Debacle in the 311th

by Josh on April 29, 2014

Some of you may have heard or seen headlines concerning the removal of District Court Judge Denise Pratt from the 311th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas. The 311th is one of ten district courts in Houston that exclusively handles family law matters. You can read about what lead to Judge Pratt’s removal here and here. The short version is that she appears to have dismissed hundreds of cases without giving proper notice to the parties or their attorneys. Ultimately, she resigned from the bench on March 28, 2014.

While the bulk of our practice centers on Washington and surrounding counties, we usually have several cases at any given time in one Harris County court or another. On April 9, we received an email from David Farr, the Administrative Judge of the Harris County Family Courts, addressed to the “Members of the Family Bar” detailing some of the problems and concerns that Judge Farr and others had identified in their effort to clean-up the mess left on Judge Pratt’s docket. It’s apparent from Judge Farr’s email, as well as from comments he has made to the press, that Pratt’s resignation has affected not only Pratt’s former court, the 311th, but also likely each of the other nine family law courts as well.

So why does this matter to you? Well, if you have now, or will have in the near future, any family law matter in Harris County, you can expect the matter to move slower than usual no matter which court it is filed in. It’s apparent after a quick review of various news sites that more than just the court staff of the 311th has had to pitch in to help straighten things out. The bottom line is that if you have a family law case in Harris County, particularly the 311th, you need to be patient. Megan and I know that’s nearly impossible for litigants in a family law matter, but that’s the reality in Harris County for at least the next several months.

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Consultation Fees

by Josh on April 21, 2014

For most new matters from most new clients, we charge a small fee, usually $100, for our initial consultation.

Why? After all, 10 seconds on the internet will find you plenty of attorneys’ websites which advertise “free consultations.”

There are a number of reasons, but conflicts is one of the primary reasons. Generally, if Megan or I meet with a potential client who does not eventually hire us, the rules that govern attorneys in Texas prevent us from then being hired by the opposing party. For example, a husband in a potential divorce may consult with Megan concerning custody of his children. That husband may decide not to retain us to handle his divorce. So, if a few weeks later, his wife calls to schedule an initial consultation with either Megan or myself, we could not meet with him because the rules that govern attorneys in Texas generally prevent us from representing the wife after we have already met with the husband. This rule is based on the idea that in Megan’s meeting with the husband who did not hire us, Megan could have learned some confidential information from the husband that would be advantageous to the wife’s case.

When I practiced in Houston, conflicts such as these arose much less often as there are simply many, many more attorneys in Houston for potential clients to pick from. However, the potential for conflicts is very real in Washington and surrounding counties where there are a limited number of attorneys. In fact, on several occasions, we know of people who have consulted with every attorney in town simply to create a conflict so that the attorneys could not represent the opposing party. In the end, if we consult with you and you do not retain us, we are generally forced to forego representing anyone in that case.

Aside from conflicts, we hope that you are receiving some sort of value, even if you do not retain us. I’ll discuss what happens in a consultation in a later post, but as you can guess, the primary purpose of a consultation is to discuss your legal problem. Very often, we may spend much of the time in a consultation explaining why you do not have a suit to file. Or at least, why you should not file a suit. I often tell clients my job isn’t to “sell them a lawsuit.” Often times, the court room is unavoidable, but just as often, there is a better way to resolve a dispute. Our goal of the consultation is for you understand ALL of your options, even the ones that don’t involve going to the court house. I believe understanding these options hold some value for the potential client.

That’s all for now. Look for another post on consultations when I remember all the good stuff I forgot to put in this post.

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Welcome

May 3, 2013

Welcome to the Clover & Marak blog.  We will update this blog periodically to bring you more information about our practice areas, the litigation process, and the latest legal news that may effect your matters.

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