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William J. Dyer

William Dyer’s Answers

1,097 total


  • Defendant Failed to Answer within 30-Day Time Limit?

    Defendant has Failed to Answer within 30-Day Time Limit in Harris County Small Claims Court. I need a template that I can use to request for a default judgement, where do I find it?

    William’s Answer

    Phone the clerk of the small claims court to ask about their procedures for hearing and resolving motions for default judgment. They vary from JP to JP and precinct to precinct, and they've likely be adjusted for the Covid pandemic.

    You'll probably have to request a hearing date and time from the clerk; you may or may not be required to show at the hearing (or Zoom conference? I dunno) that you've given your opponent advance written notice of the default hearing; and you will want to have all the details on date and means of service, as well as evidence to prove up your claimed damages. See Rule 511, 512, 516, and especially 525, 575, and 578 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure for Justice Court. Link: https://www.txcourts.gov/All_Archived_Documents/SupremeCourtAdvisoryCommittee/Meetings/2012/supplementary/sc09282012.pdf

    Note that there are special rules for eviction cases, especially during the pandemic. Ask the clerk about those if you're suing for a writ of possession instead of for a money judgment.

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  • Ex-husband claims I "defamed" him on my social media

    For months my ex-husband has been acting testy and difficult with schedules on the kids so I asked him if he had any problem with me, and he said no. Now this week, he sends me an email claiming he has screenshot evidence of me “defaming” his repu...

    William’s Answer

    In Texas, among private individuals, defamation litigation is uneconomical and impractical for anyone but the very rich. And unlike many other tort claims (e.g., for negligence resulting in a physical injury), very few Texas lawyers are willing to gamble their time, much less front expenses out of their own pockets, on defamation claims. The Legislature and the Texas Supreme Court have comprehensively tilted the playing field against would-be defamation plaintiffs.

    Without reviewing the entire context, and without looking very closely at each of the communications your ex claims to have been defamatory, no lawyer is going to be able to give you a very firm opinion about whether those communications are, or are not, defamatory. Generally, opinions are not; to be defamatory in Texas, a statement must be one of objective, verifiable fact of the sort that does damage to one's reputation, and it must be false. "My ex-husband embezzled from his employer's pension fund," if untrue, would be defamatory. "My ex-husband is a lousy, dishonest @sshole who's mean to children and dogs" is a matter of opinion, incapable of objective and definitive proof or disproof, and is not defamatory.

    I agree with Mr. Ninomiya that your ex sending you his lawyer's contact information is "lame"; the most obvious interpretation for that is that your ex didn't want to pay out of his pocket the fees that any lawyer would charge him for sending you a formal letter demanding that you cease & desist (i.e., stop making statements of the sort he characterizes as defamation) and/or that you issue (publish) a retraction.

    Especially if there was no demand for a retraction (which would probably have included a reference to chapter 73, or in particular to section 73.055, of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, then your husband is probably acting without benefit of a lawyer representing him, and he's trying to intimidate you without having the practical means to follow through on his threats.

    If he's got money to burn on paying lawyers by the hour just to make your life miserable, though, or if his email did include a formal demand for retraction, or if for any other reason you want to get legal advice that you can rely on regarding your potential liability and defenses, you might want to hire a lawyer to consult with you in more detail (which will include going over the allegedly defamatory statements).

    Otherwise, both from a legal point of view and a quality-of-life point of view, it's probably a good idea to simply stop talking about your ex- on social media or anywhere else. That's not capitulating to his attempt to intimidate you; it's just to avoid throwing any kerosene which could turn his smoldering resentments into an active fire.

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  • How can I stop my landlord from harassing me and telling lies to the housing authority so that I lose my voucher?

    The landlord (ex best friend) keeps trying to break in, emailing my housing manger lies and calling, text my family. I just found out that I'm pregnant and I can not deal with all of this.

    William’s Answer

    I'm sorry for your distress. I apologize in advance, because I don't think I'm going to be able to help you much in dealing with it.

