The Wisdom of George Patton

“If I do my full duty, the rest will take care of itself.” – General George S. Patton

George S. PattonPatton’s quote always gave me hope. To me, the quote meant that if I just worked hard, played by the rules, and treated people well then everything would work out okay. To this day I want to believe that concept is true for everyone: that if we just work hard and play by the rules then everything will turn out okay. I suspect most people agree and wish that it were true.

The first time I heard that quote, I was a seventeen year old boy at the United States Air Force Academy. During Basic Cadet Training, all cadets are given a small book containing “knowledge” they must memorize. The book contained many thoughtful quotes on duty, honor, and country, but Patton’s quote on duty was the one I found most memorable. It was as if someone handed me the key to success in only thirteen words. In an artificial world like basic training that quote is entirely true—if you do your job everything runs smoothly. As long as you sound off, march correctly, maintain a sharp uniform, and push yourself physically everything works out well. The instructors don’t yell as much and you get to eat without being harassed.

Sometimes, however, real life is not so simple. Many people work a full day, pay taxes, serve the community, and strive to make their children’s life better than their own. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond their control, and despite their best efforts, not everything works out okay. Other people failed to honor their commitments. A business idea is stolen. An accident happened. A natural disaster occurred. Regardless of the specific situation, these people have been good, solid citizens and have suffered some misfortune. They deserve more than bad luck.

In many cases, the legal system is the only avenue for people like these to make sure “the rest will take care of itself.” For example, a computer programmer that devoted significant resources to design a computer program that is now being used without permission by a rival company can ask a court to order the rival business to fairly compensate the programmer. A woman that suffered a stroke because of a drug defect can use the legal system to compensate her for her injuries if the court or jury determines that the drug manufacturer knew of the risk but failed to properly warn the woman. Without the legal system, these two people would be left footing the bill for situations caused by others.

And that is the reason I left the Air Force to become a lawyer. I thought that I could do more to help people as a lawyer than an Air Force officer. The American legal system is not a perfect animal. The law and justice are not necessarily the same thing. But, sometimes it is the only way to make sure the right people pay for the bill. My goal is to be the part of the system that gives the people that work hard and play by the rules someone who will work as hard as possible for them to make sure “the rest will take care of itself.”


Playing Deposition Clips at Trial

Depositions are sworn testimony in lawsuit taken before trial. Deposition testimony “counts” just like trial testimony in front of a judge and jury, but often the only people present are the lawyers, the witness and a court reporter or videographer. If the person is sick, dead or otherwise unavailable to attend the trial, the videotape of their deposition may be played for the jury. Since the judge is not present some attorneys may object to certain questions if they are afraid of the answer and then later ask the judge to not allow the jury to hear the question and answer.

Some unskilled attorneys are very afraid of the questions and answers and object to virtually every question being asked. When this happens the judge will later review their objections and if he finds them to frivolous or unfounded, he will “over-rule” the objections which means the jury will be allowed to hear the question and answer. This can be problematic when the video tape is being edited for the jury to watch because the court often requires the parties to cut out the portion where the attorney says “objection.” When this happens, the video tape, unfortunately, looks choppy in between the question and the answer. The strategy may even be deliberate from some attorneys to try and create a “choppy” video for the jury by objecting to every question. This fearful attorney may think that a choppy video seems less credible to the jury and the jury will not consider the testimony. Strong judges do not permit this type of gamesmanship and can punish the frivolously objecting attorney by allowing the jury to see and hear him or her making their unfounded objections. The jury will then know that the unskilled attorney is very afraid of the answer to the question and will pay close attention to it.


Back to the Future

Back to SchoolSchool is back in session! My reminder is when I see the line of cars waiting to exit Scott Street off I-45 to get to the University of Houston or Texas Southern University. I attended the University of Houston back when our mascot, Shasta, actually resided on campus. By the way, GO COOGS!!! And I grew up in the suburbs of Houston back when life was more simple than it is now.

My childhood friends and I often have conversations about how fun and carefree life was growing up. Remember when you just played outside until it got dark? Or were able to walk or ride your bike to school without much supervision? I have seen it within my own family and with my friends’ children that things are not how it was for me growing up.

With the Internet so easily accessible, cell phones on every hand, Twitter, and other social media outlets, children are so much more exposed to the negatives of the world. It is not enough to arm our youth with affirmations of a positive day. Stories of bullying, suicide, and harmful acts being committed within the student population are increasing at a rapid rate.

