Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Moment of Gratitude

Do you spend more time with your coworkers than you do with your family?  If you do, have OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyou ever stopped to consider why that may be the case?  The West is a culture preoccupied with work. While I love the fast-paced nature of the legal field, it’s crucial that I take the time to reflect on why I do what I do every day at the office. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, here are just a few things I am thankful for:

1. I’m thankful for my clients.

I’ve said it before, and I will reiterate it here: I’ve got the best clients in Texas. I learn so much from them, and they honor me by trusting me with their lives every day. Whether I am helping them survive a bitter divorce or organizing their business for the start of a new venture, each client challenges me to provide better service and value than I did the day before. That’s a tremendous blessing that I do not take for granted.

2. I’m thankful for my staff.

This year I hired a legal assistant named Tim, and my productivity soared. He keeps me on task, helps me with administrative tasks so that I can focus on legal work, and most importantly he keeps me in communication with clients when I’m in court or otherwise unavailable to talk to them directly. Tim has allowed me to be more efficient and responsive to my clients, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

3. I’m thankful for my family and friends.

If it weren’t for my friends and family, my life would be totally out of balance. Being in a service-based industry is difficult because other people’s life problems become my problems. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by all of the very serious concerns that clients bring to my office. It’s also easy to take on more work than I can handle because it’s much harder to say no to a potential case when my cup is overflowing with obligations.  Today I vow to prioritize my family over my potential profit. If I can’t offer the best service at the time due to having a full case load or simply not being able to handle the problem before me, it is my ethical obligation to refer that potential client to another professional who can.  I’ll no longer value my professional life over my personal life because integrity goes a long way, and I took an oath to behave ethically and professionally at all times.

I hope and pray that you are taking time off from work to spend time with the people who really matter in your life. I know I will, and I can’t wait to kick back with my friends and family to recharge before coming back to work to serve more clients and help more people along the way.

 

 

Do I Have a Case? 3 Ways to Find Out

Although my practice focuses primarily on family law, I receive many questions about the law in 0318_sb_readerquestions_630x420general. One of the most popular questions I’m asked is, “Do I have a case?” More often than not, the answer to this question depends on many factors that may not be readily apparent to the person asking the question or to me. But there are times when a person obviously does or does not have a viable claim. Here are three quick examples.

1. If you have no damages (or injury), you probably don’t have a case.

The three prongs to any successful legal claim are liability (the defendant is responsible for the harm that befell you); causation (the defendant caused the harm); and damages (you suffered in some way because of the defendant’s actions or inaction). If any of these three prongs are missing, you do not have a winning case. Specifically, if you can’t point to a tangible harm that you suffered, whether it be medical bills, lost wages, or a loss in revenue, you’re going to have a difficult time persuading a judge or jury that your claim is meritorious. This rule applies to all types of cases from car accidents to defamation. You have to be able to quantify how you were specifically harmed in court.

2. Contracts: usually only the written ones are enforceable.

Similarly, people sometimes sue one another over verbal agreements. This is almost always a fool’s errand. If a court is to determine your rights under a contract, it must be memorialized in writing in some way. I’ve witnessed plaintiffs rely on text messages and emails to weave together a contractual obligation against a party. Although it’s not the best way to memorialize an agreement, at least they have written proof that some type of meeting of the minds took place that may have given rise to an obligation for either party. Any issue of substance that accompanies money exchanging hands for goods or services should be clearly elucidated in a written contract. If something goes wrong or someone fails to perform as agreed, you then have proof to take to court about your expectations going into the deal.  Just remember: a verbal contract’s not wroth the paper it’s written on. Never rely on a handshake alone.

3. Personal vendettas make for lousy lawsuits.

When an individual decides to sue another person because of a personal grudge or misunderstanding, that person is welcoming an expensive lesson. The costs and toil associated with litigating a claim are great enough that I always encourage potential plaintiffs to consider every option before filing a lawsuit against anyone for emotional reasons. Hurt feelings are not enough to prove a claim for defamation, and neither is malicious gossip, especially if it is true. The emotional component associated with a decision to sue another person or company is a real consideration that must be addressed head on. I counsel my clients to resist unnecessary legal expenses if pride or bruised ego are the primary motivation for the lawsuit. No grudge is worth squandering your nest egg, especially if it could be settled out of court more economically.

For more information about what your legal rights are in different scenarios, feel free to check out the blog archives and for a consultation about your specific circumstances, give us a call at (713) 574-8626. We’ll be glad to hear from you!

Free Wills Month: Your Mortality? It’s Not Morbid.

tigerThis month for the entire month of May, this law office is participating in a campaign known as Free Wills Month. Anyone over the age of 55 years old (or married to someone 55 and up) can get a FREE consultation with us to prepare a simple will.

