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December 30th, 2009:

Leach v. Tech

Yesterday, Texas Tech head Mike Leach filed a lawsuit against the school to force them to let him coach in Saturday’s Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

Mike Leach is taking his battle from the football field to the courtroom.

Attorney Ted Liggett filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order on Tuesday that would allow Leach to continue coaching Texas Tech in Saturday’s Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.


Leach, 48, is alleged to have ordered [wide receiver Adam James, the son of ESPN announcer Craig James] placed under guard inside dark, confined rooms on two occasions after the player said he had been told by a doctor he could not practice because he had suffered a concussion. Leach also directed abusive, profane language toward James, according to a spokeswoman for the James family.

A series of e-mails and statements from former Tech coaches and players that have been obtained by the Chronicle include praise for Leach and criticism of Adam James’ talent, attitude and work ethic.

“The family is confident that the university has proceeded and will continue to proceed in a fair and thorough manner with its investigation,” the family spokeswoman said Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate that coach Leach has stooped to personal and unfounded slurs against a player and his family.”

Today Tech fired him.

Leach’s attorney Ted Liggett said that Texas Tech general counsel Pat Campbell approached him outside the courtroom and told him that win, lose or draw in the hearing, Leach was out, effective immediately.

When Liggett entered the courtroom he told the judge there was no need for the hearing on Leach’s request that he be reinstated to coach the Alamo Bowl.


Liggett said Leach’s side has evidence that shows the decision to suspend the coach was without merit.

“So they pulled the trigger,” Liggett said. “They don’t want that coming out.”

Boy howdy is this going to be a circus. The Trib has a copy of the original suit. Is it just me, or does anyone else think this will be a bit of a distraction for the Tech players on Saturday?

One more thing:

Leach is the second Big 12 coach in recent weeks to be accused of improper treatment of players. Kansas coach Mark Mangino resigned this month in the wake of allegations by former players that he made insensitive, humiliating remarks to them during games or practice, often in front of others.

Perhaps the conference needs to take a look at this to see if there’s something they could do to improve things. I’m just saying. Richard Justice, Jake Silverstein, who had previously joked about the Texas Monthly cover jinx, and Martha have more.

Judicial Q&A: Brad Morris

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so this is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see my 2010 Election page for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

The concise dry answer to this question is my resume, which accompanies this reply. My parents were both native Texans; my mother grew up on a farm in Colllin County and graduated from North Texas just before World War II. My father grew up in Southern Arkansas and worked for an oilfield equipment company in Freer, TX when WW II broke out. He flew 25 B-24 missions over Europe as a lead navigator/bombardier and was discharged as Major. He returned to the oilfield equipment business after the war. I was born in Dallas but the family moved to Caracas, Venezuela before I started 2nd grade and we lived there until I was halfway through junior high. We returned to Dallas in 1965. I have lived in Houston since I came to Rice in 1968. I studied political science at Rice; got lucky and married a wise, good-hearted, beautiful woman I met at Rice, practiced law with a Rice classmate for 17 years, got appointed to serve as Associate Judge in the late 90’s and since then have made my living practicing exclusively Family Law. My two adult sons are profoundly independent and smart; how their lives unfold is very interesting to watch.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

I am running to be the next Judge of the 311th Family District Court. Family courts hear cases for divorce that deal with the description, valuation and division of property and custody of children, and all disputes that are between parties who are not married that involve custody of children and cases prosecuted by Harris County Child Protective Services to protect children from harm by their caregivers.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The incumbent judge, Doug Warne is retiring. He has done an excellent job, and leaves big shoes to fill. Having worked in this court before, I believe that I can continue to maintain the excellent reputation of this particular court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have 33 years of legal experience, 17 of which was a broad range of civil litigation and transactions: collection efforts by creditors, consumer claims and, of course, family law; transactional work writing wills and trusts, creating partnerships, and corporations. That broad range of civil work has proven helpful in dealing with the range of issues that come up in family courts and family mediations. From 1995 through 1998 I served as the Associate Judge of this court, judicial experience which I very much enjoyed. Since that time I have limited my work to family law litigation and mediation. My judicial and mediation work has given me the opportunity to deal with parties in Spanish, a language in which I am fluent, having grown up in Caracas, Venezuela.

5. Why is this race important?

Litigants in family courts need to have the opportunity to be heard in a patient and calm environment that knows the law and will apply it equally to everyone, without favoritism, impatience, or delay. Divorce and family disputes are so very common in our culture and the volume of cases is very large. The work requires commitment and compassion. I know from experience that I can do the job well, and look forward to the opportunity to do so.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

I have the education, experience and temperament to do the job well and my unique combination of those characteristics make me the best-qualified candidate.

Panel to review term limits appointed

Back in October, Houston City Council agreed to create a commission to study Houston’s term limits law with an eye to possibly placing a resolution on the ballot next year with some changes. Yesterday, that commission was named.

