May is Constitutional Law Resource Month at the Harris County Law Library. We will feature items from our collection, including treatises, reference works, CLE course materials, form books, and other practitioner tools that may be useful in conducting constitutional law research .
Parents of children with special needs understand that their loved ones require not only special care but also special planning. In most, if not in all, cases, individuals with special needs receive benefits under governmental programs, such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. However, unless arrangements are made, any funds the child will receive by way of inheritance will affect the provision of any governmental benefits. Special needs trusts (SNT) are a legal mechanism that permits the leaving of money to a loved one without jeopardizing the receipt of governmental benefits. If you are unfamiliar with SNTs or are unsure of how to establish one, have a look at Nolo’s Special Needs Trusts: Protect Your Child’s Financial Future. This book explains the nuts and bolts of how SNTs work and who can benefit from them. It also addresses how the trust funds can and cannot be used, how to create and draft the SNT, and how to and finalize and fund the trust. Of course, you also need to determine who will administer the trust and act as trustee. For this important topic, the authors use two chapters to explain how to choose a trustee and what the duties of that trustee will be. Other topics of interest include ABLE accounts, pooled trusts, and letters of intent.
If you or someone you know has a loved one with disabilities, be sure to read Nolo’s Special Needs Trusts: Protect Your Child’s Financial Future. It could allow you to rest easy knowing that your child or loved one will be provided for when you are no longer here. You can find it in the Law Library’s Self-Help Collection.
Also, the Law Library has developed a Special Needs Legal Resource Guide with a listing of self-help resources, in-depth legal research materials, and resources available from the Texas State Law Library, the government, and Houston Bar Association.
As the public law library for Space City, we’ve taken a special interest in space law. And there are plenty of interesting things in Texas law about space, including the Texas Administrative Code provision pictured here on procedures for astronauts to vote from outer space! Celebrate National Space Day by taking a look at the Harris County Law Library’s accumulated knowledge of space law via the links below:
The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, contained in the United States Statues at Large, Pub. L. No. 85-568, 72 Stat. 426-438, established NASA and marked America’s official entry into the Space Race.
The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space details the purpose, function, and organization of NASA as mandated by Congress.
To accommodate the large number of astronauts who live in Texas, the Secretary of State adopted special rules, spelled out in the Texas Administrative Code §81.35, that authorize NASA to implement procedures for casting ballots in outer space.
The Outer Space Treaty, the multilateral agreement that established the governance of state activities in the exploration and use of outer space, was signed by more than 100 countries. It was first proposed by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in August of 1966, making this the 50th anniversary of its conception.
Space Law Collection
Some of the most frequent questions our reference librarians field here at the Harris County Law Library are about landlord/tenant disputes. Renters can face challenging situations made even more murky by a cacophony of unreliable information available on the Internet regarding their rights and responsibilities.
Every day, we encourage our patrons to utilize TexasLawHelp.org, an exceptional resource on Texas law for self-represented litigants, including tenants. Material available on the website covers a wide variety of topics and comes from excellent, trustworthy partners across the state. One such partner is Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which has provided TexasLawHelp.org with a wealth of information, including about landlord/tenant issues. Anyone interested in learning more about tenant rights and responsibilities should check out these informative and easy to understand guides, some in English and some in Spanish, prepared by the folks at TRLA and presented by TexasLawHelp.org:
Confessions are a crucial part of the evidence that is gathered during the investigation and prosecution of a criminal defendant. As such, it is important for attorneys, both on the prosecution side and the defense side, to understand the law surrounding these statements, especially those obtained during a custodial interrogation. In this regard, Confessions begins with the basics of confession law: what is a confession, what are the pertinent federal and Texas statutes that govern confessions, and what are the differences between federal and state confession law. The author then moves on to the heart of confession law: the custodial interrogation. Here, the reader will find a discussion of Miranda, its required warnings, and the exceptions to that requirement; in-depth explanations of the two key events that trigger Miranda: custody and interrogation; and an analysis of what occurs when a defendant invokes his rights under Miranda. Subsequent chapters address written and oral statements and some of the rules governing the admissibility of such assertions, statements and confessions made by juveniles, and hearings and trials. The author also explains some interrogation techniques and discusses false confessions and recantations and how those false confessions can be identified. Of course, no discussion of interrogation and confessions would be complete without an examination of the prosecutor’s ethical duties in obtaining or using a defendant’s confession.
