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(il)Legal Copycat

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In what Internet universe would a lawyer steal the words and work of another and not expect to be caught or called out? Why would a lawyer post “news” on their website by simply trolling the Internet and stealing others news? And, if a lawyer were going to do so, would they just take the easy way out and simply copy what the State Bar has already curated and pass it off as their own?

If you are a lawyer at Brown & Musslewhite in Houston, you would be lazy, plagiarize steal content, and pass it off as if some “author” in your firm wrote it.

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Jeff Musslewhite earned his law degree from The University of Baltimore School of Law. Apparently this is one school that doesn’t teach criminal law or copyright. Hell, they may not even teach ethics. Well, maybe it’s not fair to blame the school. After all, his law partner Lori Brown attended the University of Texas and didn’t learn the basics either.

Instead of creating and publishing their victories, successes, thoughts, and business plans, they have a “news” feed that does nothing but regurgitate the blog posts curated by the State Bar of Texas’ Texas Bar Today blog. The folks over at Texas Bar Today spend time reading and then passing on relevant information by providing links to various lawyers’ posts. When they do so, they identify the original writer, giving a link credit to the author, and simply send the interested reader directly to the original post.

Apparently, that’s too much work for the lawyers at B&M. They would rather just copy the work of the Texas Bar Today folks, create a fake author page, and link the readers back to themselves. By creating fake author pages, they give the appearance of the author writing or working for them. And trust me, I do not write for them, and I certainly would not work for them.

To be fair, their posts begin with “Written by JOANNE MUSICK” and “Originally published by JoAnne Musick.” Yet, when you click the link for JOANNE MUSICK, it circles right back to their site and a handy-dandy collection of everything they copied from me (which is only 2 [correction: 4, 2 as JoAnne Musick and 2 as JoAnneMusick] posts so far – but I’m not the only one they are copying – they have also copied HCCLA and HCCLA’s Reasonable Doubt).

They say imitation is flattery. Well, I’m not flattered. I find myself, much like Ruth, pissed:

When you like my blog work, I’m pleased. When you link to my site, I’m flattered. When you request a reprint, I’m delighted. When you rip off my work, even with an attribution, I get pissed!

You like my writing? Great! Let me know and I’d probably give you permission to use it. Want to curate like the Texas Bar Today folks? Great! Give proper links and I wouldn’t care. But don’t just blatantly utilize my words to enhance your google presence and seem relevant.

The interesting questions: Is this their work ethic? Do they really do real lawyer work? Or do they just copy others? Didn’t we learn in grade school that plagiarism was wrong? If they show deceit in their website, will they deceive a client? The court?

I have no desire to find the answers to these questions. I would never hire a lawyer engaging in such practice. It’s unethical and just plain wrong. Color me offended and sad that they have chosen to use my name and my words to try and make themselves look better. Don’t try to make yourself look better; be better!

Update: see what they are copying here


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Sept 1, Day of New Laws

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This September 1, the criminal justice system finds itself amidst change. Below are some of the highlights of our new legislation.

Theft

Through House Bill 1396, Texas passed legislation that changes the “value ladder” for many property crimes. Property crimes such as theft, mischief, graffiti, frauds and other various offenses use the “value” of the property to set the level of crime and thus the punishment. In the most common example, before September 1, 2015, a class C (fine only offense) consisted of theft of property under $50. Now, effective September 1, 2015, adjusting for inflation, a class C consists of theft of property under $100.

Thanks to Judge Ryan Patrick, here is a recap of the change in the “value ladder”:

Level Old New (as of 9/1/15)
Class C Misd1 <$50 <$100
Class B Misd $50 – $500 $100 – $750
Class A Misd $500 – $1,500 $750 – $2,500
State Jail Felony $1,500 – $20,000 $2,500 – $30,000
3rd Degree Felony $20,000 – $100,000 $30,000 – $150,000
2nd Degree Felony $100,000 – $200,000 $150,000 – $300,000
1st Degree Felony >$200,000 >$300,000

Non-Disclosure

Non-Disclosure is a section of the law that allows certain criminal history records to be non-public. This process (making a record non-public) serves to remove certain records from your public criminal history. Even though removed from public view, this process leaves the criminal record in tact and available for law enforcement and other entities such as regulatory agencies, schools, banks, and hospitals, to name just a few.

Effective September 1, non-disclosure of certain low level misdemeanor deferred adjudication sentences becomes more automatic. When a person meets the criteria for non-disclosure, the court must grant it. Under the old law, the judge had the discretion to grant or deny your application for non-disclosure. This new legislation found in Senate Bill 1902, sets forth the differences between automatic and discretionary non-disclosure. It also extends non-disclosure to certain misdemeanor convictions where a person successfully completed community supervision (probation). Non-disclosure laws do not apply to assaults, DWI, weapons, family violence, public indecency, and other more serious offenses. It is meant to allow the first time low-level offender to move on with his or her life without the general public viewing that mistake or transgression.

With the new changes and expansion of situation that can be non-disclosed, anyone with a minor criminal history should consult a lawyer about whether or not they may receive the benefit of a non-disclosure.

Searches

House Bill 1396 mandates that police get a warrant to access and search cellular telephones found on or near a person under arrest. This legislative change follows the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Riley v. California where the Court stated a search of these devices, today, implicates very sensitive privacy interests because these personal devices contain personal and sensitive information.

Additionally, House Bill 324 sets forth something many of us would have assumed to be common sense: a search warrant is required for body cavity searches during a traffic stop. So no more roadside cavity searches, absent a warrant supported by probable cause.

Juveniles

In a throwback to the way we used to do things, Senate Bill 888 makes juvenile certification decisions (for juveniles to stand trial as adults) immediately appealable rather than only after final conviction as an adult. Truancy was decriminalized (House Bill 2398) and taken out of the juvenile courts for students. And Senate Bill 107 amends the education code to eliminate automatic zero tolerances for expulsions, giving the school officials discretion through the creation of a campus behavior coordinator.

Other Changes

Of course there are dozens more changes to definitions of criminal conduct. “Disabled individual” has been expanded to include a broader class of citizens, giving prosecutors the ability to charge offenders with greater levels of offenses for assaults against disabled persons, the elderly, and children. Drugs, such as synthetic marijuanas are now classified and identified for prosecution. Handguns now follow “open carry” provisions as well as concealed carry provisions. We also have a new offense for “revenge porn” and “peeping Toms”. Revenge porn targets those who share or make public photos or video that was otherwise intended to be private. There are also new trial priorities for offenses where the alleged victim is younger than 14 years of age; these cases will be given priority over other criminal trials.

For convenience, the legislature even gave the ability to pay fines and fees roadside with a debit or credit card!

So many changes, but these are a few of the highlights.


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