Mayor Bill White on Tuesday announced a 21-member commission to study Houston’s term limits and make recommendations by July 1. Any changes to the current limit of three, two-year terms for Houston’s mayor, controller and 14 City Council members would be subject to approval by the council and by voters.

The ordinance creating the commission authorized it to recommend changes but not to propose elimination of term limits. It also prohibits any changes that would enable White, who is completing his third term and is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, to run for mayor again.


“Houston has the most stringent term limits in Texas — and maybe in the country — for a city with a strong-mayor form of government,” said Arthur Schechter, the former Metropolitan Transit Authority chairman named by White to chair the commission. “If there is a perceived need to make some changes such as longer terms or more terms, we need to consider that.”

This got the usual response from usual suspect Clymer Wright, who vows to fight it like it’s 1991 all over again. I think times and the electorate that will eventually vote on this are different now. That doesn’t mean we’ll get a different outcome, but I do believe this review is long overdue. If San Antonio can do this, so can Houston. Mary Benton has a press release about the panel, which includes all of the members’ names. Houston Politics and Nancy Sims have more.

What building is that?

A couple of weeks back, I got an email from Wayne Lorentz, the founder of the Houston Architecture Info forum, telling me about a new iPhone app called Towrs. From the email he sent me:

Right now it’s for the iPhone (if I can get my hands on a Blackberry I’ll test it there, too), and uses the iPhone’s geolocation feature to display the interesting buildings near where the user is standing. Downtown Houston and Galveston are two of the areas it is designed for. It also works well in Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, and a few other cities.

At the time I received this, I was totally focused on the Houston runoffs, and I told him I’d mention this on the blog once that was over. Well, I promptly forgot about it, but was thankfully reminded by this Swamplot post about it. As noted, all you need to do is point the iPhone’s browser to and it should just work. I’m not iPhone-enabled, so I can’t vouch for it myself, but if you want to know more, drop Wayne a note to [email protected] and let him know. Happy sightseeing!

Air cleanup progress report

Some good news about efforts to get manufacturing plants to pollute less.

In 2005, following Houston Chronicle and state reports about alarming levels of butadiene in neighborhoods near Texas Petrochemicals, the company signed a non-binding agreement with the TCEQ to cut emissions by at least half within five years and to keep pollutants from wafting over the fence line.

Not satisfied, the city later negotiated its own contract with Texas Petrochemicals that also held the company liable for damages if it failed to meet the terms.

The plant initially installed a system to recover gas from its flare — a device used to burn off gases during emergencies — and lowered its threshold for leak detection.

Among other steps to cut emissions, the company also installed monitors along two fence lines and began using handheld infrared cameras to detect leaks quickly. If the monitors uncover a potential problem, then state and local officials receive immediate notification by e-mail, under the contract with the city.

Kirk Johnson, the plant’s manager, said the improved technology has produced a culture change at the facility.

“Without the fence line monitors, we wouldn’t have reason to look for leaks,” he said. “We found the leaks whenever we found them. Now we’re finding them quicker.”

With the technological and behavioral changes, the plant’s butadiene emissions have been in steady retreat, dropping from 178,674 pounds in 2004 to 43,995 pounds in 2008, a 75 percent decrease, according to the most recent federal data available.

That’s a big difference, and it will have a large effect on the quality of life for folks who live nearby. Credit goes to Texas Petrochemicals for changing its behavior, the TCEQ for enforcing the agreement, and Mayor Bill White, who pushed for the stricter limits that Texas Petrochemicals agreed to. You may wonder why this approach isn’t being used at other big-pollution plants. The short answer is that the industry claims Texas Petrochemicals is a unique situation and that the same methods used there to monitor and measure toxin levels wouldn’t work as well. That strikes me as more excuse than justification, and I don’t see why we should be taking their word for it. But that’s the situation now, and as I’ve said before, it’s going to take a change in leadership in the state for things to be done differently.

Better days ahead for UTMB

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is not only coming back, it’s growing.

Although the UT Board of Regents authorized 3,800 layoffs, UTMB officials announced that about 3,000 jobs would be cut. The actual number turned out to be about 2,400, but it was widely interpreted as a step toward dismantling Texas’ oldest medical school. The Legislature forced the regents to reverse policy, a stunning change of fortune that is slowly beginning to benefit the local economy.

UTMB has already filled more than half of the jobs left vacant by the layoffs and eventually will have nearly 1,000 more employees than before the storm, said Cindy Stanton, UTMB director of recruitment services.

The UTMB expansion offers economic hope to a city whose population shrank an estimated 20 percent after the Sept. 13, 2008, hurricane. “Galveston will benefit from the economic impact of more workers crossing the causeway,” Galveston spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said. “We will likely see gains in sales tax, hotel-motel tax, and possibly property tax,” Cahill said.

That’s just great to hear. May there be a lot more good news like this to come.