Monday, March 01, 2010

Follow Judge Rickhoff on Facebook

Judge Rickhoff is now active on Facebook - please visit his Facebook page for the latest!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One Year Estate Tax Repeal -- Can Congress Act Before New Year's Eve?

As it stands right now, the current Estate Tax (enacted in 2001) that applies to estates of a certain size ($7 million for families, $3.5 million for individuals) will be repealed on the first day of 2010, only to return in one year's time (01/01/11). In its rebirth on January 1, 2011, the top tax rate will be 55% (today it's 45%) and the exempt amount will be $1,000,000 (right now it's $3,500,000) -- and it will apply to smaller estates (e.g., $1 million for individuals).

However, for this one year -- 2010 -- there'll be no tax rate and no exempt amount, because there will be no Estate Tax unless Congress does something.

Checking the online newsfeeds, Reuters is predicting chaos ("Estate Tax Repeal Seen to Bring Chaos") and the Associated Press is reporting a probable extension of the current law, passed retroactively in January 2010.

Today is the day before the day before Christmas. Already, the Senate declined a House proposal to temporarily extend the current Estate Tax for a two months, to give Congress time to do something more concrete after year's end. Today, there's nothing on the table. What are the chances that President Obama will have something to sign within 10 days time?

There's talk about Congress passing legislation early next year that would apply retroactively. Of course, someone starts talking about retroactive taxation and someone else immediately brings up litigation on its constitutionality.

And, let's not forget that in 2010 -- unless something happens -- some estates that will be required to pay a capital gains tax that has been avoided in past years.

It's going to be an interesting year in probate circles ....

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

San Antonio Holiday Events - December 2009

With the wonders of the web, you can find so much to do over this holiday season - truly something for everyone, and lots of it with free admission!

1. There's a handy calendar tool at VisitSanAntonio.Com -- you plug in the dates, and it gives you back a list of events in the San Antonio area along with detailed information (location, if it's free, etc.). 

2.  Go to HistoricSanAntonio.Com and you'll find a list of events to choose from (including the beautiful Fiesta de las Luminarias). 

3.'s San Antonio page has a nice list -- and some things appear there that might not be on some of the other sites. 

4.  SAEvents.Com is interesting because its home page asks you to pick your interests, and then the site takes you to things you might like -- art, sports, etc.

5.  Finally, the San Antonio Riverwalk has its own events calendar ready for your review online and it covers more than just the confines of the Riverwalk itself.  For example, you can learn about the Cowboy Christmas with Cowboy Santa over the weekend of December 19-20 at the Enchanted Springs Ranch. 

So, even if we didn't get any snow last Friday we remain so blessed to live in this remarkable, wonderful city of ours.  Get out there and find some fun with you and yours!!! Have a happy, happy holiday season!

Image of the Riverwalk at Christmas 2005 - Zereshk, Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Google Builds Free Legal Database at Google Scholar – Is it the New Lexis or Westlaw?

If you access Google and choose its Google Scholar , you can find a remarkable feat: Google has made available not only full opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court, but also those from all the federal district courts and the federal appellate courts, too. No bankruptcy court opinions yet, but you know that is a matter of time.

What is the extent of the Texas law library available at Google Scholar?

As for providing legal research options for the states, all 50 states are represented at Google Scholar --- both their appellate and supreme courts. For Texas, a cursory surf through Google Scholar revealed a plethora of opinions from both the Texas Supreme Court as well as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and many opinions from the various state appellate courts. There’s a lot to be found at Google Scholar, and it’s all for free.

How much does Google already have available?

It’s hard to tell. We couldn’t get any solid feel for how far back in time the precedent reaches (state or federal), much less how fast they update their databases. You also don’t know if the individual case is an unpublished opinion. We did find some cases going back to the 1950s – and Google is nothing if not hard-working and persistent. This time next year, who knows how much will be available to use at the Google Scholar web site.

Of particular note, there are also search results for law review articles and various journal submissions. These are not free, unlike the precedent that Google provides. Usually, you are directed to a site with a synopsis of what the full article provides, and you must paid a small amount to gain access to the complete work.

How do the cases appear?

They are easy to read, and contain hypertext linked in a very user-friendly format. (Case citations within an opinion are cross-linked, for example.) There is also a pseudo-citator (“HowCited”) which seems incomplete right now. It does list precedent as well as secondary sources that mention the particular case, but we can’t confirm its completeness or accuracy here. Clearly it’s no KeyCite or Shepard’s at this point (but given time, that might change).

Does it compare to Lexis or Westlaw?

Time will tell and you will have to be the judge on this one – as of today, a clearer comparison seems to be with Justia or Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. Who knows about tomorrow?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

Here's hoping that everyone has a nice, safe, festive and fun Thanksgiving this year.  And since this blog is dedicated to providing helpful information, here's the Turkey Day NFL Football schedule:

Green Bay at Detroit is on FOX at 11:30 A.M. CST 
Oakland at Dallas is on at CBS at 3:15 P.M. CST
NY Giants at Denver is on NFL Network at 7:20 P.M. CST

Monday, November 16, 2009

30th Annual Raul Jimenez Thankgiving Dinner Focuses on Seniors

It's hard to believe that this year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner, although it is undoubtedly true that the Jimenez Dinner is a San Antonio tradition of which we can all be proud. 

Back in 1979, Raul Jimenez started his annual Turkey Day bash with a focus toward senior citizens in the local community who otherwise wouldn't have a Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe they couldn't afford it.  Maybe they were alone and couldn't handle all the effort of preparation.  This year, the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner is expected to serve over 25,000 senior citizens (along with anyone else who would like to come).

For those of you who haven't participated in a Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner Event (and these are events, held down at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center), you don't know what you're missing. 

The atmosphere is a happy one.  The place is decorated with bright colors -- there are streamers, and balloons and tablecloths covered with placemats made by local schoolchildren.  There are long tables and hundreds and hundreds of chairs....

It's not a quiet place, either. There is the sound of live music -- a number of bands will play during the day -- along with a constant hum of human chatter and children laughing.  Elderly couples move slowly on the dance floor, and volunteers of all shapes and sizes move along the tables, refreshing tea and soda glasses or perhaps bringing over a second slice of pie. 

There are few occasions where a true sense of camaraderie and community exists in today's society -- and the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner is a wonderful experience.

And it's a truly great news to report that the Volunteer Roster is already full according to the official Jimenez website.  What a wonderful thing that says about our city!!!!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Recodification of Texas Probate Code Can Be Followed Online as the New Texas Estates and Guardianship Code is Revealed

The Texas Legislative Council has undertaken the huge job of revising the Texas Probate Code -- nonsubstantively.  The Probate Code Revision Project is headed by TLC's Maria Breitschopf, and if you have any comments or questions about the Project, you can call her at (512) 463-1155 or write her at P.O. Box 12128, Austin, Texas 78711.

What's Going to Happen to the Texas Probate Code as we know it?

First, it's being reorganized not rewritten.  Currently, TLC envisions recodifying the current Texas Probate Code.  Meetings will be held periodically during the entirety of the process with probate law experts as the project progresses. 

Why Are They Doing This?

The TLC has undertaken this task because they're required to do so by the Texas Legislature.  Section 323.007 of the Texas Government Code mandates a complete nonsubstantive revision of the Texas statutes.

Proposed "Texas Estates and Guardianship Code" Chapters Available for Review Online

The TLC has published proposed chapters that can be read online or downloaded in either Word or .pdf formats.  Currently, Title 1 (General Provisions) and Title 2 (Estates of Decedents) are available.