Posts Tagged ‘Houston’

“Texas Officials Were ‘In Over Their Heads’ When They Struck Deals With Opioid Lawyers”

“You don’t auction professional services,” said Terry O’Rourke, assistant county attorney for Harris County (Houston), Texas, in charge of the opioid litigation, regarding the hefty 35% fee plus expenses the county has contractually agreed to pay to its contingency-fee outside counsel. Meanwhile, Dallas County for its representation in the same litigation “sets the contingent fee at the lesser of 12.5% or a “base fee,” calculated as four times hourly rates ranging from $900 an hour for partners to $200 for paralegals.” Some of the lawyers hired by Harris County have been active political donors: “It’s not uncommon for elected officials to hire their political allies for contingency fee work.”

Harris County’s contract with three outside law firms also requires the county to pay a fee based on its total recovery before expenses, while many municipal clients have negotiated more favorable deals in which the contingency fee is a percentage of the recovery after expenses….

The fact that some counties agreed to pay all of the expenses associated with their cases while others will pay fees net of expenses also shows a lack of sophistication and the potential for gamesmanship, [Cardozo emeritus professor and legal ethicist Lester] Brickman said. Lawyers in asbestos cases and securities litigation have been accused of double-billing and allocating the same expenses to multiple cases, and it can be difficult for individual clients to uncover wrongdoing unless they obtain records showing the overall distribution of expenses and recoveries – something lawyers rarely provide….

“Few of the cities and counties have required that the expenses claimed by the lawyers be detailed, including providing receipts and other supporting documents,” Brickman said. “There’s a possibility that some lawyers will emulate `The Producers’ and charge aggregate expenses that are in excess of actual expenses,” as has happened with asbestos litigation.

[Daniel Fisher, Legal Newsline/Forbes]

Land use and real estate roundup

  • Political fight brewing in California over ballot initiative that would pave way for bringing back rent control [Michael Hendrix, City Journal]
  • “Metes and bounds” method of describing legal property boundaries has been much derided, but new archival research from American colonial period suggests its benefits then were greater and costs lower than might appear [Maureen (Molly) Brady, SSRN, forthcoming Yale Law Journal] Just for fun: street grid orientation (or lack thereof) in major cities expressed as polar charts [Geoff Boeing]
  • “Alexandria, Virginia Gets Housing Affordability Wrong” [Vanessa Brown Calder, Cato]
  • Houston does not zone but it does subsidize deed restrictions. Is that good? [Nolan Gray, Market Urbanism]
  • Great moments in historic preservation: “Silver Lake gas station moves toward landmark status” but connoisseurs say it’s not nearly as choice as the three service stations previously landmarked in L.A. [Curbed Los Angeles]
  • “America’s Ugly Strip Malls Were Caused By Government Regulation” [Scott Beyer]

“How Washington Made Harvey Worse”

“A federal insurance program made Harvey far more costly—and Congress could have known it was coming.” [Michael Grunwald, Politico, more] And from July, “Reforming the National Flood Insurance Program: Toward Private Flood Insurance” [Ike Brannon and Ari Blask, Cato Policy Analysis]

More: “Lack of Zoning Is Not Houston’s Problem” [Vanessa Brown Calder, Cato; Nolan Gray, CityLab]

March 29 roundup

  • “SEAT Act: Top Senators Sponsoring Bill to Outlaw Low Cost Carriers, Raise Airfares” [Gary Leff, View from the Wing]
  • “Trump’s Safe and Sane ‘Regulatory Reform’ Idea” [Cass Sunstein/Bloomberg, earlier Sunstein on Trump regulatory initiatives]
  • Changing law and economics shape street protest [Tyler Cowen] Arizona’s bad idea on protestors involves racketeering charges, forfeiture, and more [Coyote]
  • “Rights And Reality: Georgia Cop Jails Ex-Wife For Facebook Gripe” [Ken White, Popehat]
  • “Opponents of same-sex marriage cynically…manufacture[d] a baseless controversy in the Texas Supreme Court” to attack City of Houston’s spousal benefits, but as the Hon. Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit had already stated in persuasive guidance, Obergefell “is the law of the land.” [Mark Pulliam, Law and Liberty; a second view from Josh Blackman]
  • Idea making some headway: adapting use of class action and similar aggregate litigation procedures to administrative adjudication [Sergio Campos, Jotwell]

Environment roundup

Environment roundup

Gate Guard v. Perez: the sequel

Last month we told the story of a Texas business that managed to clobber the U.S. Department of Labor in court over its challenge to the company’s use of independent contractors. The Fifth Circuit granted the company a substantial award in legal fees to punish the department for its bad faith in litigation.

Now, Coyote relates a personal encounter in which he runs into a man at a Houston steakhouse who turned out to be the owner of that company, Gate Guard:

I refused to believe him until he showed me a picture of him with the check. He had had it blown up into one of those huge golf tournament checks. I told him he was my hero and tried to buy him drinks the rest of the night, but when I got up to leave, I found he had actually paid my tab. I drank that evening on the Department of Labor’s dime, I guess.

Environment roundup

  • I own a Volkswagen clean diesel myself, and can recommend its terrific fuel economy and peppy performance. It’s almost too good to be true [Clive Crook on policy background] Class action lawyers expect huge payday from scandal, but their emissions might not be very reliable either [Daniel Fisher] More from Fisher: will VW owners actually take their vehicles in for the recall? and more on litigation prospects [More: Car and Driver];
  • Housing advocates looking for plaintiffs to sue Bay Area town that refuses to make its housing supply denser [CityLab]
  • Behind court’s strikedown of NYC Styrofoam ban [Erik Engquist, Crain’s New York; Entrepreneur]
  • “Did Flint, Michigan Just Lead Poison Its Children? Doctors Think So.” [Russell Saunders, The Daily Beast]
  • “Global regulatory norms” favored by pontiff “would globalize Argentina’s downward mobility.” [George Will]
  • After long silence, Hillary Clinton declares opposition to Keystone XL pipeline [Politico, more]
  • Houston: “For the most part, we don’t look all that different from other big cities that do have zoning.” [The Urban Edge; Kinder Institute, Rice U.]

Houston mayor withdraws pastor subpoenas

One instance of abusive litigation discovery down, 437,816 to go. [WSJ Law Blog, Houston Chronicle, City of Houston, earlier]

More from Scott Shackford, Reason: “Oppressive subpoenas like this happen all the time, which is probably why Houston didn’t even realize it was poking at a hornet’s nest. Cities across the country fight back like this against citizens attempting to exert their right to influence municipal policy. … If the targets hadn’t been pastors, would we even had known about the subpoenas?”