What's Next For Abortion In Texas?

Last summer, after the shouting died down and the omnibus abortion bill HB2 was signed into law by Governor Perry, the future of abortion access in Texas moved from the legislature to the courts. So far, the pattern seems to function almost like clockwork: Opponents of the law file suit in the Western District Court of Texas, in Austin, that has initial jurisdiction. Judge Lee Yeakel, whose ear seems to be sympathetic to their arguments, grants injunctory relief. Texas Attorney General (and gubernatorial hopeful) Greg Abbott petitions the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of that injunction, which that court—whose sympathies seem to align with the AG’s arguments—grants, preventing Judge Yeakel’s injunction from taking effect. Then, eventually, the case is heard on its merits by the Fifth Circuit.

CPS Visited an Austin Woman Whose Kids Were Playing Outside Unsupervised

Over the past few months, the debate has intensified between parents who believe in so-called “free range children”—or allowing their kids to roam outside the house unsupervised, as children who grew up in decades past often did—and those who think that practice is criminal. 

The contentious issue reached critical mass over the summer, after Debra Harrell, a 46-year-old McDonald’s employee from South Carolina, was arrested and temporarily lost custody of her nine-year-old daughter for letting her spend time by herself in a nearby park while Harrell was at work. Harrell became something of a cause célèbre on the issue (a crowdfunding account on the website YouCaring.com raised over $45,000 for her legal defense and future childcare), which has been simmering at least since the 2010 publication of the book Free Range Kids, by Lenore Skenazy.

Patently Unfair

Shawne Somerford stares across the Marshall town square in the direction of the federal courthouse. I’ve just asked her if she’s worried that Congress might put her restaurant, the Blue Frog Grill, out of business. She smiles faintly and shrugs. “Tomorrow it could all be gone,” she says.

Why We Can't Celebrate the Great Performances By the Cowboys and the Texans With a Clean Conscience

Last week, buried as part of a late-Friday news dump, the worst PR week in NFL history got even worse: Adrian Peterson, the game’s best running back, was arrested out in Montgomery County on child abuse charges. That followed the horror show that was the release of the video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in an elevator in New Jersey, and the subsequent questions about what, precisely, the NFL knew and when it knew it, and why Rice had only been suspended two games until the public saw the video.

All of this is well-established at this point, and it’s been so pervasive a story that networks have broken into regular programming to feature updates from embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whose job seems less and less certain as the days go by. 

An Austin Family Whose Son Was Struck By Lightning During Soccer Practice Is Suing For $10 Million

On the surface, a family filing a lawsuit worth $10 million because their son got struck by lightning sounds almost frivolous. But the case of nine-year-old Alex Hermann, who was struck at soccer practice in late August, shows the hues of gray in these particular types of situations. 

What happened to Hermann is tragic. According to KXAN, his injuries are severe—and doctors believe they may be permanent: 

San Antonio's Plan To Criminalize Giving To Panhandlers Is Drawing Fire

Nobody is super psyched about panhandling. People who ask for money don’t really seem to enjoy resorting to an activity that leads others to treat them like they’re basically undeserving of respect or dignity. People who are hit up for change are just trying to get down the block and don’t want to deal with an unpleasant encounter. Panhandling crowds sidewalks and creates safety hazards at stoplights and crosswalks. 

San Antonio dislikes panhandling so much that it’s already illegal there, after a 2011 ordinance banned asking for money nearATMs, banks, parking garages, charitable contribution meters, parking meters/pay stations, bus stops, outdoor dining areas, and marked crosswalks.” But outlawing panhandling just means that only outlaws will panhandle—so San Antonio Police Chief William McManus wants to go to the next level: He wants to outlaw giving to panhandlers

Open Carry Texas Did Not March in Houston's Fifth Ward This Weekend

The past week has been a tense one in the U.S., and questions around race, guns, and state power have been asked repeatedly, every night, as the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, continues to develop. But these issues aren’t exclusive to that part of the country, and they take many forms. 

One form they’ve taken in Houston recently is the ongoing discussion of whether it’s appropriate for members of the local chapter of Open Carry Texas to march through the Fifth Ward as part of their demonstrations of their support for the rights guaranteed to them by the U.S. and Texas constitutions to openly carry their long-arm rifles. 

Houston Legalized Rideshare Apps Last Week—Which Texas City Is Next?

For the past several years, there has been a question of whether companies that allow regular drivers to act like taxis should be allowed to operate in Texas. Despite some legal challenges, services like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and more have been successful in cities like New York and San Francisco. And as they’ve sought to expand to Texas, these companies have encountered similar legal conundrums. Police in San Antonio have threatened to impound cars of Lyft drivers, and this summer fourteen drivers had their cars impounded in Austin, KXAN reported. 

There are legitimate reasons to be concerned with rideshare services—their business model involves using public goods like roads without paying corresponding taxes for their maintenance and upkeep, and there are big questions about the insurance status of their drivers—but an outright ban of a growing industry being utilized effectively in other parts of the country is not necessarily a march toward progress. 

Is The Grand Jury System In Texas Broken?

The grand jury is a mysterious concept: it’s a group of ordinary citizens who weigh in on a criminal case, but the work they do is secret. According to Texas law, the only people allowed in the room during grand jury proceedings are grand jurors, bailiffs, the prosecutor, the witness being examined, and—under certain circumstances—an interpretor, a stenographer, or a person to allow a witness to testify via videoconferencing. Except under rare circumstances, the results of the proceedings are not public record.

The job that a grand jury is tasked with, though, is rather clear: As the Harris County District Courts explain on their website, where they encourage citizens to apply to serve as grand jurors, “A grand jury consists of twelve people whose job is to review criminal complaints and decide if there is sufficient evidence to issue an indictment. The standard of proof for an indictment is probable cause.” 

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