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Al Hill III Smacked Down with $40.9 Million Judgment

Hunt oil heir Al Hill III has gotten some bad news. Read this Texas Lawyer story if you want a fuller understanding. (If the link won’t let you read the story, just google “Al Hill” and “Texas Lawyer”; they’ll let you in through that door.) Upshot: a judge has ruled that an appeals court mandate stands, and Hill III owes a raft of lawyers nearly $41 million. That’s a big number. One wonders whether Hill III, now living in Atlanta, has ever considered pulling a Wyly.

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Nina Pham: A Case Study in Media Manipulation

Please understand that I am not commenting here on the merits of Ebola survivor Nina Pham’s lawsuit against Texas Health Resources. She says she has nightmares and her hair is falling out. She says Presby used a video of her without her consent. Maybe she’s entitled to some money. And maybe, as she has said, she really does want to “make hospitals and big corporations realize that nurses and health care workers, especially frontline people, are important.”

No, what I want to talk about is Charla Aldous, the lawyer representing Pham. Because Aldous has pretty much posterized Texas Health, and right now she’s hanging on the rim, looking down at Texas Health, enjoying the afterglow of her monster dunk. If I’m reading her playbook correctly — and I’d like to think I am — here’s how she did it:

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Barrett Brown Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison, Looks Horrible in Mustard Yellow Jail Togs

Yesterday at the Earle Cabell Federal Building, in the fine city of Dallas, Texas, a fellow named Andrew Blake wore a curious t-shirt to Judge Sam Lindsay’s court for a hearing to determine how much longer Barrett Brown ought to stay in prison. Blake got his shirt while covering the trial of Chelsea Manning. It was black, with one word, in white, printed across its chest: “truth.” Before things got started yesterday, a federal marshal approached Blake and told him he had to cover up the word. In case you missed that: he had to cover up “truth.” In a courtroom. That’s how it went for much of yesterday, like a script for a bad movie that any reasonable studio executive would read and reject because no way could the plot transpire in real life.

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Leading Off (1/23/15)

High-Speed Rail Line Likened to Berlin Wall. Judging by the responses we’ve seen in the comments of previous articles about the possibility, Dallas residents seem generally excited about the prospect of a high-speed rail line being built that will mean Houston is just 90 minutes away by train. But WFAA spoke with several Ellis County landowners who are none too excited about their property being divided by the project.

Prime Prep to Merge With Another School. The struggling charter academy, co-founded by former NFL star Deion Sanders, will reportedly hook up with another Oak Cliff campus, Triple A Academy. It’s not clear whether Triple A’s recent 117-10 basketball win had anything to do with the decision.

Cowboys Fan Sues NFL For $88 Billion. Terry Hendrix is upset about the officials’ reversal of Dez Bryant’s catch during this year’s playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, claiming damages for the league’s “negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and also reckless disregard.” The hand-written lawsuit was filed on Wednesday. Also of note, Hendrix is incarcerated in a Colorado correctional institution.

Dogs Mysteriously Disappearing in Wise County. And there’s “not one shred of physical evidence that proves the dogs were taken.” Has the pet rapture begun?

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Million-dollar Lawsuit Rips Winstead Advice in NCPA Sex Scandal

In recent months, the National Center for Policy Analysis has worked hard to put a sex scandal involving its founder behind it. The free-market think tank fired the founder, John C. Goodman, hired a new leader (tea party star Allen B. West), and scheduled several high-profile speakers for its events. Now, however, the Dallas-based NCPA has filed a lawsuit against a prominent law firm and the firm’s chairman emeritus that revisits the sex scandal in detail. Among other things, the suit asserts that l’affaire Goodman caused the nonprofit organization to lose at least $2 million in fundraising—and nearly put it out of business.

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Leading Off (10/10/14)

Baylor Hospital Could Lose Hundreds of Millions in Federal Funds. Inspectors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently found several instances of psychiatric patients walking away from the emergency department at Baylor University Medical Center. The violations potentially could cost the hospital up to $300 million in annual revenue it receives from Medicare, though Baylor is devising a plan to fix its problems, which it will submit to Texas Department of State Health Services by Monday.

Judge Rules Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an opinion late Thursday holding that the 2011 bill requiring photo identification for anyone to cast a valid election ballot places an undue burden on the right to vote and has a discriminatory effect on Hispanics and African-Americans. Attorney general Greg Abbott, who is also running for governor (in case you haven’t heard), announced immediately that his office would appeal the decision. It’s not clear yet how the ruling will affect the election that’s only a few weeks away.

Dallas Stars Lose Season Opener. They played great against a great team, but fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout.

Scam Targets Morning News Subscribers. Do not send $600 to an Oregon post office box to get the newspaper.

Today is Double Tenth National Day in Taiwan. It commemorates the start of the 1911 uprising that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China. It’s also an office holiday for D Magazine Partners, celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day this weekend because of the horrific crimes Christopher Columbus committed against the native peoples of the Americas. (To be honest, I think it’s just because we decided we preferred getting a Friday off to getting a Monday off.)

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Akin vs. Dahl

It’s fitting that we’re posting this story during the annual run of the State Fair of Texas, since it concerns the later years of George Dahl, the architect who deserves much of the credit for the acclaimed Art Deco buildings at Fair Park. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t focus on the legacy of Dahl’s work but instead the unhappy family saga that consumed much of the final decade-plus of his life.

