Community Service

image depicting volunteersCommunity Service is Important

I know this is a legal blog or “blawg” as some like to say, but there are things as important to us as practicing law. One of those is performing community service.  Early in our careers we were members of the Downtown Dallas Kiwanis Club. We met a lot of great people and raised many for some great causes.

Michelle served as President of the Junior League of Longview. Again, that is a great organization and helps a lot of people.

Recently, however, we became involved in our children’s schools. First, Michelle as a PTA member and officer. I became involved when I agreed to serve as a member of a school board appointed committee to study the needs of the school district and make recommendations for a potential bond. While serving on this committee, I came to realize the importance of being involved in my community.  I have since become involved booster clubs,  a PAC dedicated to excellence in the schools, and the school’s Education Foundation.  Some of my best friends have been made while working together to serve others.

Others have recognized the importance of being involved as a volunteer as follows:

No matter how big and powerful government gets, and the many services it provides, it can never take the place of volunteers.
Ronald Reagan

We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.
Winston Churchill

Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Living is the art of loving. Loving is the art of caring. Caring is the art of sharing. Sharing is the art of living.
If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
Booker T. Washington

This is not an advertisement for any particular service organization or need. There are many opportunities to serve, from church to service organizations, school foundations and booster clubs. The important thing is to find your niche and get involved. The personal rewards from helping others are endless.

East Texas Attorneys Chris Jones is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Michelle Jones is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law .  Please contact us, Jones & Jones, Attorneys at Law, at 888-236-4878 or contact us by email.

Rules of Evidence in Jury Trials

If you have ever served on a jury or watched trials on television, you have seen lawyers object to evidence that the jury was not allowed to see. It raises the question in the jury’s mind of “why they are keeping information from us if the trial is about truth and justice”. The answer to this question lies in the rules of evidence. The Texas Rules of Evidence state that ” [t]hese rules shall be construed to secure fairness in administration, elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay, and promotion of growth and development of the law of evidence to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.” The Federal Rules of Evidence have a similar purpose.

LIABILITY INSURANCE

One issue that seems to come up in voir dire is insurance. The rules state that “[e]vidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible upon the issue whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully.” Rule 11. There are circumstances where the existence of insurance coverages is allowed in evidence, but the general assumption by Defendants is that the jury is more likely to find liability if they know the Defendant is insured. Watch the lawyers in the courtroom freeze when insurance is mentioned by a witness, jury panel member or anyone. In fact, courts will go so far as to prevent the lawyers from asking if anyone works for an insurance company during voir dire – hence the question “is anyone involved in the claims handling process”.

CHARACTER EVIDENCE

Character Evidence is another area that can cause a fight “outside the presence of the jury”. Rule 404 provides ” [E]vidence of a person’s character or character trait is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion”. In other words, the jury should not find that a person or entity is guilty of a wrongful act on a particular occasion on the basis that they had done it before. Character evidence may be admissible if it is a habit or to prove defect in a product where there have been other similar instances.

SUBSEQUENT REMEDIAL MEASURES

After an accident, the defendant may take measures that, if taken before the accident, would have made the injury or harm less likely to occur. Although there are circumstances where such measures are admissible, Rule 407 provides that evidence of the subsequent remedial measures is not admissible to prove negligence, culpable conduct, a defect in product, a defect in product’s design, or a need for a warning or instruction. The rationale behind the rule is that you do not want to penalize or prevent a Defendant from doing what is necessary to prevent others from being injured.

OPINIONS AND EXPERT TESTIMONY

Rule 702 seems like a simple rule: “[i]f scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise.” In cases involving experts, huge amounts of time are spent dealing with whether an expert should be allowed to testify. Ultimately, it is up to the jury to decide whether to believe an expert, but case-law requires the Court to act as a gatekeeper and examine the qualifications of an expert and the opinions they are giving before allowing them to testify.

Obviously, there are many Rules of Evidence, but these are examples of areas that may come up during a trial that require the court to dismiss the jury to the jury room so that rulings can be made.

It may seem that the Court and lawyers are wasting the jury’s time or hiding evidence from the jury, but what they are doing is following the rules in an effort to see that “the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.”  In you are on a jury, simply follow the Court’s instructions, require the other jurors to do the same, and justice should be served.

If you are in need of an experienced  Personal Injury or Labor and Employment Lawyer in East Texas or local counsel in Gregg County or the Eastern District of Texas,  please contact Chris Jones or Michelle Jones, Jones & Jones, Attorneys at Law, at 888-236-4878 or contact us by email.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello was the inspiration for the design of our new offices.    If you have ever built a home or office, you know that one of the most difficult steps is tho decide upon an initial design. We love history and have a great deal of admiration for Thomas Jefferson. Upon having the idea of building an office to reflect Thomas Jefferson, it became and easy choice.

Most everyone knows Jefferson as principal author of the Declaration of Independence and former President of the United States.   Jefferson was a lawyer, spoke five languages and was deeply interested in science, religion and philosophy.  Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, convinced Congress to authorize the funding and building of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase.

Jefferson designed Monticello himself.  Among his other designs are Poplar Forest, his retreat, the Virginia State Capitol and the University of Virgina. Since there were no architecture schools in colonial Virginia,  Jefferson learned architecture from books. His “bible” was Andrea Palladio’s The Four Books of Architecture, which taught him the rules of classical design

For more information concerning Thomas Jefferson and his beautiful home, we recommend visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  If you are designing a new home or office, you may want to look to the past for inspiration.  We are happy we did.

We would also be wise to remember the words of those that founded our country. Great Jefferson Quotes:

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.”

“A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”

“A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.”
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