San Antonio Firefighters Win Placement for Ballot Initiative

Feldman & Feldman is representing the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association (SAPFA) with regard to the San Antonio First Initiative, successfully gaining placement for the initiative on the November ballot. Recently, the city had restricted SAPFA’s free speech in promoting the initiative, but despite this, SAPFA was successful in getting the initiative in front of voters this fall. On August 16th, 2018, the San Antonio City Council voted to put the San Antonio First Initiative on the November ballot for voters to decide its fate.

The San Antonio First Initiative

The San Antonio First Initiative supported by SAPFA is composed of several parts, all of which aim to help shift power back into the hands of voters. The initiative includes a salary cap and term limits for the position of city manager, allows for arbitration in collective bargaining, and lessens the prerequisites for proposing changes and actions against the city council and the city’s charter.

SAPFA faced incredible hardships when promoting the San Antonio first initiative because the city began to enforce a “free speech area” policy to hinder SAPFA’s efforts. Enforcement of this policy was found unconstitutional because the SAPFA and its members have the right to freedom of speech as guaranteed in both the U.S. and Texas constitutions. In response to the city’s enforcement of this policy, Feldman & Feldman filed a lawsuit on behalf of SAPFA to protect their free speech.

In addition to proving the unconstitutionality of the “free speech area” policy, Feldman & Feldman and SAPFA also overcame a last minute attempt by a political action committee to prevent the city council from voting on whether or not the initiative would appear on the November ballot. The political action committee filed a restraining order to prevent the issue from going before the city council, but the restraining order was denied the day before city council members met to determine ballot initiatives.

SAPFA is thrilled to officially have the initiative on the ballot, as its sole intention was to get the issue in front of voters so they can decide whether or not they believe the initiative will be good for the city and its inhabitants.

Protecting Your Rights Under The Constitution

At Feldman & Feldman, we fiercely advocate for clients whose constitutional rights have been infringed upon. We are honored to represent San Antonio firefighters and help them protect their constitutional rights as they work to make the city better. If you feel your rights have been violated, contact us today to see how we can help.

The Differences Between the Texas and U.S. Constitutions

What’s The Difference Between The U.S. and Texas Constitutions?

While many people learn about the U.S. Constitution in school, few give it much thought outside of school, and even fewer give the Texas Constitution any thought at all. While the U.S. Constitution applies to the federal government with the states being subordinate, the Texas Constitution (and all state constitutions) sets in writing what the state government can and cannot do with the counties being subordinate.

While similar to the U.S Constitution, the Texas Constitution has some striking differences, many of which can make it more difficult to file constitutionally based lawsuits under Texas law. One of the most striking differences between the Texas and U.S. Constitutions is length. The U.S. Constitution is intentionally brief and vague, which allows the federal government to broadly interpret it. The Texas Constitution was written leaving little room for interpretation to ensure it cannot be interpreted in a manner inconsistent with the constitution’s ideals.

The Texas Constitution gets its length from going into great detail. While the Texas Constitution grants Texans similar rights to the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution is much more specific regarding exactly when these rights are infringed upon. While it may seem like this specificity would make legal matters cut and dry, in practice it can greatly complicate things.

Filing a Lawsuit Under The Texas Constitution

There are generally two types of lawsuits filed under the Texas Constitution: facial challenges and “as applied” challenges. Facial challenges claim particular portions of the Texas Constitution are unconstitutional. In “as applied” challenges, plaintiffs argue constitutional statutes are being applied unconstitutionally in a way that discriminates against them because of their particular circumstances.

Because Texas has a very specific constitution, it can be difficult to understand whether or not a statute was applied wrongly in “as applied” challenges. Only experienced lawyers familiar with the nuances of the Texas Constitution will be able to determine if a violation has occurred and provide enough evidence to overcome the burden of proof associated with these cases.

Feldman & Feldman: Experts Constitutional Law

At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys have extensive experience filing lawsuits under the Texas Constitution. We understand how complex these cases can be and are uniquely qualified to litigate and resolve these issues. If you believe your rights under the Texas Constitution have been infringed upon, contact us today.

