TexanLegal.com

Rogue Texan Lawyers.

We Should All Be Feminists

By Kim on Wednesday May 24, 2017

Recently I was talking with one of my female lawyer friends (we’ll call her Betty) when an engaged couple (Fred and Wilma) came to join our conversation. Fred and Wilma are not lawyers, although both are young professionals in their 30s. Fred had recently started a new job at a small company. We asked Fred how his new job was going, and he replied that he really enjoyed it because he wasn’t working with any women. He went on to tell us how the only woman who worked at his new company was the administrative assistant, and that it was wonderful because women are terrible to work with.

I stared at him in disbelief, jaw on the floor. Betty began questioning him.

Fred explained how the last woman (and presumably the only woman) he had ever worked with talked about her personal life too often at work, and couldn’t perform her job competently. Betty, Wilma, I pointed out that these are qualities that would make anyone a terrible co-worker, not just a woman. Fred said he saw our point, but continued to stress that working with men was more preferable to him and that he only liked working with women who were performing administrative functions. As if conceding to his point in an effort to end the conversation on an agreeable note, Betty said, “You know I’m not a feminist, and I agree some women really are terrible to work with.” Wilma chimed in proudly that she was not a feminist either.

It made me wonder, why is it so bad to be perceived as a feminist? Wikipedia describes feminism as, “...a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to such opportunities for men.”

I’ll just go ahead and make this radical statement: if you don’t believe in equal opportunities and rights for women, you are a horrible human being. (There, now I can never run for office because of my extreme liberal views!) But in all seriousness, not believing in equal treatment of the sexes is just as bad as believing one race deserves better treatment than another.

So what’s so bad about being a feminist? Shouldn’t we all be feminists?

Voter ID & You

By Tom on Wednesday Apr 19, 2017

Several courts have ruled on voter ID. Most recently, in the Veasey v. Abbott1 opinion made a bit of news on the Texas law.

What does the Texas Voter ID law do?

Before Texas passed SB 14, Texans could vote by showing their voter registration card. If you did not have your voter registration card, you would fill out an affidavit and show some other form of ID.

SB 14 replaced these rules requiring a limited set of identification:

  • driver’s license, election identification certificate, or personal identification card issued by DPS
  • US military ID with photograph
  • Citizenship certificate with photograph
  • US passport
  • a license to carry a handgun issued by DPS

These forms of identification could be expired, but not more than 60 days.

Why are folks suing?

The allegations in the lawsuit are based on:

  • 14th & 15th Amendments — voter ID laws were passed with a racially discriminatory purpose and has a racially discriminatory effect.
  • 1st & 14th Amendments — Substantial burden on the right to vote
  • 14th & 24th Amendments — voter ID laws are an unconstitutional poll tax

A district court in Texas found for the plaintiffs and ordered that the voter ID law should not be enforced. Immediately, the state appealed and the Fifth Circuit stayed that order. The Plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court decided not to intervene while the lower courts were moving the case.

While all this was going on, Texas passed SB 983, which eliminated the fee associated with getting a birth certificate if the individual was trying to get a certified birth certificate for the purpose of getting an election identification certificate.

Standard

The Supreme Court in a case called Arlington Heights, gave a list of some non-exclusive factors in evaluating whether a specific decision was made with a discriminatory purpose:

  • historical background of the decision,
  • the sequence of events leading up to the decision,
  • departures from the normal procedural sequence,
  • substantive departures
  • legislative history, especially where there are contemporary statements by memory of the decision-making body.

The Fifth Circuit noted that the district court erred by relying on “long-ago history,” and that contemporary history is better evidence of the historical-background prong of the Arlington Heights factors.

On remand, the major holding of Veasey is:

[T]he Court holds that Plaintiffs have sustained their burden of proof to show that SB 14 was passed, at least in part, with a discriminatory intent in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 § 2, 52 U.S.C. § 10301(a).

Discriminatory intent is proven when racial discrimination is a motivating factor in the legislature’s act. The issue is whether the legislature passed a law at least partially because the law would adversely affect a minority group.2 But even if the plaintiff proves that one of the substantial or motivating factors was discriminatory, the State of Texas gets a chance to show that the law would have been passed even if the legislature was not discriminating.

