A Houston federal Judge has handed down a staggering punishment to a Houston Real Estate Developer.
The lesson for Houston’s real estate community. Don’t rip off ideas.
Houston Real Estate Developer Vinod Ramani and his company Urban Living were found liable for ripping off a competitor’s copyrighted material thousands of times.
Ramani and his company, Urban Living, were given a stunning court judgment of $28,790,000 today by Judge David Hittner.
Ramani and his company have to pay all of that huge punishment to Preston Wood and Associates, the Houston residential design firm he stole from. And they have to pay 2.67 percent interest too.
The jury in the case found that Ramani had violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a complex law that keeps people from taking your ideas and making money with them.
Ramani and Urban Living broke this law more than 11,500 times, and the real estate community has been waiting to see how much money he would have to hand over.
The punishment for each violation ranged from $2,500 to $25,000.
Maybe Ramani got off easy.
Ramani could have been smacked with damages as high as $280 million. It will still be devastating for Ramani’s future.
Ramani tried to claim that he should only be fined in the thousands. The court didn’t agree to that slap on the wrist and held him fully accountable.
Urban Living had claimed they owned the rights to many architectural works used in projects around Houston. The court decided otherwise. The rights belonged to Preston Wood and Associates.
This court judgment is sure to rock the Houston real estate community. No word yet if Ramani plans to appeal.RAMANI FINAL JUDGMENT
On Election Night, Harris County voters sent a clear message to the Judges of the Family Courts.
Remember the victims in divorce cases. Remember the children whose lives are turned upside down. They are more important than the lawyer’s invoices.
Democrats swept the judicial races, but the margins were especially noticeable for 308th District Judge James Lombardino. His failures to disclose conflicts of interests with some family lawyers was unforgivable.
Melanie Flowers was rejected as a Judge in the 257 th District Court. In the days before the election, her role in a contentious Houston divorce case came under fire.
A credit union called for an investigation of Flowers after they busted her using a high priced luxury car she was allowed to hold onto by Lombardino’s court only as collateral.
Victims of Family Injustice have turned to Dolcefino Consulting to launch investigations at the courthouse to level the playing field, expose conflicts of interest, question relationships that tilt the scale of justice.
In the final weeks, before they turn in their robes, some of these departing Judges can do a lot of damage, providing favors to the lawyers they may seek jobs from or cases to sustain them in their next chapter.
We will be watching. We will also be watching to see what lawyers funded the Judges coming on to the bench.
This is a time to finish the clean-up, to end the stain. Sadly, the conduct of the last few years may convince others they can find another weak judicial link. We stand ready to help our clients expose that too.
Tuesday’s election proved something else. We should not elect Judges on a partisan basis.
We lost some good honest, ethical Judges last night.
Judge David Farr comes to mind. A Family District Court Judge who had called out lawyer misconduct. He shouldn’t lose an election because he is an R or a D. It happens too often.
Tell your legislators we need to end the partisan election of Judges. We need to find the best legal and ethical minds to be the arbitrators of justice in our courts.
The victims of Family Injustice deserve it.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton needs to recuse himself on the important public records fight heading to the 7th Court of Appeals Wednesday, November 7th in Amarillo.
Dolcefino Consulting has been battling with Texas Tech to get them to finally release public records detailing the firing of former Coach Mike Leach. Leach wants the $2.5 million dollars he is still owed. The controversy continues to cast a shadow over the University.
Texas Tech didn’t like it when a Lubbock Judge told them he could handle the fight. The University wants the Attorney General to decide whether Tech has to release public documents to Dolcefino Consulting that they’ve been hiding from you for nine years.
Here’s the problem. Paxton should be the referee in public hearing cases until he takes a side. Well, guess what? Paxton is siding with Texas Tech to keep secrets from the public. He shouldn’t now be asked to rule on any requests for public information from Tech.
You can’t have it both ways Mr. Paxton!
Tech is a public University. Their records should be public and completely transparent, but Tech has fought our requests tooth and nail, which makes you wonder what Tech is really hiding nine years later. What are they so afraid of?
Dolcefino Consulting will be at a hearing in front of the Texas Appeals Court in Amarillo on Wednesday. This case is a big deal, because it could have significant impact on transparency and what public entities must share with YOU.
Ken Paxton needs to recuse himself from this case. He needs to do the right thing for sake of the public right to know. He should be on your side in this fight, not part of the conspiracy to hide the whole truth.
We often ask our government to protect us from stuff. Take the Texas Radiation Control Board, they make sure we don’t get more radiation than we’re supposed to get when we go to the dentist.
But you now government, give them an inch and they take a mile.
Texas dentists have been sounding the alarm about the state x-ray inspectors. They used to make an appointment, but now they have started showing up unannounced. How would you like to be stuck in the dentist’s chair in the middle of a root canal when that happens?