Feldman & Feldman Obtains Restraining Order Against Mayor Turner On Behalf of Houston Firefighters

Cris Feldman of Feldman & Feldman has successfully obtained a restraining order against Mayor Sylvester Turner on behalf of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association (HPFFA). Feldman & Feldman filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of Texas Election Law and the misuse of public funds for political advertising.

The HPFFA has been at odds with the city over an initiative they would like placed on the ballot this fall for Houston voters. The HPFFA is seeking a pay parity initiative that would establish pay parity between Houston firefighters and police officers based on comparable rank and seniority.

In a finance subcommittee meeting last week, Mayor Turner and another city council member campaigned against the pay parity initiative. A video recording of this meeting was then posted on to the City of Houston’s website. Houston firefighters allege the mayor’s actions constitute a direct violation of Texas Election Law. Elected officials such as Mayor Turner cannot use public funds to push their own political ideas. By including the video on the city’s website, Turner was effectively promoting his disapproval the initiative. A district judge granted Feldman & Feldman a restraining order against Mayor Turner on behalf of the HPFFA, ordering the video be removed from the city’s website.

The fight over the pay parity initiative began last year when the HPFFA filed a petition with 60,000 signatures in an attempt to get the initiative on the ballot and in front of voters. Several weeks ago, city council members tried to hold a special meeting to pass a resolution in support of the city’s firefighters while Mayor Turner was out of town, but the meeting failed when not enough council members showed up. Mayor Turner has stated the city council will decide whether or not the pay parity initiative will be on the November ballot at a meeting on August 8, 2018.

Feldman & Feldman Supports Our Firefighters

Feldman & Feldman is honored to support Houston firefighters. Our firm is representing firefighters across the state, in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Our firm is highly experienced and uniquely qualified to handle issues related to Texas election law, public policy, and governmental agencies. If you need Feldman & Feldman to stand up for your rights, contact us today.

Attorney Spotlight: Cris Feldman

Cris Feldman founded Feldman & Feldman with his father, David Feldman, focused on the idea that the public needs to be protected from corruption, injustice, and fraud at the highest levels. Cris helps individuals and business owners protect their rights from those who would infringe upon them. Cris has proudly represented a wide variety of clients, including assault victims, whistleblowers, and oyster fishermen, among others. All of Cris’s clients have come to know him for his dedication and passion to their cause.

Cris’s dedication to justice came at an early age while watching his father, David Feldman, a successful attorney and eventually the Houston City Attorney. Cris followed in his father’s footsteps by attending law school after graduating cum laude from Tulane University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. After graduating from the University of Texas Law School, Cris conducted a postgraduate fellowship where he focused on special interest money and corruption in the Texas political system. Following his fellowship, Cris chose to undertake pro bono work designed to uncover illegal conduct in Texas state elections. He decoded and successfully proved former Speaker of the House Tom Delay used $190,000 of illegal money disguised as corporate donations to political campaigns for DeLay’s favored candidates for the Texas House of Representatives. The Houston Chronicle would later call Cris a “crusading, young, clean-government lawyer.”

Cris has had numerous successful wins both in the courtroom and at the negotiating table. Some of his recent successes include representing homeowners in the Houston Heights against a local music venue for playing music too loudly and representing Dallas firefighters and law enforcement officers in a lawsuit over their pension cuts. Cris also recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association (SAPFA) against the City of San Antonio for violating their free speech rights under the Texas Constitution.

Cris is an election law expert. In addition to his work exposing Tom Delay, he also uncovered unreported donations and spending on political campaigns in the Rio Grande Valley. Cris serves as an ethics expert for the Houston media. There is no opponent too big for Cris and his entire legal team at Feldman & Feldman. If you want to reach Cris or any of the dedicated attorneys at Feldman & Feldman, contact us today. We can analyze your situation, help you understand your legal options, and pursue your case to the highest levels.

