Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thug Zapper or Shock around the Clock

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Houston City Council has approved the use of electric fences by businesses to protect property. (Electric Fence Ordinance Story)The vote on council was 9-5 in favor of the ordinance.

Under the ordinance,

•The electric fence must be surrounded by a regular perimeter fence, with warning signs in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Near homes, the perimeter fence must be a solid barrier to prevent children from poking things through that might touch the charged fence.

•The electric fence must be powered from a 12-volt battery and the current must not exceed 8,000 volts. The current must be pulsating, not continuous.

•The electric fence must be registered with the Houston Fire Department, and first responders should have the ability to shut off the power to the fence.

•The fence cannot be electrified between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., unless the business is closed on weekends or security guards are on the grounds and can deactivate the fence quickly.

I'm curious to hear what you think about the new ordinance.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sealed With A WHAT?

I remember as a kid sending out Valentine Day cards to classmates and receiving them each February. It was always a special thrill when the envelopes also came signed SWAK (Sealed With A Kiss).

I imagine the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rarely receives correspondence with that romantic acronym. But I was shocked to find out it does receive correspondence sealed, or in this case smeared, with human EXCREMENT. This is not the only time it has happened to the highest criminal court in Texas. I'd hate to be the court clerk in charge of opening that mail.

The appeals court sought guidance from the federal court system on how to deal with this type of situation. It seems that the federal courts ALREADY have a rule in place to deal this these type of submissions.

On December 17, 2007, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals entered Miscellaneous Order 07-101.

In four short sections, it sets out a new rule and consequence:
1. Don't send us stuff that constitutes a health hazard.
2. The Clerk of the Court can throw stuff that is a health hazard away without permission from the court. Oh and if you don't know what a health hazard is, here are a few examples: corrosive or dangerous chemicals, blood, food, feces, urine, or other bodily fluids.
3. The Clerk of the Court will maintain a written log of
name, address, and identification numbers of the person who sent the offending material, and a brief description of the item disposed of. I can't wait to see the Freedom of Information Act requests to see THAT list.
4. The Clerk of the Court then gets to send a letter to the sender AND the supervisor of the jail or prison s/he is in, if applicable, telling the sender that any more "treats" like that will get him/her sanctioned by the court. No word on whether the Clerk may return the same generosity and consideration in its letter to the sender.

Believe it or not, this is why I stay on the civil side of the law.