AG Says New Law Requiring Allocation of Divorce Filing Fees to Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Fund Is Unconstitutional
In an opinion issued Dec. 28, 2005, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that a newly-enacted provision of the Government Code, section 51.961(g), violates Article I, section 13 of the Texas Constitution, known as the "open courts provision." The constitution states that "all courts shall be open," which has been interpreted to mean that fees for filing lawsuits may only go directly to court-related expenses for support of the judiciary. Section 51.961(g) requires half of the filing fee for divorce cases to be allocated to the state's child abuse and neglect prevention trust fund account. The Department of Family and Protective Services may draw on that fund for prevention programs and administrative costs, neither of which qualifies as court-related expenses for support for the judiciary. Accordingly, the Attorney General concluded that section 51.961(g) places an unconstitutional burden on a litigant's access to the courts. Click here to see the full text of the opinion.
John E.B. Myers, Professor of Law at McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, California, is willing to take calls from TLC's registered judges and attorneys regarding evidence questions arising in child abuse cases. He will not charge a fee to discuss evidence questions by phone. Professor Myers is the author of several books on evidence and on child abuse and has been cited as an authority in numerous court opinions. TLC greatly appreciates his generous offer. Click here for contact information.
On November 4, 2005, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law will present "Relapse to Recovery: Making Home Safe for Children" in Dallas. Sponsored by the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic at SMU Dedman School of Law, this CLE program on substance abuse is free to the first 100 registrants. Click here for more details about this conference. Click here to see TLC's list of upcoming local, regional, and national conferences.
Do you need information on a topic not yet in the TLC database or more extensive information on a topic already here? TLC is now accepting requests for resources and/or research on topics of benefit to practitioners in the child abuse field. For example, based on site users' requests, we are currently compiling information on Osteogenesis Imperfecta, "brittle bone disease," and working to expand our case summaries on hearsay statements of a child. To submit a request, simply click on "Resources" on the blue menu bar above; then click on "Request a Resource," or email TLC at TexasLawyersforChildren@yahoo.com. (Please note that TLC cannot accept requests asking how the law applies to your particular case, and we may not be able to honor all requests.)
Once again, John Sampson & Harry Tindall have graciously provided TLC with their compilation of the latest updates from the legislative session. Click here to view Sampson and Tindall's Leglslative Update, containing changes in the Family Code from the 79th Legislative Session. To find a particular code section or specific words within the document, click on the binoculars on the menu bar. A search box will appear. You can enter keywords or Family Code section numbers in the search box.
In a 7-2 opinion, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the mother of three murdered children could not sue a municipal police department for failure to enforce a restraining order against her ex-husband. Reversing the Tenth Circuit, the Court said that Colorado law does not create a mandatory duty on police to seek out and arrest a person who violates a restraining order. Furthermore, the interest held by the mother in enforcement of the order is not a "property interest" protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. The Court left open the possibility that a state could craft a law making it mandatory that police arrest violators. Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 162 L.Ed. 2d 658, 125 S.Ct. 2796, 2005 U.S. LEXIS 5214 (U.S. 2005). Click here for commentary by the Family Violence Prevention Fund.
TLC is pleased to announce that attorneys across the state have joined the Colleague Connection-Attorney email list. It's a free, optional service only for TLC site users, allowing registered attorneys to seek input from other attorneys across Texas regarding case strategies and practice tips. Click here to read more about Colleague Connection-Attorney. (Colleague Connection for Judges is presently in development.)
After seeing the TLC website demonstrated at various national conferences, other states are actively preparing to work with TLC in creating similar sites for their state's child advocacy professionals. Howard Davidson, Director of the ABA's Center on Children and the Law, shares TLC's vision of a national network of online resource centers, each addressing the unique needs of its child advocacy community, yet based on the strengths of the TLC site's functionality. Click here to read comments circulated nationally by Mr. Davidson about the TLC website. If your state might be interested in creating a site for your child advocacy community based on the TLC site, please contact us at 800-993-5TLC (5852) or email TexasLawyersforChildren@yahoo.com.
Senate Bill 6 was passed in the 79th Legislative Session on May 31, 2005. Click here to see the full text of the bill. To find a particular section or specific words within the document, click on "Edit" on the menu bar of your internet browser. In the drop-down menu which appears, click on "Find (on This Page)". You can enter keywords or Family Code section numbers in the window that appears. TLC has summarized key provisions of this significant legislation. Click here to view TLC's summary.
The TLC Expert Witness Databank allows TLC's registered attorneys to locate other site users who have information (favorable or unfavorable) about experts encountered in litigation. The Databank is now ready for you to add new experts to the list and/or add your name as someone with information about an expert who is already listed. Click on "Experts" on the blue menu bar above to see the first entries in this database. (Hint: need help finding an expert? Participate in Colleague Connection and send an email with your request; then see what recommendations come from your peers across the state.)
It has been a year today since the initial launch of TLC's Online Legal Resource Center -- and in that year, we have added Colleague Connection-Attorneys, the Expert Witness Databank, and more. Over the next year, we will focus on adding significantly more research and resources, including notes from conferences our research attorneys attend. In addition, we plan to build the website feature which will allow us to offer CLE programs at a very reasonable cost. We welcome input from our TLC site users! Click here to send us your ideas and requests.
To answer your questions or correct any issues you may experience with the TLC website, the staff of the TLC Help Desk is available to assist you weekdays from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Our toll-free number is 800-993-5TLC (5852), and our local Dallas number is 214-219-5TLC (5852). To contact us through this website, simply click on "About TLC" on the blue menu bar above; then click on "Contact TLC." You are also welcome to email our Help Desk at TexasLawyersforChildren@yahoo.com.