"Hey, Baby, How 'Bout a Little . . ."
A male supervisor in the Texas Department of Pardons and Paroles backed his
sexual advances to female employees with
threats to their job status. Other supervisors shrugged their shoulders and joined
in a cover-up in response to complaints.
Two women quit their jobs and several
gave in to the clearly illegal coercion, but
the ACLU's client in Barton v. Texas
Department of Pardons and Paroles
decided to fight. Through the efforts of
cooperating attorney Maretta Comfort,
the Department entered into a consent
decree, pledging to: (a) provide monetary
compensation to the ACLU's client; (b)
post notices warning that sexual harassment is illegal; (c) actively discourage
future discriminatory conduct; and (d)
revise its in-house grievance procedures to
assure employees due process (and prevent future cover-ups).
As a result of the ACLU's lawsuit,
Alberti v. Harris County, the County has
begun construction of a new downtown
jail facility, and a federal court order led
to significant improvements in existing
jails and in the criminal courts. The federal court also appointed cooperating
attorneys Jim Oitzinger and Gerald Birnberg as ombudsman and deputy ombudsman respectively, charging them with
monitoring the county's compliance with
the order. This responsibility will continue for the forseeable future.
Thou Shalt Not Squeal
The Harris County District Attorney's
office fired an employee after she told
news media representatives of job abuses
by County employees in the office of a
judge. Cooperating attorney Xavier Grenas
filed Flynt v. Vance, asking a federal
court for reinstatement and back pay.
Come on Outta That Car, Boy . . .
In a pattern emerging from more than
three dozen complaints to the ACLU, San
Jacinto County sheriff's deputies have
been stopping cars driven by blacks or
young people on US 59 for no reason
other than the hope of finding marijuana.
The cars and their occupants have all
been illegally searched. Those charged
with marijuana possession have frequently been jailed overnight, then taken before a justice of the peace (who does not
have jurisdiction in marijuana cases) and
coerced to plead guilty. They have then
been assessed large fines, sometimes far
exceeding the amount justices of the
peace may lawfully impose. Complaints
have fallen off since cooperating attorney
John Schulman filed Loud v. San Jacinto
County seeking to enjoin these practices
and to secure damages for the victims.
In Black and White
The Revenue Sharing Division of the
Department of Housing and Urban
Development agreed with allegations that
the City of Hearne violated the 14th
Amendment by providing unequal municipal services in predominantly white
neighborhoods. HUD ordered Hearne to
provide black neighborhoods with paved
streets, curbs and gutters, parks, and
numerous other facilities and services
they've been denied. Much of the work
on Anderson v. City of Hearne was done
by then law students, now attorneys Ed
Sargologas and Luro Taylor, with attorney Pat Wiseman.
The House I'd Live In
Two black families signed contracts to
purchase property in a housing development. When the developers learned the
purchasers were black, they rescinded the
contracts and fired the salesperson.
In Beasley v. Landcraft, Inc., cooper
ating attorney Melva Christian seeks damages for the salesperson and the spurned
Short People Got No Reason
Former Houston Police Chief Herman
Short filed a libel suit against Mayor Jim
McConn and the Black Organization for
Leadership Development (BOLD), alleging that campaign literature distributed
by the defendants before the last mayoral
election was defamatory. The literature
graphically depicts Short's alleged racist
tendencies, his support for capital punishment, and his endorsement of candidate
Frank Briscoe, whom McConn defeated.
The ACLU represented BOLD in Short
v. McConn; cooperating attorney Bruce
Fickman contended libel actions by pub-
He officials chill the exercise of protected
tary judgement, the ACLU hopes to stop
the harassment of persons who exercise
their constitutional right to free choice in
reproductive matters. The cooperating
attorney in Schwanecke v. Ali is Jo Ann
Doctor Knows Best
A doctor affiliated with St. Joseph
Hospital filed suit seeking to be appointed guardian of all fetuses who "reside"
in Harris County while in the womb or
born alive as the result of an abortion.
This suit is obviously a poorly camouflaged
effort to undermine the constitutional
privacy right of Harris County residents
to secure abortions. The ACLU prepared to intervene in Application of
Schwanecke, but the suit was promptly
speech. The case was recently settled;
BOLD was held harmless.
Ten-weeks pregnant and seeking an
abortion, a young woman called the first
listing in the Yellow Pages under "Birth
Control Information"-the Abortion
Abuse and Advice Information Service.
However, the information service is in
fact a "right-to-life" front group and the
caller's identity was revealed to an anti-
abortion activist who filed suit seeking
guardianship of the fetus.
Without a hearing or notice to the
pregnant woman, Judge Bill Bear granted
this request. Eileen Brady, the newly-
appointed guardian, proceeded to sue the
pregnant woman and all other similarly-
situated persons with the intent of enjoining all abortions in Harris County.
In Woe v. Bear\ in Application of
Eileen Brady to be appointed guardian of
Jane Doe's Fetus; and in Brady v. Doe,
the ACLU succeeded in having the guardianship dissolved and the injunction dismissed. The ACLU also filed in federal
court seeking to strike down the Texas
guardianship law on the grounds that it
subjects persons to substantial denials of
liberty without notice, hearings or other
due process protection.