The facts, as presented in David Bauer’s article in the April 1979 issue of D Magazine (one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published), are that Dahl’s daughter Gloria and her husband, Ted Akin, filed for guardianship of the then-83-year-old Dahl in April 1978. They said they’d done it because of their concerns about Dahl’s failing mental competency in business matters. Dahl believed they were motivated by greed, looking to take control of the millions of dollars in the trust that had been established in the name of his late wife, Lillie, of which Dahl himself was the sole trustee. They also were seeking to prevent him from marrying Joan Renfro, a much-younger woman whom they suspected of being only after Dahl’s money.

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Why Was John Wiley Price Trying To Get a Court-Appointed Attorney?

Yesterday, Judge Renée Harris Toliver denied the county commissioner’s request to have court-appointed counsel represent him on public corruption charges. But why did he request such a thing in the first place? He’s been represented by Billy Ravkind forever. Can Price really not afford him now? Or is this a gambit to start laying the groundwork for a future appeal and/or forcing the government to pay for his defense? Or some other thing I’m just not smart enough to see? I’ll hang up and take your answers in the comments.

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Why Are District Attorney and Judicial Elections Partisan?

Yes, Republican Susan Hawk, who’s seeking the Dallas County district attorney’s job, is most likely making the argument out of convenience and self-interest, but isn’t she absolutely right that we shouldn’t be electing our top prosecutors based upon party affiliation?

“Our District Attorney should be focused on law enforcement, not partisan politics,” Hawk said in a prepared statement. “Today, party politics permeates our DA’s office, from hiring and firing to who gets prosecuted and who goes free. When it comes to upholding the law, it shouldn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat.”

Hawk is running for DA against incumbent Democrat Craig Watkins, an unabashed Democrat who contends political ideology should be considered by voters when choosing a district attorney.

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Billionaire Bites Back: Judge All But Tosses Dallas Art Collector’s Lawsuit

The tawdry tale of a multimillion dollar work of art, a widowed patroness, a powerful Mexican billionaire, and the little, red faced museum stuck in the middle of all of it took yet another turn in its four-year-long court battle. Dallas mega-collector Marguerite Hoffman’s lawyers convinced a jury late last year that debt baron David Martinez broke a confidential agreement when he sold at public auction a painting by Marc Rothko, which was sold to him by Hoffman in a hush-hush deal. Now, a judge ruled Friday that Martinez did not violate any agreement.

To recap:

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Injustice For Willard Bishop Jackson

Life was going well for Willard Jackson in January 1972. The basketball team he coached at Dallas’ Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior High School was undefeated. They’d won the city championship two seasons before and finished second the previous year. There was talk of an opening soon at South Oak Cliff, and he’d been told his name was at the top of the list. The 29-year-old envisioned his future: a few years successfully coaching high school and then he’d take another step to the collegiate level.

If only he hadn’t stopped in for a drink at the Sportspage bar on Inwood Road one Saturday night, that might have been. Instead, as recounted by one of the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine, Jackson was arrested and charged with the rape and robbery of two women in an Oak Lawn apartment weeks earlier. In “A Case of Rape,” Jim Atkinson writes of how our justice system delivered injustice for Jackson — convicting him of a crime he didn’t commit despite what seems to be overwhelming evidence in his favor (including a solid alibi and the confession of the actual perpetrator.) It’s a heartbreaking tale, and Atkinson’s article was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.

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New Reasons to Think Texas Executed an Innocent Man

Yesterday a new nonprofit news organization focused on reporting on the criminal justice system published its first story, and it centers on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, the Corsicana man who was executed for setting fire to his house to kill his three young children in 1991. We’ve discussed the case before, which received long-form treatment several years back from the New Yorker, as well as episodes of Nightline and FrontlineYou’ll also likely remember how Gov. Rick Perry replaced members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission before they could consider new evidence that cast doubt on the science that was used at the time of Willingham’s trial to determine that arson was the cause of the fire.

Well, the news in the Marshall Project piece is that a jailhouse informant, Johnny E. Webb, has recanted his testimony and that there’s evidence — despite what the prosecutor has insisted for 20 years — that a deal was made to lessen the informant’s jail time in exchange for saying that Willingham had confessed to him:

In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb’s prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line.

The Innocence Project filed a grievance against Jackson with the State Bar of Texas, saying that he violated his ethical and constitutional obligations.

Willingham was executed in 2004.

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Spencer Barasch ‘Transitions’ out of Andrews Kurth

Back in May, I wondered how much longer Andrews Kurth could continue to employ Spencer Barash, a lawyer that we had to remove from our Best Lawyers list because of some Allen Stanford-related shenanigans he was involved in (you’ll have to follow some links; it’s complicated). Well, an alert FrontBurnervian points us to a story (paywall) in The American Lawyer that says Barasch is on his way out. Explaining why Barasch’s profile page had vanished from the Andrews Kurth website, a managing partner told the magazine: “Spence Barasch is still a highly valued member of Andrews Kurth. However, he is in the process of transitioning his legal practice. Under those circumstances, we have agreed that it’s best not to continue to publish his website biography during the transition period. The firm continues to fully support Spence in all of his endeavors.”

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The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: A Visit to the Hole

I’m afraid I’m now being kept in the Seagoville federal prison Special Housing Unit, or SHU, known more informally as “segregation” and even more informally as “the hole.” Several of my fellow jail unit inmates and I were brought here in the wake of a June 17 incident that the Department of Justice is billing as a “semi-disturbance” for which we are to be investigated and perhaps punished — though not necessarily in that order. One awaits one’s disciplinary hearing in the hole, and if one if found guilty, one is sentenced to … the hole. More than a week after being confined, I’ve yet to even be charged with an infraction.

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