Most Common Types of Fraud

Most people do things to protect themselves and their property. Homeowners lock their doors at night and insure their valuables. Unfortunately, very few people protect themselves from fraud, and with the rise of the Internet and digital software, fraud is getting easier to commit. Some of the most common types of fraud that the experienced fraud lawyers at Feldman & Feldman handle include:

  • Real Estate Fraud – While most real estate transactions are legitimate, there a number of types of fraud that can be associated with real estate. Both the purchaser and the seller can commit fraud, so it’s important for anyone entering into a real estate contract to completely understand the terms of the transaction. If one or more parties isn’t being transparent, it could be a sign of fraud.
  • Investment Fraud – More commonly known as a ponzi scheme or pyramid scheme, investment fraud occurs when an individual uses the funds from new investors to pay returns to previous investors. Perpetrators of this type of fraud use the financial investments of others as their own personal finances, without any intention of using the funds in a business that could generate returns.
  • Payroll Fraud – Small businesses are much more susceptible to payroll fraud than larger businesses. Payroll fraud occurs when a person is stealing money under the guise of the legitimate expense of paying employees. It is important for small business owners to always have access to their finances in order to prevent bookkeepers, accountants, and other individuals from wielding too much control over the company’s money without meaningful oversight.
  • Healthcare Fraud – Healthcare frauds can be perpetrated by pharmaceutical or medical devices companies, doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, among others. Oftentimes one party will be billed for services or equipment that was unnecessary or never performed.
  • Fake Charities – Some people will solicit donations under the guise of a fake nonprofit organization or charity in order to commit fraud. It is always important for potential donors to make sure charities are IRS-approved nonprofits. Fake charities can be more prevalent after a natural disaster, when individuals are seeking to profit off of others looking to be helpful.

The Realities of Fraud

Although there are many types of fraud, fraud is defined as the misrepresentation of facts made to another party, with knowledge of the falsehood, for the purpose of inducing the other party to act. To put simply, fraud occurs when someone lies in order to entice another party to perform an act or consent to an agreement. Fraud can happen anytime and victims often suffer huge financial losses.

Experienced Fraud Lawyers

At Feldman & Feldman, our experienced fraud lawyers help fraud victims protect their rights and pursue compensation. If you believe you were a victim of fraud, contact us today. We can investigate your situation and help you protect your best interests.

Feldman & Feldman File Lawsuit On Behalf Of San Antonio Firefighters

This past April, members of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association (SAPFA) had a special delivery for the city clerk’s office. SAPFA members and their president delivered over 100,000 signatures in support of several petitions they named the “San Antonio First Initiative.” Unfortunately, the city violated citizens’ first amendment rights by restricting SAPFA from exercising its constitutional right to free speech. Feldman & Feldman has filed a lawsuit on behalf of SAPFA to protect their free speech rights under the Texas Constitution.

San Antonio First Initiative

The San Antonio First Initiative is composed of several petitions taking aim to: (1) limit the salary and length of employment of the city manager and increase the number of city council votes required to approve city manager contracts; (2) reduce the number of signatures required for a petition to change the City’s ordinances from 75,000 to 20,000 qualified voters and expand the amount of time allotted to gather those signatures from 40 to 120 days; and (3) require the City to agree to arbitration (as opposed to pursuing litigation) in the event an impasse is reached in collective bargaining. In response to the initiative, San Antonio Mayer Ron Nirenberg held a press conference expressing his strong disapproval of the initiative.

Impeding Free Speech

In response to SAPFA collecting signatures, the City of San Antonio began enforcing a “free speech area” policy to hinder the circulation of SAPFA’s petitions. Following directives from their superiors, including City Attorney Andrew Segovia, City personnel instructed petition circulators at multiple locations that they could not gather signatures near the entryways of public facilities. Instead, petition circulators were only allowed to gather signatures within designated “free speech areas,” areas of public property located far from foot traffic.

Despite being compatible with “a full range of freedom of speech activities,” petition circulators were prevented from collecting signatures and expressing their free speech. Petition circulators were routinely asked to move into “free speech areas” far removed from the public. When petition circulators protested their rights were being violated, they were threatened with arrest.

Free Speech Under The Texas Constitution

Under the Texas Constitution, any individual acting under the color of law who deprives a citizen of any rights, privileges, and immunities granted under the United States Constitution will be liable in an action at law. The mayor, city attorney, and other government personnel were acting in their official capacities to deprive the SAPFA of its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The city not only interfered with the expression of free speech, but it also retaliated against SAPFA and petition circulators for their expression. The Texas Constitution is clear, “no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press.”

Feldman & Feldman is proud to help SAPFA exercise and protect its rights under both the United States and Texas Constitutions. We are fighting for a preliminary and permanent injunction against arbitrary “free speech areas” not just for the SAPFA, but for every citizen.