I remember when something would happen at school. The worst that would happen is that person would be teased and maybe mentioned in a note that was passed between one friend to another in the hallway. Then it was over. Now, the event can be videoed and uploaded to a site within minutes, someone can tweet about it, it becomes a status update, a text message is blasted to all contacts and that person is also teased or ridiculed. I empathize with what kids these days go through.

What can we do to help? One thing I have learned is communication is paramount. My parents talked to me about “life” often and I have in turn shared what I know with family members and my friends’ children. We can monitor the children’s activities. We can put parental controls on the television and internet sites. We can volunteer at school activities and get to know other parents and children. We have to pay attention for any personality changes or changes in attire or social group.

Basically we have to be present in children’s lives and make time for them. Sometimes we do not want to acknowledge something is going on and turn a blind eye. Or we get so busy in our own lives that we neglect the kids. Who has not been guilty of doing that a time or two? I know I have been. But it is up to us to lift those children up and support them. This does not apply just to parents, but also to anyone who has young family members, is a Godmother/father, has friends who have children, volunteers with kids, or even works with them.

I think when a child learns there is someone available to listen but not judge and to also love unconditionally, a safe haven is created that helps bolster self-confidence and awareness. We all have things going on in our lives, but if we do not help the kids with whom we interact, who will?

Remember that great Whitney Houston song “Greatest Love of All?” If not, look it up. Ms. Whitney sang beautifully about children and what we need to do to empower them. As this new school year gets moving, that song is worth listening to and keeping in the back of your mind.


Pay It Forward

John Eddie Williams Donating to the Goodfellows FundRecently it seems I’ve heard more stories of people “paying it forward” than usual, and this has inspired me in a way. I read a story sent by someone close to a former, and now deceased, client about giving school supplies to those who are less fortunate in the Houston area. I had not heard from this church pastor in quite a while, but I was so glad he thought to send such a great story to me. The next morning, I heard a story on the radio about a contest winner who had just won some incredible concert tickets, then turned around and gave them to someone temporarily in the area for treatment at MD Anderson who really wanted to go to the concert.

We should all be paying it forward when we are able. Whether its donating household items or clothes you could sell, or taking care of a small task for someone without asking for a return favor, or picking up breakfast, lunch or dinner for someone who is busy, there are many things that can be done to help someone in one way or another. And if you have kids, you are teaching them a very valuable lesson and setting an example that should make you beam with pride!

There’s no better time than now, as our Louisiana and Mississippi neighbors are dealing with relentless rain and flooding from Hurricane Isaac. Residents of both states are experiencing the devastation of losing their homes and everything inside. They will need new homes, but they will also need things that many of us keep around just in case we need it someday. But would you miss these extras if they were gone? I know there are people who will need them so much more than I would miss them. Find a way to pay it forward, whether it is for the victims of Hurricane Isaac or for a neighbor, friend, co-worker, family member or stranger in need!


Jury Information

What Is My Duty As A Juror?

As a juror, you must be fair and impartial. Your actions and decisions must be free of any bias or prejudice. Your actions and decisions are the foundation of our judicial system.

How Was I Selected?

You were selected at random from a list of voter registrations and a list of driver registrations from the county in which you live.

Am I Eligible?

Jurors must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States and of this State.
  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Reside in the county of jury service.
  • Be able to read and write.
  • Be of sound mind.

You cannot serve on a jury if:

  • You have been convicted of a felony or of any type of theft (unless rights have been restored)
  • You are now on probation or deferred adjudication for a felony or for any type of theft; or
  • You are now under indictment for a felony or are now under criminal charges for any type of theft.

Who Can Be Excused From Jury Service?

You are entitled to be excused as a juror if you:

  • Are over 70 years of age;
  • Have legal custody of a child under 12 years of age and jury service would leave the child unsupervised;
  • Are a student in class;
  • Are the caretaker of a person who is unable to care for themselves (an invalid); or
  • Can show a physical or mental impairment or an inability to comprehend or to communicate in English.

Will I Be Paid For Being A Juror?

Yes. In Harris County, you will be paid a minimum of $6.00 for each day you actually serve on the jury.

Must My Employer Pay Me While I Am On Jury Duty?

Your employer is not required to pay you while on jury duty; however, employers are prohibited by law from firing an employee for serving as a juror.

Who Can Have A Jury Trial?

Any person charged with a criminal offense or any party to a civil case has a right to a jury trial. All parties are equal before the law and each is entitled to the same fair treatment.

Are There Rules About Jury Conduct?