Like most voter ID laws, the Texas law was passed with the purported purpose of combating voter fraud. But the evidence showed that only two convictions resulted of the 20 million votes cast—literally a one in a million chance of preventing voter fraud. The court also noted that the law was fairly strict. It did not allow forms of ID other states allowed, for example.


  1. No. 2:13-cv-00193 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 10, 2017). 

  2. As background, the court had previously held that Texas’s voter ID law had a discriminatory impact, meaning that it affected minority groups disproportionately. Veasey v. Perry, 71 F. Supp. 3d 627, 659–79 (S.D. Tex. 2014). 

Everything We Know about the FCC

By Tom on Monday Apr 10, 2017

Episode 10 of the podcast Everything We Know about the American Heartland is out. In it, we discuss Eminem, Globalists, Syria, and some things about the FCC.

This Week in Sexism

By Kim on Sunday Apr 02, 2017

Mike Pence is (maybe not?) a sexist

Last week the Washington Post published a profile on Karen Pence that included no actual interviews with Karen or Mike Pence and was based solely on past interviews the Pences had given or interviews with friends. The profile is as much about the Pences’ marriage as it is about Karen Pence herself. The Pences are described as having a romantic marriage and an extremely close bond. I found the tidbit about the red telephone particularly endearing.

The rest of the world was less concerned about the red telephone and more focused on the following quote from the profile which, I must point out, is not a direct quote from Pence or his 2002 interview with The Hill:

In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.

Liberals are outraged. Conservatives are outraged that liberals are outraged. The nation’s Facebook and Twitter users are engaged in a heated discussion about sexism. If there’s a silver lining in all of this, it’s that at least we’re all talking about it openly.

So, is Mike Pence a sexist based on this comment alone?

I don’t think we can go that far. As you can see from the Washington Post profile, neither he nor Karen were willing to contribute. Furthermore, none of the several media outlets covering this story seem to have a link to Mike Pence’s original 2002 interview with the Hill. We don’t know what he said, or what context it was in. We don’t know if this is still his practice. So what is there to be upset about?

As with many things, it’s the principle of the matter. It’s the fact that many men hold the concern or belief that they cannot or should not ever be alone with a woman who is not their wife. This is a principle that is hurtful to women. In many industries there’s the notion of a “boy’s club” or group of “good ol’ boys” where men (usually white) team up together and promote each other in business. Many of the relationships that men have with each other in business come not only from the work they do together, but also from the time they spend forming friendships with one another in non-work related settings. Think about golf, for example. Business men golf together, and in the course of a golf game, or perhaps after the golf game over drinks, they talk a little business. Any good businessman or businesswoman will tell you that in so much of business it’s all about your people skills and relationships. It’s not what you know, but who you know. If women don’t have the same opportunities to spend time with the men they are doing business with, they will rarely have the chance to be as successful as their male counterparts.

Similarly, if women don’t have the same access as their male counterparts to the men running the companies, giving the promotions, and making the decisions, how can we ever hope to increase the number of women in leadership positions? In most industries men make up the majority of the leaders. They are the majority of board members, executives, and politicians. Men in power make the majority of decisions about raises and promotions. If these men didn’t allow private meetings or lunches with women, but did allow them for men, the women hoping to be mentored, get a raise, or obtain a promotion would be at a disadvantage to their male counterparts. This unequal treatment of women would result in a continuation of the unequal work environment where men continue to be promoted over women and paid more than women for the same work.

I could go on, but the Atlantic has done a fantastic job of explaining exactly why a policy like the one Mike Pence may have hurts women.

So what do Conservatives think?

They think that Pence is a strong Christian who is trying to, “be faithful to his wife, and to avoid temptation or anything that might even seem inappropriate....”

Let’s take this in pieces. First, there’s the protection of the marriage, which is often linked with Christianity (as if other religions or non-religious folks think it’s perfectly fine to cheat on their spouses). Mike Pence’s policy seems to be associated with Billy Graham, the evangelical Christian minsiter who seems to have come up with, “the rule” himself. But are there other non-sexist things that Pence could do to avoid the “temptation” to cheat on his wife? I think so. He could have windows installed in his offices and conference rooms so that he could have closed door lunches and meetings with anyone, regardless of their sex. Additionally, he could ensure that a member of his staff always remain in the office when he’s having these closed door meetings. He could ensure that every one-on-one meal he took with every person, regardless of their sex, was held in a public location, out in the open. Finally, he could keep in constant contact with his wife and be completely transparent with her about what he’s doing, who he’s with, when he will be gone, and when he will return.