Protecting Texans

At Feldman & Feldman, we believe no one should have their constitutional rights infringed upon by another party. We work to protect Texans. If you believe your rights are being infringed upon, contact us today.

How Title Insurance Works

If you want to buy a house, you’re going to need title insurance, but very few homeowners know what title insurance is or how it works. This is a shame because while title insurance is very rarely needed, it can protect homeowners from huge financial losses.

What Is Title Insurance?

Anytime an individual decides to buy or refinance a house, they will have to get title insurance. Title insurance is a type of insurance that protects buyers and lenders from financial loss if ownership of the property or title is challenged. Title insurance was created over one hundred years ago when dishonest individuals would sell property they didn’t actually own. With the rise of the Internet, determining whether or not a seller actually holds the title to the property is much easier, but unfortunately, not foolproof. Although every homeowner will purchase title insurance, very few are actually aware of their rights if they need to submit a claim.

The Rising Cost Of Title Insurance and Bad Faith Claims

You would think that because technology has made searching for information about property titles easier that title insurance would become less expensive. However, prices for title insurance are actually increasing. One of the largest title insurance companies, First American, has actually doubled its prices over the past decade. This is easy for title insurance companies to do, because most states have laws in place preventing other insurance companies from offering title insurance. This means the title insurance market is small and faces little competition. In total, title insurance is an $18 billion industry.

Not only are the costs of title insurance rising, but many policyholders are also discovering the hard way that title insurance companies often use bad faith tactics to avoid paying out on claims. Like any other type of insurance, a title insurance company’s first objective is to make money, and some companies take this objective too far by wrongfully denying valid claims. Unfortunately, many policyholders are completely unaware of their rights and accept the claim denial at face value.

Get Help With You Title Insurance Claim

Buying any type of property is a huge investment, so before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to make sure all related contracts are fair. At Feldman & Feldman, we can review title insurance policies to make sure they provide proper coverage. If property has already been purchased, we can help with any title insurance disputes. Call us today to schedule an appointment to learn how we can help.

Common Construction Law Issues

In Texas, the construction industry is booming. With the growth of the construction industry comes the need for experienced construction law attorneys that can assist with the unique legal issues that arise. At Feldman & Feldman, our construction law attorneys have experience successfully handling a wide variety of construction law issues, but some of the most common construction law issues we handle include:

  • Timeline Disputes – Projects don’t always go as planned. Parties can quickly start feuding over project delays and schedule changes.
  • Workmanship and Surety Issues – Anytime workmanship gets questioned, tempers can inflame the situation. If parties disagree on the quality of the workmanship, it can bring projects to a screeching halt.
  • Contractor Termination – Termination is often thought of as a lose-lose situation for all parties involved. All alternatives should be explored before considering contractor termination.
  • Construction or Design Defects – Accusations of structural defects, substandard materials, or code violations are incredibly serious and need to be investigated and handled very carefully.
  • Mechanics’ Liens – When contractors and suppliers go unpaid, they have a right to enforce mechanics’ liens under Texas law.
  • Contract Drafting and Negotiations – Unlike business contracts and other types of contracts, construction contracts have industry specific considerations. Only experienced construction lawyers will understand your needs and protect your interests when drafting and negotiating construction contracts.
  • OSHA Citations and Proceedings – Being proactive is the best way to prevent costly fines from OSHA and other regulatory agencies. For businesses already facing violations, quick and efficient remedies are the best way to prevent further damage.

Houston Construction Lawyers

At Feldman & Feldman, our Houston construction lawyers have experience handling construction law issues. We are well versed in construction law and can represent contractors, builders and developers, subcontractors and suppliers, design professionals, and owners/buyers, among other parties. If you are just starting a project, contact us to see how we can help prevent costly future litigation.

If you are already facing construction litigation, call us to schedule a consultation. We can analyze your situation and develop a successful strategy that protects your interests and keeps your project and your business moving forward.

Rights Citizens Have Under The Houston Sound Ordinance

In 2011, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker reported that the city receives approximately 60,000 noise complaints each year. To better address these sound complaints, the city passed major changes to the Houston Sound Ordinance in October 2011 to allow for better Houston Police Department (HPD) enforcement. Unfortunately, many Houstonians are unaware of their rights under the Houston Sound Ordinance.