The federal suit is pending and a damage action on behalf of the young woman
is contemplated. Cooperating attorney is
Jo Ann Doughtie.
Fetal Effort, II
In the second of what appears to be a
series of frivolous, bad faith lawsuits
against clinics and doctors who perform
abortions in Harris County, the plaintiff
is an anti-abortion advocate who has
asked a state court to issue an order forbidding women from securing abortions.
The plaintiff's theory is that Texas need
not follow the United States Constitution.
Representing most of the defendants in
this case, the ACLU intends to seek a
prompt dismissal, is counterclaiming for
malicious prosecution and asking the
court to order the plaintiff to pay costs
and attorneys fees. By securing a mone-
Stay in the Closet
Gary Van Ooteghem was hired in 1975
as an accountant in the Harris County
Treasurer's office. He was fired later that
year after addressing Harris County Commissioner's Court on the subject of gay
rights. Cooperating attorneys Pat Wiseman and Larry Sauer filed Van Ooteghem
v. Gray, and in a landmark decision this
year the court ruled the county had violated Van Ooteghem's right to free speech.
The court ordered reinstatement and
back pay; the County has appealed.
Transsexuals are required by their doctors to live one year in the role of the
opposite sex before sex reassignment
surgery will be performed. Seven transsexuals who have been arrested and
prosecuted under a city ordinance prohibiting cross-dressing, together with their
physician, have challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance in Jane Doe v.
Hoflieinz. Cooperating attorneys Larry
Sauer, Pat Wiseman and Connie Acosta
hope this ancient class action suit will
finally get to trial.
Nice Girls Don't . . .
A secretary/receptionist for the Galveston County Sheriff's Department was
fired after she announced her pregnancy,
because the County considered it inappropriate for an unmarried employee to
be pregnant. In Ferguson v. Galveston
County, cooperating attorney Maretta
Comfort told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the County's
actions violated the rights to privacy and
equal protection of the ACLU's client.
The County entered into a settlement
agreement, restoring back pay and giving
other monetary damages to the ACLU's
Nice Girls Don't, II
The superiors of a Pasadena police
officer who moved into her fiance's home
about a month before her scheduled wedding to reduce expenses considered the
arrangement immoral; they placed a repri
mand in her personnel file and threatened
to fire her if she didn't find a more acceptable living arrangement pending the wedding. The reprimand was removed and the
threats rescinded in Buchner v. City of
Maggie May Not
Though women have been admitted to
Texas A&M since 1963, it was 11 years
before they were allowed into "The
Corps," A&M's elite military officer training program. Five years later, they're still
unwelcome. The antagonism and discrimination are generally subtle, but as overt
examples, female cadets continue to be
barred, regardless of ability, from participation in highly visible Corps subdivisions,
including the Aggie Band, the Parsons
Mounted Cavalry, and the Ross Volunteers—the official honor guard of the
governor of Texas. In Zetgraph v. Texas
A&M University, a Corps member and future Air Force pilot (barring further discrimination!) seeks an end to all discriminatory practices, with the aid of cooperating attorneys Carol Nelkin and Lamar
Father Knows Best
A 30-year old woman found herself
her father's prisoner after changing her
lifestyle. The father's petition to a probate court, In the Matter of Molinello,
contended his daughter's "bizarre" behavior included meditation, vegetarianism
and divorcing her husband. Without
hearing evidence, and without even notifying the daughter, the court granted the
father's petition to declare the woman
incompetent and appoint the father as
guardian. The father terminated the
guardianship after the ACLU intervened
but cooperating attorneys Burt Moser,
Judy Doran and Annie Garcy are seeking a judgment on behalf of a class of
similarly situated persons, contending
that Texas guardianship procedures violate due process by permitting persons to
be declared incompetent without such
fundamental procedural safeguards as
notice and a hearing.
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
Did you know that you can be involuntarily detained for up to 14 days
in a psychiatric institution without
being brought before a judge, merely because one person—it can be anyone-swears you need treatment? The
ACLU contends that involuntary psychiatric patients are entitled to a prompt
probable cause hearing, so that persons
who are clearly not dangerous to themselves or others can be released immediately. A class action petition In the
Matter of Jane Doe, filed by cooperating
attorney Bill Walker, addresses this and
other problems with the Texas civil
commitment process and its administration in Harris County. State law requires that all persons be represented by
counsel at their commitment hearings,
and that the county appoint attorneys
for indigent patients. But appointed
attorneys in Harris County represent
at least 30 new patients each week.
Given this caseload, many patients are
induced to waive their hearings, and those
who insist on a hearing are often not
It's All in Your Mind*
A patient in a state psychiatric institution on a 90-day commitment, refused
to consent to chemotherapy on the basis
that chemotropic drug treatment frequently produces harmful side effects.
The hospital staff intended to administer the drugs anyway, but abandoned that
intention after cooperating attorney Judy
Doran threatened to file suit In the
Matter of John Doe.