Confessions is one of many books in the Law Library’s collection published by Texas District & County Attorneys Association. If you are looking for resources that concisely explain various aspects, issues, and topics of interest to the criminal lawyer, have a look at this book and others, including Traffic Stops, Expunction and Nondisclosure, Predicates, DWI Investigation & Prosecution, and Punishment & Probation.
National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) publishes a series of legal treatises designed to address and explain consumer law issues. Their target audience are those who have limited income and limited access to justice. The treatises cover areas of consumer concerns, such as debtor rights, mortgages and foreclosures, credit and banking, deception and warranties, and consumer litigation. As part of its consumer credit and sales legal practice series, NCLC has published Mortgage Servicing and Loan Modifications. Originally part of NCLC’s Foreclosures and Mortgage Servicing*, this book has expanded coverage of the business of mortgage servicing as well as mortgage loss mitigation alternatives for borrowers who are having difficulty making their payments. The treatise begins with an introduction to the mortgage market and the entities involved in the mortgage process, including mortgage servicers, before moving on to a discussion of common mortgage servicing problems and servicing requirements and claims under federal and state law. The next section of the treatise focuses upon loss mitigation and loan modifications. In this section, the reader will find a discussion of loss mitigation options for various types of loans and the result of failing to handle such loss mitigation properly. Lastly, the authors address considerations attendant to litigating mortgage servicing claims.
Another new treatise from NCLC is Home Foreclosures, and it features a lot of the same material originally found in Foreclosures and Mortgage Servicing but with more in-depth discussion. From analyzing and defending a foreclosure case to handling issues arising from a foreclosure sale, the authors provide readers with practical information regarding this challenging and stressful process. The authors address the foreclosure of traditional homes as well as manufactured homes and condominiums as well as foreclosures involving Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, government-insured loans and mortgages, and reverse mortgages. Foreclosures comprise an area that is a target for deceptive practices, and in this regard, the authors include an explanation of foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams, steps to fight these scams, and legal theories that can be used to attack such scams. In the appendices, you can find pertinent state and federal statutes.
Visit the Law Library to have a look at these and other volumes in our NCLC collection. These resources can also be accessed via the NCLC databases available on our Law Library research computers.
We were pleased to welcome Dr. Jesús F. de la Teja, author, professor, and CEO of the Texas State Historical Association, and David A. Furlow, Executive Editor of the Journal of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, at the Harris County Law Library on Friday to mark the donation of two new volumes to the law library’s special collection - The Law of Coahuila and Texas, or La Ley de Coahuila y Texas.
Photo from left: Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Dr. Magdalena de la Teja, Dr. Jesús F. de la Teja, David A. Furlow, Law Library Director Mariann Sears, Law Library Deputy Director Joseph D. Lawson
Actas del Congreso Constituyente de Coahuila y Texas de 1824 a 1827
Dr. de la Teja signed the donated two-volume work entitled Actas del Congreso Constituyente de Coahuila y Texas de 1824 a 1827: Primera Constitución bilingüe, or Acts of the Constituent Congress of Coahuila and Texas, 1824–1827 : Mexico’s Only Bilingual Constitution, which he coauthored with Judge Manuel González Oropeza, former magistrate for the Federal Electoral Commission of Mexico. The work provides the text of the document and analysis of the pivotal role it played in the transition of Coahuila and Texas from joined states of Mexico to states separated by an international border. Given the content of the work, Dr. de la Teja’s inscription is apt:
For the Harris County Law Library,
With great appreciation for your efforts to preserve and promote ties with our sister republic,
/s/Jesús F. de la Teja
The Law of Coahuila and Texas, an historical resource collection
La Ley de Coahuila y Texas, una colección de recursos históricos
The two-volume set is now a part of the Law Library’s collection of materials focused on the legal history of Southeast Texas and Northeast Mexico from Spanish colonization to statehood. It includes historical volumes of texts containing some of the region’s earliest laws to modern analysis that provide context and finding aids for modern researchers. Marking the end of the collection’s chronological scope is a reproduction of Captain William Emory’s survey of the U.S.-Mexico border issued in 1859. The three-volume set contains firsthand accounts of surveyors and illustrations of the region’s topography, flora, and fauna.