Yes. The Texas Supreme Court has rules to assist you in your conduct as a juror, which will be given to you by the judge.

How Is A Juror Selected For A Particular Case?

Cases will usually be heard by juries of 6 or 12 jurors. A larger group, called a panel, will be sent to the trial court (courtroom) where the jurors will be questioned under the supervision of the judge.

A juror may be excused from the panel if it is shown that the juror cannot act impartially concerning the case to be heard. In addition, each side is allowed to remove a given number of jurors from the panel without having to show any reason. The trial jury will be the first 6 or 12 of the remaining jurors on the panel.

What Is Voir Dire Or Questioning Of The Jury Panel?

It is a way for the parties to select a fair and impartial jury. Under the justice system, you may be questioned by each of the lawyers before they decide to remove a certain number of jurors from the jury panel.

For example. the lawyer may ask you questions to see if you are connected to the trial or if you have any prejudice or bias toward anyone in the trial These questions are not intended to embarrass you, but rather to help the lawyers in the jury selection process. You may ask the judge to allow you to answer some questions away from the other jurors.

What If I Have A Special Need or Emergency?

After you have been selected as a juror on a trial panel, if you have a special need or an emergency, tell the bailiff.

When In Doubt, Ask The Judge

You have the right to communicate with the judge regarding any matters affecting your deliberations, including but not limited to:

  • physical comfort;
  • special needs;
  • any questions regarding evidence; or
  • the Charge of the Court.

During deliberation, if it becomes necessary to communicate with the judge, the bailiff or the officer of the court will deliver jurors’ notes to the judge. The information in this Handbook is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the judge in any case. In the event of conflict, the judge’s instructions will prevail.


Insurance and Lawsuits

Insurance exists in practically every negligence or gross negligence lawsuit filed in this country. A case almost never gets filed unless the wrongdoer has insurance to compensate a person for their wrecked car and body. For example, all drivers in Texas (and most states) are required to have liability insurance. If an automobile collision occurs and the liability for the wreck is disputed, one can guarantee that insurance is somehow involved.

The role of insurance is critical on three different fronts: for the injured family member to received the medical attention they need; for the alleged wrongdoer so their personal assets are protected and lastly for the taxpayers who through Medicare, Medicaid or hospital write-offs, would often have to bear the brunt of a wrongdoer’s negligence or gross negligence.

Under Texas law, juries are deliberately not informed about the role of insurance in the trial. Even though insurance companies will hire attorneys for the defendant or in some cases the defense attorneys are actual employees of the insurance company, the attorneys will have a separate law firm name so if a juror looks them up they will not know the lawyer’s true employer.

The mere mention of the word “insurance” in a courtroom is taboo and trial lawyers collectively panic when “insurance” is mentioned in fear of an automatic mistrial. Even during jury selection “insurance” is not used when asking potential jurors about their jobs or backgrounds. Instead, vague questions regarding “claims handling”, “subrogation” or “adjusting claims” are often asked that hint or tap dance around the real issue.

Most jurors are already aware that in a lawsuit an insurance company is paying for the defense and selecting the experts and deciding the strategy and witnesses for the defense. The perception that a jury will be more likely to find liability on the part of the defendant because they have insurance seems outdated and patronizing to modern jurors so the wisdom of the not being allowed to mention insurance at trial will continue to be debated.


The Importance of Jury Duty

Jury DutyJury duty is an obligation of citizenship. Just like paying your taxes or voting, jury duty is an essential part of maintaining the civic infrastructure most of us take for granted. We all have the right to be tried by our peers and the jury system is the best system yet devised; the one most likely to yield just, fair results. Jury service is not perfect but it is meaningful work and one of the best in the world. If jury duty was not mandatory there would be no jurors or at-most very few. It seems to the average American, nothing is seemingly more disliked than receiving a jury summons in the mail. The list seems endless of what people believe they are going to miss or the hardship they will suffer if they have to report to jury duty. As inconvenient as it may seem, jury duty is important for you and is in place to protect you from governmental abuse. It is a common misconception that jury duty is about deciding guilt. The jury system was first formed as a place for review of the law and how it is applied to everyone. There are circumstances in which the law is unjust and it is your duty as a juror to represent the opinion of the people. The next time you think about being inconvenienced by reporting to jury duty, remember that other than voting, acting as a juror is really your only other civic responsibility in this country. In other words, all the work done by the founding fathers, and all the actions of those who fought bravely or died on behalf of this country’s democratic institutions, resulted in a set of freedoms for citizens of this country not seen in other parts of the world. And, after all the sacrifice of those that came before you to ensure that each of us has the right to life, liberty and happiness, all your government really asks of you in return is to vote and show up for jury duty.