For those of you who follow the blog, you may remember that we did this promotion two years ago. You can check out the inaugural blog here.

Anyway, this is one of those things that should be an easy sell. Everyone likes things that a free, but when it comes to pondering one’s eventual demise, people are incredibly reluctant to do so. Specifically, older people. This makes total sense and is natural, but in some way it’s counter intuitive. We plan for our weddings. We plan for vacations. We plan for every other event in our lives except  death.

This is not to disparage or demean the Baby Boomers in my life, but you guys…please, come on.  Your children and extended family will very much appreciate knowing your desires about what should happen to your belongings when you meet the fate that will greet us all. Dad, if you’re reading this, this blog is dedicated to you. I sincerely hope that after years of patient badgering, I have worn you down and finally convinced you to follow my advice.

Love always,

Your tireless youngest daughter

P.S. This campaign directly benefits Texas Children’s Hospital and will run from May 1 to May 31, 2016. For more information, check out the website.

How to Safely Interact with Police Officers

IMG_9754Recently a young woman named Sandra Bland was pulled over in a routine traffic stop. She and the officer who pulled her over got into a verbal altercation that resulted in her arrest; she died under suspicious circumstances three days later.  This incident and the fact that several members of the public have had interactions with the police that resulted in arrests, injuries, and death led me to want to shed some light on how best to avoid confrontational situations with the police. Every circumstance will be different, but there are some general guidelines that people should be aware of when they are pulled over, questioned, or otherwise interacting with police officers.

1. You Have the Right to Remain Silent. Use it.

In the case of Sandra Bland, the police officer and Ms. Bland had a series of arguments about issues like whether or not she had the right to smoke a cigarette in her car, whether she had to get out of her car at the officer’s command, and whether or not she had the right to film her interaction with the officer. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to say as little as possible to the police. You have the right to remain silent for a reason. Anything you say to a cop can and will be used against you in court, so it’s best to remain mum to the extent possible. Even before you’ve been formally arrested, the police officer is conducting an investigation. In the event of traffic stops, the officer is observing you to determine whether or not you’re intoxicated and clues such as your breath, demeanor, and tone of voice can be used to convict you if you are arrested, so why give them any additional cues? Nothing good comes from arguing with a police officer.

2. Obey Their Commands 100% of the Time

People often get in trouble with the police when an officer gives an order that they ignore. Even if you don’t agree with with what you’re being instructed to do, always, always, always obey a uniformed officer’s directions. Failure to obey a police officer can result in your being charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, or worse. More often than not, the officer is simply trying to do his or her job. It’s never worth the risk of being arrested, so when in doubt, simply do whatever he or she is telling you to do.

3. Never Ever Run Away from the Police

Under no circumstances should you ever run away from a police officer. Countless individuals have been injured or killed because they chose to run away from a uniformed police officer in hot pursuit. Once you’ve been chased, apprehended, and caught, the police officer is not going to be very friendly, and you are absolutely going to jail. If you’re being approached by a police officer in a vehicle  or on foot, never ever run away. Running away endangers your life and the lives of others around you, particularly if you’re fleeing in a motor vehicle.

It’s a sad state of affairs in America when the police are as much of a threat to the general public as are “bad guys,” but it’s irresponsible to ignore a problem that has been plaguing the black and Hispanic youth in our society for decades. The advent of camera phones and social media has simply made this problem come out of the shadows. It’s time for people to smarten up about the way they deal with interactions with police officers because as a general rule, if you didn’t call the police, they are probably not on your side. You may be a suspect. Until you find out the reason for their inquiry, follow these simple guidelines and leave with your reputation and your life in tact. For more common sense advice about life and the law, be sure to contact Kimberly Moss at (713) 574-8626.

Video: Straight Talk with Moss

In an effort to make my site a bit more personal an interactive, I decided to start a video blog series called Straight Talk with Moss. I want to invite every viewer, web crawler, and internet citizen to ask me any legal question. The purpose of this video blog series is to find out what issues people are concerned about and talk about those things in an easily accessible way. My goal is to be the go-to source for general legal information, like a Miss Manners for the law.  🙂

So send me any and every legal question you’d like to discuss at my email address: kimberly@mosslawhouston.com. Enjoy the first installment of Straight Talk with Moss!

Spring Cleaning: Are You Prioritizing What Really Counts?

It’s that time of year again! Spring has sprung. The flowers are in bloom, and I’m sneezing all over the place (sorry). Aside from daylight saving time springing us forward, and the signs of life that come after winter, I began to wonder: how am I spending my time?

