“Justice of peace has immunity over spankings” from today’s Houston Chronicle.

State District Judge Abel Limas issued the ruling after a one-hour hearing involving Los Fresnos families complaining of spankings in Justice of the Peace Gustavo “Gus” Garza’s courtroom. Limas said they cannot recover damages in a civil suit filed against Garza.

The lawsuit alleges that Garza told a 14-year-old girl’s stepfather that she would be found guilty of a criminal offense and fined $500 for truancy unless the stepfather spanked her in the courtroom. The lawsuit filed by Mary Vasquez and her husband, Daniel Zurita, described the paddle provided by Garza as large and heavy and fashioned from a thick piece of lumber.

“The freedom of decision is part of the judicial system,” said Limas, who presides over the 404th state District Court, the Brownsville Herald reported Friday in an online edition.

Here’s the Brownsville Herald article.

The Onion’s Legal Coverage

That image of a judge demanding to witness corporal punishment in the courtroom is only slightly more dignified than the Onion’s coverage of the Supreme Court’s Baze v. Rees decision, in which it upheld the legality of the method of capital punishment used by most states.

I won’t embed the video here (you can find it on Sophistic Miltonian Serbonian Blog), and it’s not for anyone who would have been offended by George Carlin’s seven dirty words. But what’s striking (to me, as an appellate geek) is how effectively the Onion subverted the very devices that the Court uses to shield the “dignity” of its oral arguments. The dignified courtroom drawings (because the Court prohibits video) were turned into cartoonish grotesques. The written transcript of the argument (which is often all the court releases on argument day) itself becomes a punch line.

Insurance Disclosure Rules

“Texas Supreme Court to decide on lawyer disclosure proposal: Proposed rule would compel lawyers to tell clients whether they have malpractice insurance”, from today’s Austin American-Statesman.

Are there lawyers who currently advertise this as a way to draw clients? Are there clients who choose lawyers based on their malpractice carrier or limits? I’ve just never seen ads of that nature. (Would such ads even be allowed?) If the market doesn’t demand (or even reward) this, does that say anything about the information’s value to the process of choosing lawyers?

Legal malpractice insurers estimate that at least half of all Texas lawyers — and about two-thirds of sole practitioners — don’t have insurance. That leaves clients who been harmed by malpractice without much recourse.

This makes more sense. “At least half of all Texas lawyers” is a bunch of new customers.