Quick Facts About The Houston Sound Ordinance

The Houston Sound Ordinance protects citizens from all types of noises, such as cars and other motor vehicles, music whether live or amplified through speakers, animals, and other loud activities like those produced at a shooting range. When a noise complaint is made to HPD, law enforcement officers can issue citations without sound meters or sound measuring devices. Previously, police officers had to conduct a sound reading to determine if sound levels were in violation of the Sound Ordinance. Now, any law enforcement officer is permitted to use their best judgment when determining if a noise is too loud.

But just how loud is too loud? According to the Houston Sound Ordinance, sound cannot exceed 65 decibels during the day and 58 decibels at night in residential areas. Anything over this level requires a permit, and even with a permit there are restrictions. Permits can allow for sound up to 75 decibels until 10pm on Sundays through Thursdays and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Violators of the Houston Sound Ordinance can find themselves facing hefty fees, paying up to $1,000 for the first offense.

Making A Noise Complaint

Noise complaints can be made to the Houston Police Department’s non-emergency line at (713) 884-3131. HPD will then dispatch officers to address the complaint. Citizens should not hold back when reporting disruptive noises and protecting their rights. Under the Houston Sound Ordinance, it is “unlawful for any person to make, continue, or cause to be made or continued any loud, unnecessary, or unusual noise that annoys, disturbs, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of others.”

Unfortunately, some individuals and businesses will continue to violate the Houston Sound Ordinance even after numerous citations. This was the case for the White Oak Music Hall, which was disturbing its neighbors in the Houston Heights. At Feldman & Feldman, we take citizens’ rights very seriously. That’s why we represented Heights homeowners against the White Oak Music Hall and obtained a successful settlement that preserves the peace of the neighborhood.

Upholding The Houston Sound Ordinance

Because Houston does not have any zoning laws, homeowners can find themselves next door to noisy businesses, but this doesn’t mean they’re without legal rights to peace and quiet. If you are struggling with noise complaints in your neighborhood, contact us today to see how we can help.

Why Sexual Assault Victims Should File A Civil Lawsuit

There are few things in life as violating as a sexual assault. Victims not only suffer physical injuries, but also suffer from extreme mental turmoil. Emotions and memories from the event can haunt victims for the rest of their lives and affect every relationship they have or try to establish. While nothing can take away the physical and emotional pain from the assault, victims can pursue compensation in a civil lawsuit, allowing them to take back control of their lives.

Criminal Charges Against Offenders

The criminal justice system prosecutes individuals who commit sexual assaults. This helps take dangerous criminals off the streets and prevents criminals from engaging in additional illegal activity. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is not designed to compensate victims for their injuries. Even after their attacker has been put in jail, victims still need help.

Filing A Civil Lawsuit

For victims of sexual assault, facing their attackers in criminal court is extremely challenging. Many victims don’t pursue charges against their attackers because of the pain of reliving the harrowing event in front of a judge and jury. While standing up to an attacker in court is difficult, doing so can do more than obtain justice. When sexual assault victims file a civil lawsuit, they can receive compensation that can relieve financial burdens so victims can focus on recovering. Compensation can also help cover the cost of mental health treatment and therapy so victims can work through their emotions.

There May Be More Than One Party At Fault

There are some instances when more than one person may be at fault for an attack. Obviously an attacker is responsible for his or her actions, which is why they face criminal prosecution; however, there are instances in which another person’s negligence can contribute to the situation. For instance, if a company fails to perform a background check on a newly hired employee with a criminal record, and this employee goes on to sexually assault another employee, the company can be found responsible because they should have known about the criminal record. Additionally, certain properties, such as apartment complexes and parking garages, have a responsibility to visitors and tenants to provide adequate security that protects them from harm. When they fail to do so, victims can hold them accountable.

Helping Sexual Assault Victims

Feldman & Feldman has extensive experience helping sexual assault victims. We fight for victims to obtain compensation that can help them put their lives back together. If you are a victim of sexual assault, contact us immediately. We can explain your legal options. You can trust our fierce advocacy to represent your best interests, so you can focus on recovery.