Second, there is the desire to avoid anything that can be perceived as inappropriate. I can understand this. People love to gossip, especially about public figures. Moreover, there is apparently a fear among men of being accused of sexual harassment. In 2002, when he made the supposed statement to The Hill he was a member of Congress, representing Indiana in the House of Representatives. Today he is the second in line for the Presidency. So how can Mike Pence meet with women without starting rumors or gossip that he might be having an affair? How can he avoid being accused of sexual harassment if he’s not actually sexually harassing anyone? I think the same tips listed above could help address these concerns too. He could also avoid sitting too close to others or touching anyone, male or female. It is important that he have the same rules for both sexes to avoid favoritism or sexism.

Finally, and this is huge, he could stop giving a damn what other people think and stand up for the women he works with. Other people will always gossip, and Mike Pence cannot control what other people do or say any more than you or I. What he can control is how he reacts. If Mike Pence and his wife Karen react to any rumors or accusations that may arise in a confident and professional manner, without putting women down or hurting women, that would go a long way. Distancing himself from women or pinning blame on women will only make Mike Pence look like a weak willed man who is one lunch away from cheating on his wife. It won’t make him look like the confident Christian husband he purports to be.

Internet Service Providers can sell your data without your permission.

By Tom on Wednesday Mar 29, 2017

Congress recently voted to allow the likes of TimeWarner, Charter, Comcast, and AT&T to sell your browsing habits to third parties without your permission.1 The White House has indicated that Trump will likely sign the legislation into law.

It’s not just your browsing habits that have been sold to the highest bidder.2 Congress disapproves of:

  • requiring ISPs to take reasonable measures to protect your private information;
  • requiring ISPs to notify you, the FCC, and law enforcement when they’ve been hacked; and
  • requiring ISPs to provide you service even if you don’t want them to sell your browsing habits.

What does TimeWarner, Charter, Comcast, or AT&T know about you?

Without strong encryption, they know a lot:

They know what websites you visit.

If you visit a porn site, a political site, or any number of sites you do not want your ISP to share with third parties, this Congressional act will allow them to share that information without your permission. Even without encryption, your internet service provider knows the domains you’ve visited.

They know what information you send to those websites.

Have you ever browsed WebMD for embarrassing health conditions?3

They can match your browsing habits to the demographic information you provide

When you sign up for your subscription, you provide them all sorts of information: your email, age, date of birth, home address, and phone numbers. This information is for sale too.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation published an article of the creepy things ISPs can do with your data, including:

  • Sell your data to marketers;
  • Hijack your searches and redirect them;
  • Spy on your browsing habits; and
  • Inject tracking data into your HTTP traffic;

What can you do?

The only possible solution to prevent snooping is a VPN. A VPN encrypts all traffic between you and the internet.4 Normally, your internet service provider plays middleman. When you want to go to a website like twitter, your computer tells your ISP, which reaches out to twitter, which sends back information to your ISP, who relays it back to you:

Internet Service without a VPN

When you use a VPN, you make a connection to the VPN through your ISP and your connection is encrypted. Your ISP only knows you’ve connected to the VPN. Because your connection is encrypted, your ISP does not know what information you’re sending back and forth to the VPN. But the VPN plays the middleman between you and various websites:

Internet service with a VPN

But as folks have noted, a VPN is not policy solution. That is, you shouldn’t have to pay an extra monthly fee to a third party just to protect your privacy. And you still have the trust problems—how does the average consumer know which VPN services they can trust?

Then there’s the negative externality of the NSA tracking users of privacy products.

Finally, what happens when internet service providers begin to block VPN services? Alternatively, the Trump administration has been pushing to end net neutrality. Your provider doesn’t have to ban your VPN; it only has to make your VPN speeds unbearably slow.


  1. Look up the cost of their votes to the internet provider lobby. 

  2. Here is a summary of the rule Congress revoked 

  3. This website does not force encryption by default as of Mar 29, 2017. 

  4. Again, your protection is only as strong as your encryption. My VPN provider has recommended encryption settings to balance safety and speed. I generally follow the maximum protection setting.