Thomas Jefferson once said “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” As a trial lawyer I stand by Thomas Jefferson’s quote. I can’t think of anything more important to my clients than the right to have their cases, whether personal injury or any kind of case, decided by a jury. And even though jury duty does take some amount of time away from what your daily routines would have been, almost every judge I have been in front of has been very sensitive to those facts. While there is no one standard rule as to how long jury service is, one thing is clear, if you sit on a civil or criminal jury, and reach a verdict, you are done.

So the next time you get that jury summons, sure it may be an inconvenience, but at the end of the process, you, like so many before you, will have made a huge commitment to our democratic system of government, you will have made a huge difference in resolving a controversy. That small burden is a small price to pay for the privileges and protections of our government. With rights, come responsibilities. Jurors owe it to their fellow citizens to perform this service seriously; justice depends all on the quality of jurors who serve. The survival of your own right to trial by jury depends on the willingness of all to serve, so be part of the system and make a difference.


Attorney at Williams Kherkher Represents Legal Publisher in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

The publisher of O’Connor’s legal books has filed suit against the creators of PUSH:legal, a mobile app, claiming that the content found in the app was taken directly from their texts. The complaint was filed on May 21, 2012 and asserted that the reference books available to attorneys through the PUSH:legal app contained the facts, language, citations, and cases included in several O’Connor’s books, specifically those about property, criminal, and family law.

The official complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston includes the legal demands from the plaintiff. They are seeking $150,000 for each legal book that was plagiarized by PUSH:legal in addition to related damages, court fees, and attorney costs.

Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas’ commercial litigation manager, Armi Easterby, is representing McClure Family LP and JMP Interests LP, the copyright holder and publisher, respectively. He and the firm believe that they have a strong case against Texas Legal Apps, Inc., the creator of PUSH:legal. Easterby has been a member of the Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas, LLP, legal team since 2005 and has decades of experience with commercial law.

For more information about the legal team at Wiliams Kherkher Hart Boundas, LLP, please visit their website www.williamskherkher.com.

 


PUSH:Legal Copyright Lawsuit

As an attorney with a background in patent infringement, there are few things more important to me than protecting my clients from having their hard work stolen and used by others for profit. When an individual or business has put in the time and effort to create something, they deserve to receive the benefits of their work.

That’s why I decided to represent the publishers of O’Connor’s legal books when it came to my attention that a mobile application had used their material wholesale without their approval. Our case, which is currently pending, attempts to hold the developers of this app responsible for their willful misuse of my client’s copyright-protected material. More information on this case can be found in the July 16, 2012 publication of Texas Lawyer.


Z-Pak and Cardiac Complications

Azithromycin is an antibiotic frequently prescribed to people suffering from bacterial infections. Commonly called Z-Pak, azithromycin has been used for many years to treat common illnesses such as strep throat, inner ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, and other infections. However, a recent study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine examined the risks of cardiovascular complications in individuals who were taking azithromycin as compared to those who took other antibiotics or no antibiotics at all.

The test was conducted over a five day period and each patient was examined thoroughly during this time. Patients were within a close age range and suffered from similar infections. Azithromycin showed an increased risk of cardiovascular death when compared to amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, and individuals taking no antibiotic at all. The risks of suffering cardiac complications were even greater among people who were previously prone to cardiac related health problems.

In total, 47 cardiovascular deaths out of 1 million Z-Pak courses were estimated among patients with no history of heart related problems. There were 245 deaths (again, out of 1 million courses of the antibiotic) estimated among those that had experienced cardiac complications in the past.

The complications associated with azithromycin primarily involve heart arrhythmias. Specifically, the QT interval during a heartbeat may be extended which can lead to Torsade de Pointes (TdP). TdP has been known to lead to cardiovascular death and requires emergency medical treatment. In order to eliminate the dangers of TdP, doctors will attempt to regulate the heart beat with pharmaceutical treatment and electrical therapy.

Z-Pak is an extremely popular form of treatment because of its ability to quickly counteract the symptoms of an infection. In March of this year, the label was revised to include information about the dangers of QT interval prolongation. The United States Food and Drug Administration has reviewed the information regarding TdP and the QT interval, but has not requested that the manufacturer remove the product from shelves.

If you or someone you know has suffered cardiac complications after taking Z-Pak, contact the attorneys at Williams Kherkher today by calling (888) 220-0640.


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