC and Receiver for Stanford Financial Group Oppose Investors

Last month, the SEC filed a lawsuit in Dallas federal court against Stanford Financial Group, Allen Stanford, and others. At a hearing conducted without notice to any other party, the Court entered an Order freezing assets and appointing a Receiver. The Order, which later was replaced by a Preliminary Injunction, affected thousands of investors. Drafted very broadly, it was interpreted by the attorney representing the Receiver to prohibit any investors from not only filing cases against the parties sued by the SEC, but further to prohibit all other suits related to the losses sustained by the investors. In fact, on one occasion, the attorneys for the Receiver sought to have an attorney representing investors held in contempt of court for seeking to pursue another lawsuit on behalf of his clients.

Abraham Watkins' View: Everybody Deserves Legal Representation

The law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels & Friend has a rich tradition of helping those who were injured by the negligence of others recover verdicts and settlements that will adequately and fairly compensate the victim. Indeed, the firm has been doing this for over 57 years. The firm is widely known for its ability to take cases to trial, its ability to maximize the value of the case, and the ability to combat large corporations with limitless resources. However, since joining the firm, I have noticed the other side, the side that is not as widely known by the general public. The side I am referring to is the firm's commitment to helping those in need.

Be Prepared for Safe Summertime Fun

The recent tragic boating accident in Florida involving football players Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith, together with William Bleakley and Nick Schuyler, serves as a reminder to all to be prepared for safety as we head outside to enjoy the sun and warm temperatures.

"Try to Relax"

As I sit here in Colorado and write this blog, I realize how important it is for lawyers or anyone in a high stress job to take some time and step away. Although I'm here getting CLE, I've actually been able to clear my mind and body from the daily stress of the life of a trial lawyer. The fresh air, no traffic, the phone not constantly ringing, the exercise, the good food, and most importantly the quality time with my wife. While most of us think we are so important we can't possibly take a week off work and the world not collapse around us, YOU'RE WRONG. Your office can survive. The question is can you without the break? Probably not! So step away, relax, and you can even still get some work done if you must.

Mexican American Bar Association of Texas Foundation Supports Law Student Conference at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law

I recently traveled to Fort Worth, Texas to deliver a speech to a number of Texas law students at the Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in an event sponsored by the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas (MABATx). The event was very well attended and included Hispanic and other minority law students from all over the great state of Texas. The event marked a renewed commitment of MABATx to the law students of Texas, and a means for students to receive real life advice and counsel regarding law school issues, as well as issues they will face upon the completion of their legal career. The MABATx law student conference is held every year at different law schools throughout the state and focuses on helping law students cope with the stress each student faces while getting through law school, studying for the bar exam, and to ultimately securing a job.

A Recent Volunteering Experience

I, along with other attorneys from the firm, recently had the opportunity to participate in the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program's Saturday Clinic held at The Ripley House in East Houston. HVLP provides pro bono legal services to low-income men and women of Harris County and to promote volunteerism among the legal community. We volunteered our time to help HVLP screen new cases and direct these clients to the appropriate clinic based on the type and facts of their cases. We volunteered for approximately several hours until every client was seen. The various cases ranged from divorces to guardianships of the incapacitated to help with handling debt and debt collection activities. I'd suggest that all lawyers looking for pro bono hours or a volunteer experience that is both rewarding and challenging to participate in this program. It was a rewarding experience to help those who truly need legal help but cannot afford it. But it was also challenging to screen and discuss cases we usually don't handle on an everyday basis.

Texas Supreme Court Historical Society

I have just returned from my first meeting as a Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. This organization was founded in January 1990 on the Sesquicentennial of the first session of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas, and the Society's incorporation papers were filed with the Secretary of State by three former Chief Justices, Robert Calvert, Joe R. Greenhill and Jack Pope. It is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the collection and preservation of papers, photographs and significant artifacts relating to the Supreme Court of Texas, the appellate courts and Texas judicial history. The organization seeks to raise public awareness about the judicial branch of government and its role in the development of Texas. . My first impression of this organization is "Wow!" I marveled at the fact I was sitting in the same room as some of the largest Texas legal legends in our time.

Hurricane Ike Claims: What to do

It has been nearly six months since Hurricane Ike made landfall. The damage that Hurricane Ike caused to many home and land owners throughout the Houston and Galveston area was tremendous. If you are one of the many who suffered a loss from Hurricane Ike, you have most likely made a claim with your insurance company in order to recover the funds needed to rebuild and repair your damage. A large amount of these types of claims have been settled in a timely fashion by the insurance companies. However, we are still getting calls from homeowners that are still waiting on the insurance company to pay them the money to repair their homes so they can move on with their lives. In fact, we are currently representing clients who, through no fault of their own, are still waiting for the money to make the necessary repairs to their home. Some of our clients have been out of their homes for nearly six months. These are cases where the damage to the clients' homes was great and clearly caused by Hurricane Ike.

Fiduciary Shield Doctrine As A Jurisdictional Defense

In a case recently we had non-resident defendants assert the fiduciary shield doctrine as a defense to jurisdiction. Although these out of state defendants visited Texas on several occasions and conducted business in the State of Texas, they claimed protection from jurisdiction on the grounds that all their contacts with Texas were in their capacities as corporate officers.

Recognizing the Symptoms of a Stroke

You are having dinner with some friends, when one of the members of the party begins to slur their words, and seems confused. Since no one ordered wine, this is very troubling. Do you know how to determine whether this is a medical emergency or not?

Hearing Held Today in Stanford Case

I attended a hearing that United States District Judge David C. Godbey conducted today in the Stanford fraud case. The hearing was set at the request of the SEC for a Preliminary Injunction to preserve the assets of the Stanford companies until the final trial of the case. An agreed Preliminary Injunction was entered regarding Laura Pendergest-Holt and the companies. For the other defendants, the initial Temporary Restraining Order was extended to March 12, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. Additionally, Ralph Janvey, the Receiver, provided a report to Judge Godbey concerning the status of the receivership.

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