When dentists complain they get fined. A Magnolia Doctor Eric Sanders told inspectors to come back when he wasn’t busy and got a $4,000 fine. Now the State is going after a supposed conspiracy to interfere with their work.
The Department of State Health Services claims a radiation equipment inspection company called RSI told dental clients not to admit inspectors into their clinics when the inspectors showed up unannounced. DSHS is trying to fine RSI with a $20,000 administrative fine!
On Wednesday, November 7 th , there will be a showdown in Austin, a formal hearing before a Texas Administrative law judge.
We expect a roomful of dentists will show up because they have had enough and are fighting back. They say they are fed up with inspectors showing up at their office anytime they feel like, regardless if the dentist has a waiting room full of patients or not. Why don’t these inspectors have rules and procedures they are supposed to be following when “scheduling” these inspections. Or do they and are just ignoring it?
And what’s all the fuss about dental x-ray machines?
Dolcefino Consulting can’t find a single case where any Texas dental patient has been exposed to more dental x-ray radiation than they are supposed to be.
“You get more radiation at the airport on a trip from Houston to New York,” says Dr. Eric Sanders.
“I thought this was Texas where we don’t like wasteful government regulation,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Is this about safety or is this about money.”
The Radiation Control Board budget was $9 million dollars this year. In the last year the State has collected over $600 thousand dollars in fines, virtually all of it for paperwork stuff.
We will be in Austin Wednesday to see what happens. If you must reschedule an appointment because your dentist got parlayed by unannounced inspections, can you send a bill to the State of Texas?
Didn’t think so.
Mayor Sylvester Turner doesn’t have time for this whole democracy thing.
We haven’t even voted yet on the Fair Pay for Firefighter Proposition B thing yet, and the Mayor already has an item on the November 7th council agenda to hire lawyers to possibly sue over it.
Guess he suspects it will pass? Guess he also doesn’t care about the will of Houstonians?
Turner wants Houston City Council to authorize up to $1.3 million dollars for the law firm that would sue to overturn the will of the voters if you disappoint the Mayor.
Oh. Did we mention the firm is Norton Rose Fulbright? Maybe you didn’t notice, that the treasurer of the Anti-firefighter PAC Protect Houston is Neil Thomas, who is a Partner in the Law Firm.
The Protect Houston PAC was advertised as a group of bipartisan folks, but when you look at the money, about a third comes from the Mayor’s political campaign, and a bunch more from the Mayor’s downtown business buddies and from Houston cops, who apparently think they are bigger heroes than firefighters or work harder or something like that.
“I suppose the Mayor would say he’s just being proactive, but at some point, this petty vindictiveness nonsense must stop,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
The Mayor has spent the better part of the last year trying to deny firefighters their pay in the ballot box, and now that they won the right to have you vote the Mayor doesn’t seem satisfied with the notion that you are smart enough to decide what you want to do.
The Mayor hasn’t taken us up on our offer to help the City find ways to cut unnecessary spending ABSOLUTELY FREE. Maybe he’s been too busy getting his City Hall lawyers to keep public records a secret or getting mad at reporters for daring to question disaster contracts.
Dolcefino Consulting has now asked to see records detailing the $7 million-dollar legal deal his former law partner Barry Barnes just got in a hurricane disaster relief contract.
We have a big thank you for Mayor Turner. When Dolcefino Consulting President Wayne Dolcefino was the investigative reporter at Channel 13, he just hated him. Now it seems Sly has moved on to a new journalistic target. He now hates the station’s current investigative reporter, Ted Oberg.
At least he’s consistent.
We can’t imagine why he’s mad at Ted. At a City Hall news conference that is must-see TV, Turner accused Oberg of being some sort of biased political operative. Actually Mayor, Ted is only calling you out because your political deals stink.
Mayor Turner wanted a Virginia company to get a $35 million Hurricane Harvey victim housing contract even though the company has been sued by the State of Louisiana for messing up the Hurricane Katrina cleanup. Louisiana politicians call them the “crème de crème” of awful. Can he be mad about that?
Oh, we know why he’s sore. Channel 13 dared to question the familiar folks riding the political gravy train on hurricane relief, especially the lawyer the out of town folks are going to use.
It’s Barry Barnes, the Mayor’s former law partner – and get this:
When the contract proposal was reviewed by a City Council committee, Barnes’ firm stood to make about $2 million. Suddenly, in the few weeks before City Council acted, somebody decided they needed a bunch more legal work than they had originally thought. The new sticker price? $7 million.
Turner points out that his buddy Barry got contracts from government before he was Mayor. He’s absolutely right. Remember that Barry Barnes’ partner was then State Representative Sylvester Turner and their law firm got paid millions of your tax dollars. We are sure it was just qualifications and not buying political influence.
