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.
Yesterday, the American Association of Law Libraries announced the individuals and institutions honored as part of the organization’s 2019 Awards Program. The Harris County Law Library was recognized with two awards, both of which highlight our work to ensure access to information for those who need it most in Harris County.
JOSEPH L. ANDREWS LEGAL LITERATURE AWARD
The Law Library’s Pro Se Litigant Handbook was recognized with the Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award. The Handbook combines information about sources of forms and local assistance for self-represented litigants with guidance on courtroom procedure and decorum. The Award highlights “a significant textual contribution to legal literature.” Our staff is immensely honored to receive such a prestigious award for our efforts to help those in our community who are unable to afford legal representation access the legal information they need.
EXCELLENCE IN COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AWARD
The Law Library was also honored to receive the inaugural Excellence in Community Engagement Award for our Harvey Recovery Resources webpage. When Hurricane Harvey poured record-setting rains on our community, assistance came from all directions. Our law librarians jumped into action - even before our facility reopened - to collect and organize information about programs meant to help our neighbors impacted by the storm with their legal needs. Hundreds in our community accessed the page and community partners shared it with clients. For us, it was a natural way to show the same spirit so many in our community exemplified to pull together and lend a hand to those in need. Our staff is very honored for the recognition and we hope it inspires law librarians throughout the AALL community to lend their talents when their neighbors need access to legal information the most.
For more about the American Association of Law Library and the Annual Awards Program, visit www.aall.org.
With the recent election of 59 new judges in Harris County (civil, criminal, family, probate, and juvenile courts combined), notable changes in court policies and procedures have taken shape. As one would expect, each of the recently elected judges in Harris County has implemented specific rules for conducting business in his or her particular court. As a guide to understanding and meeting their new requirements, some judges have provided updated links to forms online; others have posted checklists of required documents; and several others are providing supplementary links specifically for self-represented litigants, including to the Harris County Law Library’s community resource guide, the Pro Se Litigants Handbook. The Harris County Law Library has been keeping abreast of and adapting to these changes in order to best serve our public patrons. We are also, as always, paying attention to any changes at the state level.
In late February, just shortly after the new Harris County judges were sworn in, statewide change was indeed taking place. Namely, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an order amending Paragraph 8 of the comment to Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which now says that Texas lawyers must be aware of the benefits and risks of using technology in the practice of law. By adopting this standard, Texas joined 35 other states who agree that technologically proficient lawyers provide better, more efficient client representation.
Certain local court rules also require specific procedures that rely on technology. For instance, Judge Janice Berg, who presides over the 247th Family Court in Harris County, has included the following in her Court Policies and Procedures:
At final trial on divorce matters, parties must bring their proposed property division to trial in Excel or Google Sheets format on a USB drive.
Complying with the ethical standard and local rules may require both access and training on specific hardware and software. If it seems daunting, the Harris County Law Library is here to help! Our 25 public access computers have the software you need (including Excel) to draft and assemble all your legal documents. And, our Hands-on Legal Tech Training courses, which we offer, on rotation, every Thursday at 2pm, will give you the knowledge and skills (and one free hour of CLE credit for Texas attorneys) to use that software and easily meet the requirements of the courts. In January, we introduced five new classes, including a popular new offering, Microsoft Excel for Legal Work. It will be presented again soon on May 16. Don’t miss it!
For a detailed description of all our weekly classes, see the 2019 Legal Tech Institute Course Catalog. Classes always begin with a Getting Started portion. They gradually increase in difficulty until we Level Up. We then Go Pro, giving you an opportunity to build proficiency as the course progresses. We attempt to address every skill level in an effort to meet the needs of all attendees, and we’re always happy to answer any questions you may have about using tech tools and resources to strengthen your legal practice.
Today, the U.S. Department of Justice released the much anticipated Mueller Report, or Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. A copy of the Report may be downloaded from the Department’s Special Counsel’s Office webpage along with documents related to the special counsel’s appointment, expense reports, and prosecutions related to the investigation.
The Report is presented in PDF format. A free download of the Acrobat PDF Reader is available on the Adobe website.
Good Friday is a county holiday in Harris County. In observance of the holiday, county offices, including the Harris County Law Library, will be closed on Friday, April 19. Find more information about countywide holidays on the Harris County website.
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.
The Harris County Law Library is excited to announce a significant investment in new and improved technology — a 70 inch, wall-mounted digital monitor — for our Legal Tech Lab, the home of the Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute Hands-On Legal Tech Training program.
The Lab is fully integrated into the Law Library's research space and provides the perfect setting for participants to learn the tech skills they need to get legal work done at the Law Library and downtown courthouse complex. With seating for nine, the Lab also provides opportunity for participants and instructors to interact closely, ensuring individualized attention. Now, with last week’s installation of an impressive and much improved display screen, the Legal Tech Lab is even better equipped to offer legal tech training to attorneys, self-represented litigants, and members of the general public.
Consult our 2019 Course Catalog to find out which classes might interest you. Then, register online for the course of your choice, or drop in any Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm at the Harris County Law Library Legal Tech Lab. Texas attorneys will earn one free hour of CLE credit for each hour of class attended.
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.
Harris County Law Library Deputy Director, Joe Lawson, recently appeared on The Geek in Review podcast to talk with hosts Greg Lambert and Marlene Gebauer about the kinds of services and resources the library provides on a daily basis to the residents of Harris County, most of whom are self-represented litigants.
As discussed in the podcast, “Lawson believes that there is a duty of the law library to help train lawyers, not to just be more efficient in their personal practices, but to help them have more capacity to help assist pro se litigants. Lawson’s calculation is that a 3% increase in capacity, through advancements in technology usage, could help eliminate a majority of the pro se issues in the county.”
Tune in to hear Joe share his thoughts on how the Harris County Law Library and our Hand-On Legal Tech programs in particular can help train lawyers to assist the burgeoning number of pro se litigants who are filing suit in this, the third largest county in the United States. .