Am I attempting to serve all of the people all of the time? Am I trying to do too much for too many people? The answer to both of these questions was a resounding yes. As a result, I’ve decided to severely limit the number of new clients this firm accepts. This does not mean we aren’t taking new cases, but it does mean we will be much more selective in choosing which cases to take and which ones to refer to other attorneys. Why would I do this? What kind of attorney publicly announces that she is limiting the number of new cases she will accept?

Thank you for asking. An ethical attorney would!

Gaining an individual’s trust that I will take his case and handle it properly is an honor that I take very seriously. It would be a shame (and malpractice) for me to take on any matter that I cannot fully dedicate myself to aggressively solving in the most efficient way possible. 2015 has been a good year, and we’ve been blessed with new opportunities to serve, but with those new opportunities come new challenges. I want to make sure I’ve got the time, support staff, and energy to address all of my clients in a quality way.

I also want to make sure I’ve got plenty of time to spend with my silky terrier mix puppy Miyah. She needs plenty of walks and lots of love. A48B7160-FF13-41F3-9453-5A46BAB7E2BAStay tuned for more firm updates. Happy Mother’s Day weekend!

 

Online Comments, Reviews, and Defamation: Where’s the Line?

011On the internet everyone is a critic. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Plus, and other platforms regularly offer people an opportunity to express how they feel about a business and describe what kind of experiences they’ve had. What all of these sites have in common, however, is a lack of any kind of warning about the risks that come along with leaving a negative customer review.

People posting reviews online are typically seeking an outlet to describe what they may perceive to be a warning to other potential buyers, but they may not realize the inherent downside in that 1 star Yelp review. Negative reviews may result in decreased business for the company receiving the critique and could also damage that company’s reputation. That damage is actionable. A number of people have been sued by private companies for writing derogatory comments about their customer experiences. A contractor in Virginia sued (and won) a judgment against a Virginia woman who accused him of billing her for work he didn’t actually perform and possibly stealing her jewelry. The court in that case ordered her to re-write her online review on Angie’s List. That decision was later reversed, but the angry customer may still be liable for monetary damages.

Writing a review online that is false, misleading, or embarrassing could open you up to a different type of liability as well: defamation. This cause of action is very broad and typically difficult to defend against. So what’s the moral to the story? Is it really worth it to vent your frustrations online about a bad experience with a business? The website hosting your review is immune from civil liability under federal law, but you aren’t. If you are going to post an online review, please make sure that your review is at the very least truthful and free of embellishment.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a citation because of your online comments about a business, make sure you receive sound legal counsel about how to respond to the lawsuit and what steps to take to protect yourself from further liability. If you’re a business who has been damaged by a customer’s review online, you also need to talk to a lawyer to determine what exactly your rights are. The internet has brought with it a very powerful tool for transparency and accountability in the market place, but that tool (like every tool) has its risks. Buyers beware! Businesses be warned!

 

Source: http://ideas.time.com/2013/01/07/yelp-reviewers-beware-you-can-get-sued/

New Parents: 4 Things You Need to Know

baby feet1. You need to meet with a financial planner. Let’s face it: children cost money. If you’re a new parent, it’s a good idea to consult with a financial planner about what kind of savings you need to begin putting in place to finance your child’s education.

2. You should purchase life insurance.  Life insurance is intended to replace the income you would provide your family in the event of your untimely death. The amount of insurance you should buy depends on the standard of living you’d like to assure your dependents. As a new mom or dad, it’s important to find out what Social Security benefits your child would be entitled to and make sure you’re able to supplement that amount with insurance proceeds or private investments. Be sure to talk to a financial adviser about the amount of insurance you should purchase. He or she will talk about your lifestyle and determine what’s appropriate for you and your family.

3. Single parents need to make sure they are receiving an appropriate amount of child support from the non-custodial parent. This one is self-explanatory. If you’re a new mom (or dad) who is not receiving financial support from the other parent, take the time to explore the Attorney General’s website for information about child support benefits. To navigate these waters, it’s a very good idea to contact an attorney to talk about what it takes to begin receiving child support for your new bundle of joy.

4. If you don’t have a last will & testament, you need to write one. If you do have a will, you need to update it to include your new addition to the family. No one wants to think about death ever, but the reality of life is that it is nothing if not uncertain. It’s a very good idea to make sure that your last will & testament is clear about who you’d like to take care of your child in the event that you’re not available to do so. If you’ve already written a will, the birth of a new child is an excellent reason to update it. Each state has different ways to handle what happens when a child is born after their parents will was written. If your will makes no mention of your child, you’re leaving your child’s fate to chance. Consult with an attorney to get your affairs in order as soon as possible.

Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. It’s my hope that you take the necessary steps to insure your child’s future. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with an experienced attorney who’s ready to help you in this new stage of your life, please feel free to contact me at (713) 574-8626 or through the contact form on my website.