    I've moved your question from "libel and slander" to "civil rights," because of the problems you've listed, dealing with the housing authority is the only one a lawyer is likely to be able to help you with as a practical matter. The lawyers who monitor the "civil rights" forum might have specific ideas about that, and they're more likely to see your question now that I've moved it.

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  • How difficult is it to file a case against the federal government in federal court without a lawyer ?

    how difficult is it to file the lawsuit in federal court without a lawyer ? Will the opposing lawyer do every trick in the book to get the case dismissed ? Also, if you file a lawsuit against the federal government for racial discrimination and i...

    William’s Answer

    Both Ms. Laster and Mr. Gray are correct.

    The law is difficult. Your paranoia about the defendant's eagerness to use procedural devices to get you thrown out of court is justified, especially if the defendant is the U.S. government. Your chances of winning on your own are tiny, no matter how good your case, if you don't have the legal training, don't know the vocabulary, and don't know the ins and outs of federal procedure. And if the court decides that your case was frivolous, you may indeed be required to pay the other side's legal fees and expenses!

    BUT: The good news, potentially, is that in most circumstances, a plaintiff who wins a federal case based on racial discrimination can recover attorney's fees from the losing defendant. This creates a mechanism whereby your lawyer might get paid by the other side, which in turn means there are lawyers who are willing to gamble their time by undertaking these cases on a contingent fee basis (where they're paid a percentage out of the proceeds of what they win for you in a court judgment or via settlement, rather than being paid by the hour by you up front).

    If you can't find a contingent fee lawyer willing to take your case, that's a good sign, then, that your claims are probably not worth pursuing.

    If there's a requirement that before suing, you exhaust administrative remedies (per Mr. Gray's answer, for employment-related claims), your contingent-fee lawyer can also help you satisfy those.

    Search Avvo.com for lawyers who practice "Discrimination" or "Civil Rights" law, and then contact your favorites from among them by email (not by posting here) to ask whether they're interested in evaluating your case on a confidential, no-obligation basis.

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  • I filed Motion for Discovery in Texas, what does it mean when the filing shows as " (no notice not set)"on the court's docket ?

    I filed Motion for Discovery in Texas, what does it mean when the filing shows as " (no notice not set)"on the court's docket ?

    William’s Answer

    If you're wondering why you got a slightly different answer from the Dallas lawyers:

    The procedures used for submitting a motion — including whether there will be an oral (or, now, Zoom) hearing on the motion, or whether instead it will simply be set for ruling upon by the judge without a hearing as of a particular "submission date" — vary from court to court. What they do in Dallas is different from what we typically do in Houston.

    Depending on what court you're in and who the judge is, Ms. Nwogu's answer is almost certainly more likely to be correct here in Houston. HOWEVER: You should phone the court, speak with one of the deputy clerks, and ask how this process is supposed to work in that specific court. You may or may not be given a choice whether to ask for an oral (or Zoom) hearing. You absolutely, positively, will have to include with your motion a showing, called a "certificate of service," confirming that it's been sent to the other side's lawyer in compliance with Rule 21a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. And you may also have to prepare and file a separate "notice of submission" or "notice of oral hearing," which you also have to serve in compliance with Rule 21a.

    As for the exact date and time: Some clerks may say, "Here's your choice of available dates and times." In Houston, you're unlikely to be told to check with the other side about its lawyer's availability before picking one (although that's a nice courtesy). Other courts may have standing "local rules" or "courtroom procedures" like, "You can get an oral hearing on any Friday at 9:00 a.m. that's at least 10 days from when you file." That sort of local rule or procedures list might be posted on the court clerk's website.

    But for your first motion, for sure: Call and ask.

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  • Someone said 95% coworkers in my office are dishonest. She did not mention any names. Can I sue her for deformation for myself?

    someone said 95% coworkers in my office are dishonest. She did not mention any names. Can I sue her for deformation for myself?

    William’s Answer

    You could sue for defamation, but you'll lose almost immediately, and you might end up paying the other side's court costs and legal fees.

    A statement about someone's honesty or dishonesty is a matter of opinion, not a matter of objective, verifiable fact. "I think 95% of those people are dishonest" still only expresses an opinion. "I saw Jane steal $10 from the cash register," by contrast, might be defamatory (if false).