The Mayor tells us he doesn’t tell contractors who to choose to help on city hall contracts, so maybe this Virginia based disaster relief company just got lucky. I bet they had no idea who Barry Barnes was – maybe they just liked his firm website.
Have you noticed the Mayor gets really cranky when you question the way he’s spending our money?
We are going to ask for all the records that explain how the Barry Barnes piece of the pie exploded in recent weeks.
We will bet you Mayor Turner will fight it. He will try to hide the records. Use City of Houston lawyers to fight it in court. That’s what he does.
Maybe now we know why he seems to hate firefighters so much. They dared to question.
Mayor – don’t blame Ted. Look in the mirror.
A Houston credit union is calling for an investigation into a candidate for Family District Court Judge.
The election eve controversy swirls around attorney Melanie Flowers, running for Judge in the 257th Family District Court in Harris County.
Flowers was allowed to hold on to an expensive Land Rover as collateral to make sure she got her pricey legal fees paid from a divorce case in Judge James Lombardino’s court.
Here’s the problem. She got busted driving the car around.
The Baylor College of Medicine Federal Credit Union financed the car and fought hard to get the vehicle back – keeping it out of Flowers’ hands. After the court denied their request to give the car back to the lienholder, the credit union was able to track the car with GPS and uncovered Melanie Flowers was using the Land Rover for her own personal use. She drove it 1200 miles in just one month!
The credit union even tailed Flowers and got some damaging pictures of Flowers in the luxury SUV trying to hide her face from the investigator.
“If she didn’t do anything wrong then why is she covering her face?” said Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting, “Voters need to send a message next Tuesday that this conduct is unacceptable.”
Flowers claimed she only drove the car to try and find someone to buy it, but the pictures and the GPS prove otherwise. Flowers filed a motion to get out of the case the same day the credit union filed a motion in court to show the Judge the pictures.
Mayor Turner has tried to hide records of his controversial recycling contracts for nearly two years. The First Court of Appeals has now dealt his secrecy a major blow.
Turner had chosen to ignore a ruling by State District Judge Kristen Hawkins to show her the e-mails City Hall wanted to hide from the public. Now the case goes back to the same judge.
The e-mails will chronicle the Mayor’s efforts to deny ECOHUB the contract to recycling all of the city’s garbage. The company had promised to save the City millions and share profits to help pay for Houston firefighter pay raises.
“The Court of Appeals ruling proves what we felt all along, the City’s appeal was a meritless waste of taxpayer funds strategically designed to throw a wrench into the trial court’s laudable efforts to promote the public right to know,” says Stewart Hoffer of the law firm of Hicks Thomas.
Dolcefino Consulting already has e-mails showing City Garbage Boss Harry Hayes soliciting a foreign company, FCC, to come to town to build a recycling plant even while the City was finalizing a contract with ECOHUB. ECOHUB envisioned the end of expensive landfills and had 800 million dollars in private money to build a plant to convert trash into new products. There are other e-mails detailing Turner’s efforts to kill the contract.
“We can now go back to the business of unmasking what really happened behind the scenes on the City’s approach to the ECOHUB deal,” says Hoffer.
“Mayor Turner needs to come clean today. He is wasting tax dollars that we can use to give our firefighters the fair pay they deserve,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “This Mayor has made a mockery of the public right to know.”
Dolcefino Consulting also wants the Mayor to release a detailed account of the companies and consultants making money on the FCC deal.
“I have said for months this deal stinks worse than the garbage in your trashcan”, says Dolcefino. “Remember the Mayor now says we can’t afford to give our firefighters the pay they deserve because we don’t have the money. The only one to blame for that is Mayor Turner.”
The Mayor’s “Protect Houston PAC” is working overtime to pad its coffers to try to get you to vote to deny Houston firefighters fair pay as first responders.
New campaign reports are out, and the money is staggering. The “Protect Houston PAC” raised a whopping $930,000 in just thirty days, nearly a million dollars.
Nearly one third of the money is funneled from Mayor Sylvester Turner’s political campaign, exposing this vindictive campaign for what it is. Since the PAC was formed back in July, Turner’s campaign has donated $380,537.50. Another notable “donation” came from the Houston Police Officer’s Union. They gave a hefty $50,000. This comes after the Mayor promised them a pay raise while saying the City would essentially go broke if firefighters got a big raise.
“Today’s filings show you how far Mayor Turner is willing to go to make sure Houston firefighters don’t get the fair and adequate pay they have earned. What kind of Mayor pits cops against firefighters to make a political point,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
The rest of the money comes mostly from Houston developers and engineering firms. Nice.
The Mayor, we mean Protect Houston PAC has hundreds of thousands of dollars more to spend in the next week.
That’s the group that put the anti-Prop B sign on the hallowed ground where five Houston firefighters died. The Mayor has yet to apologize. You can see who else gave money to diss the firefighters on Dolcefino.com.ProtectHoustonPAC_campaignreport