Been Drinking? Pulled Over? Here’s What to Do

cops stockAs an attorney, I often get questions from friends, family, and colleagues about what to do in certain sticky situations. If you’ve ever been out drinking and are worried about the possibility of a DWI, this post is for you.

If you are pulled over by a police officer in the state of Texas, please keep these 5 things in mind:

1. You have the right to remain silent. Use it.

Other than providing your name and identification, you have no legal obligation to speak to a police office who pulls you over. This is especially true if you have been drinking because the risk of you opening your mouth and slurring your words, or allowing the aroma of alcohol to pepper your conversation is very high. Mum’s the word when you are pulled over. Say nothing but the essential to a police officer if you’re under the influence and behind the wheel.

2. Do not blow, but beware of the consequences

Submitting to a breathalyzer or a field sobriety test is a bad idea. The information gathered WILL be used against you if you are charged with a DWI (which you probably will be if you’re ever asked to do either of these things). Refusal to blow or perform a field sobriety test will result in your license being revoked; however, if there is no evidence to be used to prove that you were indeed intoxicated, it is less likely you will be convicted of a DWI. Keep in mind, you will be arrested, but your charges may be dismissed if you do not give police additional evidence of your impairment, so don’t blow. As for your license suspension, you can apply for an occupational license which has restrictions but still allows you to drive. A suspended license is a less serious problem than a DWI that comes along with possible jail time, surcharges, and a criminal record.

3. Ask for a Lawyer Immediately

The officer may try to engage you, ask questions, and otherwise interrogate you during your stop, on the ride to the police station, and at the precinct. Don’t take the bait. Even if they say they can help you, ask for your attorney. Reread #1. You have the right to remain silent. The less you say without counsel present, the better.

4.  Be aware of your behavior

Be polite. Speak clearly (if at all), and try not to lean against the car, or otherwise do anything that makes you look impaired (slurred speech, poor coordination, etc.). Be on your best behavior during your traffic stop, and keep an attorney’s card on your person, or better yet, memorize a lawyer’s phone number for the inevitable call.

5. You’re Innocent until Proven Guilty

A good lawyer will help you fight for your rights in a DWI case, but it is essential that you do your best to minimize any evidence of guilt there may be if you are pulled over by a police officer after a rough night.

Beware of the Straw Man Conspiracy Theory

file000704919536Recently, the American Bar Association Journal published an article about “sovereign citizens.” You can read it here. It goes into great detail about a group of people who consider themselves to be outside of the laws of the United States because, in their view, the United States of America was taken over by corporate interests once it stopped relying on the gold standard for its currency and began having its money issued by the Federal Reserve.

A friend of mine knows someone who is personally involved in this fringe movement, and I had a chance to speak to him about the concept of the straw man. The straw man is based on the idea that after the U.S. abandoned the gold standard, its leaders set up Treasury accounts in the name of each baby born in the United States, permitting the government to borrow against that person’s future labor. Each account is supposedly organized as a trust or a corporation. If you can legally separate this “strawman” account from your person, the theory goes, you can use the money for your own purposes and put yourself outside the reach of the law.

I asked this gentleman about this line of beliefs, and he told me not to call it a theory and went on to say that the history that we know of the United States is false. We have all been misled into believing we live in a representative democracy. Putting the political underpinning aside, this line of thinking concerns me. The more I learn about this fringe group calling themselves sovereigns or “free men on the land,” the more I am convinced that almost any idea can be used for good or for evil. These people have the right to hold any beliefs they wish, but to file false tax returns to harass prosecutors, judges, and other people is a step too far. Inciting violence against police and other members of law enforcement is wholly unacceptable and antithetical to the creed of people who claim to be fighting “tyranny.”

On this basis, people have filed numerous lawsuits, delayed the adjudication of existing lawsuits, and generally spread havoc throughout the United States judiciary. Enough is enough. This set of ideas needs to be debunked and demystified immediately. Ignoring this growing fringe belief is to sit idly by while a group of American citizens completely undermine the rule of law. Interestingly enough, these people who claim the U.S. dollar is worthless and illegitimate, take payment in U.S. dollars for their tracts and lessons on their philosophy. Under the guise of political philosophy and freedom of speech (ironically protected freedoms under the U.S. Constitution), these folks have hatched tax evasion scams and ponzi schemes that have resulted in hundreds of arrests nationwide.

I did my duty to tell my new acquaintance that he was going down a bad road with people he should not trust, but the battle to discredit these folks has only begun. The message has spread to Canada where Candaian judges are now grappling with these same issues. America ought not be the place where specious ideas take root without any public discourse or backlash. In short, friends don’t let friends believe nonsense.

For more information about who I am and what I do, feel free to click around this website and explore. To schedule a consultation with me, please call (713) 574-8626. I look forward to hearing from you!