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  • What will happen to my older sister (21) if she hits me (16) ?

    She got mad at me for using my brothers charger because she needed to use it when I told her no plenty of times. She then started getting touchy which I don’t like so I told her. When she ignored me I then lightly pushed (she was holding her 2yr s...

    William’s Answer

    You are badly mistaken in your idea of what constitutes "self defense." The fact that you are only sixteen, and that she's an adult, doesn't protect you from very serious consequences. I think you probably came here expecting the lawyers to say, "Oh, your sister is gonna get in big trouble." You're absolutely wrong. NONE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES YOU DESCRIBE JUSTIFIES ANY USE OF VIOLENCE, OR EVEN UNWANTED TOUCHING, BY YOU.

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  • My DUI lawyer asked me for a self resume along with a few character references from people. I’m just confused on the resume part

    It’s my first offense and my lawyer asked for character references and a self resume. I get the character references but I’m confused on the resume part. He did say write down any volunteer things, which I don’t do now but I use to do. How far bac...

    William’s Answer

    When you ask your own lawyer this type of question, both the question from you and his or her answer to it are covered by attorney-client privilege, meaning you can — and MUST, if you're to get effective representation — answer freely and fully. This includes things that make you look bad.

    My guess is that your lawyer is trying to give you the chance to think and reflect and commit your best recollection to paper without pressure, so he or she can get fully acquainted with you and your background.

    This is definitely NOT the time to engage in any exaggeration or puffery on your "resume" — your lawyer is looking for truthful details, and you're not applying for a job.

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  • In one lawsuit, are you allowed to have two, separate counts of breach of contract?

    Under one contract, can a plaintiff bring multiple breach of contract actions in one lawsuit? The elements of the cause of action are related, but branch off into different facts and the damages are distinct.

    William’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. Asquith. In the Texas state-court system, for example, Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 51(a) provides:

    "The plaintiff in his petition or in a reply setting forth a counterclaim and
    the defendant in an answer setting forth a counterclaim may join either as independent or as alternate claims as many claims either legal or equitable or both as he may have against an opposing party."

    Sometimes the cases interpreting this rule (or its federal counterpart) look to see whether there is a "common nucleus of operative facts," but that's a very, very broad standard.

    Occasionally there are exceptions in which a court will require dissimilar claims to be brought separately, as when it would unduly prejudice the jury deciding one claim if it heard evidence that pertains only to a different claim. In that situation the party who'd be prejudiced by the joinder can ask the court to split the claims into separate lawsuits via a motion to sever.

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  • What is the deadline to file objection to a Proposed Judgment?

    In Harris County District Courts, after a Proposed Judgment (civil trial with no jury) is submitted, how many days can an opposing party file its objection (is there a deadline) before the judge can sign the final order. If no objection is filed b...

    William’s Answer

    Under either the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the presiding judge can sign a proposed judgment — along with (if requested) findings of fact & conclusions of law, if it was a bench trial with no jury verdict — at any time after the case is decided. As a general rule, there's no requirement that the judge wait even a single day, and depending on the complexity of the case, the local customs & local rules, and the preparedness of the winning side, it's entirely possible and not even uncommon for that to happen. If the winning side hasn't already submitted a proposed judgment, though, the trial judge may give that side a deadline by which it should be submitted, and he/she may or may not include an opportunity for objections beforehand.

    Under both the state and federal rules, though, before the losing side can appeal, it must give the trial court an opportunity to correct any errors in the judgment within a specified number of days after the judgment is signed. Typically those objections are made as part of a motion for new trial, the filing of which triggers slightly different and longer timetables that have to be completed before the losing side can begin its appeal. In general, if you haven't complained about something as part of your motion for new trial, you can't complain about that error on appeal (since you didn't give the trial judge a chance, via motion and objection, to cure the problem before you appealed).

    If you've been proceeding pro se and you lost, this is probably your last best chance to get a lawyer. Formulating the objections in a way that's adequate to set up appeal grounds, and even navigating the various deadline rules, is tough sledding even for a very bright and well-educated non-lawyer.

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