Digesto Constitucional Mexicano: Historia Constitucional de la Nacion - De Aguascalientes a Zacatecas: 1824-2017
On behalf of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, Mr. Furlow also donated the scholarly treatise entitled Digesto Constitucional Mexicano: Historia Constitucional de la Nacion - De Aguascalientes a Zacatecas: 1824-2017. This work, written by Judge Manuel González Oropeza, provides extensive insight into the historical evolution of constitutional law in an area of Mexico not previously covered by the Law Library’s collection. We appreciate the donation and are thrilled to make these resources available to all at the Harris County Law Library.
Are you looking for a career change? Perhaps, you are interested in lending your expertise to a company by working as an independent contractor or consultant. You wouldn’t be alone. A good percentage of the U.S. population is self-employed, meaning that they are working as independent contractors, consultants, entrepreneurs, and freelancers. The question then becomes: where do you begin? A good starting place is Nolo’s Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers & Gig Workers of All Types, the newest book to join the Law Library’s Self-Help Collection.
Working for Yourself includes necessary current legal and tax basics to assist you on your road to becoming your own boss. Topics include:
choosing the type of business entity;
obtaining business licenses, employer identification numbers, and sales tax permits;
insuring your business;
pricing services and getting paid;
paying taxes and keeping track of expenses; and
preparing written client agreements.
You can also find updates and changes made to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that are beneficial to those who are self-employed. In other words, Working for Yourself has the pertinent information you need to get yourself started on the road to self-employment.
Other books by Nolo in the Law Library’s collection that you might find to be of interest include: Legal Forms for Starting and Running a Small Business and the Small Business Start-Up Kit.
Technology is ubiquitous, pervading every aspect of our lives. From computers to smartphones to activity trackers, technology is an integral and vital part of how we live, work, and play. This technological explosion can leave some members of our communities befuddled, anxious, and even slightly technophobic. To help out in this regard, attorneys Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene have authored Technology Tips for Seniors, a book offering tips and suggestions for adapting to the changes that technology brings to their professional and personal lives and recommendations for embracing, rather than fearing, those changes. Written in simple terms without the use of technical jargon and in an easier-to-read large print, the authors set out providing tips for:
using mobile devices, including phones and tablets;
using PCs and management tools;
using the Internet as a means of communication;
sharing media, such as photos, videos, and files;
using technology for travel;
protecting your privacy and identity; and
The second volume, Technology Tips for Seniors: Volume 2.0, offers some more advanced tips, helping seniors navigate the use of technology in certain settings, such as the office, the home, and on the road. Seniors can learn how to set up a Wi-Fi network in their office and/or office, use Smart Home Technology, use the Internet to become more digitally connected, and support their hobbies using technology. As an added bonus, the authors reveal some of their favorite apps.
You don’t have to be a senior or a person of a “certain age” to benefit from the tips provided in these books. Remember: it’s never too late (or early) to learn something new.
January is Consumer Law Resources Month at the Harris County Law Library.
Visit our Featured Resource Section to see new and updated resources from the National Consumer Law Center.
Browse consumer law news, sample pleadings and other companion materials in the NCLC databases now available on the Law Library research computers.
Stay up to date on Texas consumer law with Advanced Consumer and Commercial Law Course books from the State Bar of Texas.
Self-represented litigants can find a copy of the HBA Consumer Law Handbook, which features a variety of legal information of interest to consumers, including guidance on buying a car, dealing with debt collection, landlord/tenant disputes, and more. Download a free copy through the HBA's Legal Handbooks website today.
For more information on Consumer Law and Protection, visit these websites: