Teen deaths from auto accidents on the decline

By: Benny Agosto, Jr.

While car crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 15 and 19, a recent report by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm indicates that the rate of teen fatalities due to auto accidents is falling—and drastically. In the report, “Miles to Go: Monitoring Progress in Teen Driver Safety,” the statistics show a 46 percent decline in teen driver fatalities in crashes between 2005 and 2010, from 2,399 deaths to 1,305. Also, deaths among passengers declined 41 percent, from 1,777 deaths to 1,022.

As hopeful as such statistics are, however, the main problem still remains: teen deaths in auto accidents continue to occur. Additionally, 30 percent of seriously injured teen drivers and passengers in 2009 and 2010 sustained head injuries, including concussions, skull fractures, and traumatic brain injuries.

The fatality rates of teen deaths were evaluated at a state-by-state basis, and the report found a significant variation in those rates. In 2009 and 2010, these fatality rates ranged from 3.9 deaths per 100,000 teens in Massachusetts to 29.1 per 100,000 teens in Montana. The researchers found a correlation between the states having the lowest fatality rates and their implementation of comprehensive Graduated Drivers Licensing programs (or “GDL” programs), a program which Texas employs. A GDL is defined as one that includes at least 50 hours of adult-supervised driving practice, as well as other limitations and restrictions on teen drivers, and that is designed to introduce driving privileges in phases that keep teens out of high-risk situations. The report notes that programs and policies focused on GDL are proven effective strategies for preventing crashes that cause these deaths and injuries.

Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend in Houston, Texas. For over 60 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. For more information, please contact the office of Benny Agosto, Jr. at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, by letter 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone (713) 222-7211.

2012 Supreme Court Cases Will Have Direct Effect on Latinos

By:  Benny Agosto

The upcoming U.S. Supreme Court docket will force the court to decide on issues that could have a major effect on Latinos.   The topics at issue range from redistricting in Texas, immigration laws and President Obama’s national health care law.

“These issues, taken together, may drastically change the way in which Hispanics go about their daily lives in the sense that voting trends may be hampered, access to affordable healthcare may be fleeting, and state immigration laws may have the effect of exclusion for many Hispanics,” says Houston Attorney and President of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), Benny Agosto, Jr.

The Supreme Court will attempt to resolve a Texas redistricting case which involves a San Antonio court-drawn map that was favorable to Democrats and could have received three favorable districts because of Hispanic voters, compare to just one for Republicans.  The new map could help the Republican Party keep control of the House of Representatives.  The Supreme Court is set to rule on the issue in early-2012.

“This is a very important issue because redistricting concerns how the states draw up their congressional districts,” Agosto says.  “If they’re democratically leaning – while Texas is pretty staunchly Republican – that should be reflected.  The HNBA is bipartisan, but we will stand shoulder to shoulder with voters on their rights.”

The Supreme Court will also take up the issue of the government mandated health care bill, The Affordable Care Act, passed by the Obama administration.  If the GOP succeeds in getting the health care law overturned, however, it may very well affect their standing within the Hispanic community.

Stephen A. Nuno, assistant professor at Northern Arizona University believes “[Hispanics] will remember which party tried to limit their access to resources and which party tried to limit their representation . . . Latinos have a long memory.”

Additionally, the Supreme Court will rule on recent immigration laws passed in South Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Utah and Alabama.  The Supreme Court has previously ruled in favor of defending state rights unless a federal law clearly limits a state’s involvement in a certain area.

But regardless of how the court rules, it is clear that their decisions will have a widespread impact on the Latino community.

“But Your Honor, He’s an Illegal”–Ruled Inadmissible and Prejudicial: Can the Undocumented Worker’s Alien Status Be Introduced at Trial?

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The American Bar Association Honors HNBA Scholar Sarah E. Redfield

The ABA Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Education Pipeline awarded the Fourth Annual Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Award to HNBA member Professor Sarah E. Redfield in recognition of her exemplary leadership in pipeline work.  The award honors those demonstrating success working along the educational pipeline in a collaborative approach involving more than one segment of the continuum from preschool to high school to college to law school to the practice.

Professor Redfield is a tenured member of the faculty at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.  Professor Redfield’s expertise is in issues related to diversity of the legal profession. She is a nationally known author and speaker. Her bibliography includes Diversity Realized: Putting the Walk with the Talk for Diversity in the Pipeline to the Legal Profession and The Education Pipeline to the Professions: Programs that Work to Increase Diversity. She recently authored the lead article for the third edition of the HNBA Journal of Policy and Law, “Hispanics and the Pipeline to the Legal Profession: a.k.a. Lawyers Don’t Do Math,” which highlights significant issues affecting the number of Hispanics in the legal profession despite much attention to given to “diversity” efforts within the profession.

A founder and organizer of the Diversity Pipeline Collaborative (formerly Wingspread), Prof. Redfield brings together law schools and others focused on improving the educational pipeline from preschool to the legal profession.  Professor Redfield’s other work with diversity and educational pipeline issues includes serving as a Member of the ABA Presidential Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline and chair of its Education Sub Committee; Member of the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness and member of its Early Pipeline and US News & World Report Subcommittees; a Member of CLEO’s Board of Directors; and a Member of the University of California at Irvine Saturday Academy of Law Oversight and Curriculum Committees (an organization devoted to providing high school students from underrepresented communities with the skills and tools they need to successfully pursue careers in law).

Professor Redfield wrote, “I’ve long been interested in social justice and social change… I’m particularly interested in the role the law does, can, and should (or should not) play in these arenas.  Law students and lawyers are blessed with an education that enables them to understand and analyze complex situations. I’m particularly interested in the role lawyers play in using their skills to help those individuals or groups who do not have adequate information to understand or participate fully in our system of government.”

HNBA National President Benny Agosto said, “We are incredibly proud that Professor Redfield’s many accomplishments, including those on behalf of the Latino community, are recognized by the ABA’s award.”

Benny Agosto, Jr. selected as Guest Speaker for JAG Luncheon in San Antonio

The U.S. Army South Office of the Staff Judge Advocate hosted its quarterly San Antonio Joint Base Judge Advocate General luncheon at the Fort Sam Houston Golf Course. Hispanic National Bar Association President and trial attorney, Benny Agosto, Jr., was selected as the guest speaker for the fall event.  Mr. Agosto discussed the HNBA’s Veteran’s Initiative Program and its primary focus on providing pro bono legal services to veterans and the women and men of our armed forces.  Pictured is Mr. Agosto (right) speaking to Capt. Armando G. Rancano, international and operational law attorney, U.S. Army South (center) and Air Force Col. Eric Bee, staff judge advocate, 24th Air Force (left).





Hispanic National Bar Association Addresses New York Times Piece on ABA Ratings and Obama Prospects for Judgeships

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the New York Times published a piece on the impact of the American Bar Association (ABA) ratings on the President’s list of candidates for federal judgeships. The article highlights the number of potential judicial nominees designated as “not qualified,” the number of those with this designation belonging to a minority group, and the impact this has on the need to fill judicial vacancies.

“We commend Charlie Savage for opening a conversation on an inscrutable process the ABA relies on to vet candidates. His efforts reveal an important need for a more in-depth conversation about the disproportionately negative impact on minorities,” stated Benny Agosto, Jr., HNBA National President.

The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary evaluates the professional qualifications of all nominees to the Supreme Court of the United States, circuit courts of appeals, district courts (including territorial district courts) and the Court of International Trade. It is tasked with executing a peer-review process to achieve impartial evaluations of the integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament of nominees for the federal judiciary.

“With respect to the impact these evaluations have on the process, the ABA’s political influence in the area of judicial nominations is largely pre-textual; Senators inclined to oppose a nominee point to a suboptimal appraisal, Senators inclined to support ignore it. Still, it is an unfortunate stigma we ought to work through. HNBA is strictly nonpartisan, which extends to our work on judicial nominations. We commend the Obama administration for terrific leadership on the nomination of superior Latino judicial candidates,” stated Robert Raben, Chair of the HNBA Committee on Judicial Endorsements.

Journalists Decide Against the Words “Illegal Immigrant”

Journalists Decide Against the Words “Illegal Immigrant”

The Society of Professional Journalists (“SPJ”) decided recently to urge the profession to cease using the phrases “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” in favor of the term “undocumented.”  At the New Orleans convention where 7,800-member SPJ passed its resolution on a voice vote, SPJ member (and member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists), Rebecca Aguilar argued that the term insulted Latino immigrants who had been undocumented at some point.

SPJ President-Elect Sonny Albarado, projects editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, said that he hopes that the resolution makes a statement about being sensitive to language.  “I hope it shows people that journalists are concerned about being accurate when they refer to people, plus I hope it helps shape the discussion.” Albarado said.

The resolution urges journalists to drop the phrases “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” in part because under the Constitution, which also applies to non-citizens, the accused is presumed innocent and only a court can determine when a person has violated the law.  The resolution also noted that the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the pejorative use of these terms to describe an estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

Ninth Circuit Decision Reinforces Rights of Undocumented Workers

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a long-time advocate for the Latino community, has been a fixture in the Ninth Circuit for over a decade defending undocumented workers’ legal rights. In March of this year, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, Thomas A. Saenz, argued before the 11-judge en banc panel on behalf of the plaintiffs, Comité de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach and the National Day Laborers Organization Network (NDLON), challenging the City of Redondo Beach’s anti-solicitation ordinance. Guided by “well-established principles of First Amendment law”, the Court found the ordinance failed to meet the elements of the Supreme Court’s “time, place and manner test.” The Ninth Circuit, in a 9-2 decision, stood firmly in support of the First Amendment rights of undocumented workers by finding the ordinance a “facially unconstitutional restriction on speech.”

The Redondo Beach ordinance prohibited individuals from soliciting or attempting to solicit employment or business to a motor vehicle occupant while standing on a street or highway. Redondo Beach Municipal Code §3-7.1601(a). As a result, the ability of a day laborer to provide for their family by looking for day labor jobs is completely restricted.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision gives a firm foothold to the speech rights of undocumented workers across the country whose voices are being stifled by similar ordinances. Saenz expressed in a comment on the ruling, “the longstanding principle that the right of free speech belongs to everyone has been significantly bolstered by this decision.” Echoing Saenz’s sentiments, Pablo Alvarado, NDLON’s Executive Director, calls the victory one “achieved by humble people for everyone.” In the constant struggle to define the constitutional rights of undocumented workers, the Hispanic legal community must lead the charge to not allow our brothers and sisters to be taken advantage of.

Prioritization of Immigration Enforcement: An Effective Use of Federal Resources

By Benny Agosto, Jr.

Immigration has become a hotbed of discussion amongst Americans and politicians alike. With more than 10 million undocumented workers in the United States, it’s unrealistic to try and deport such a tremendous number. So, the President has focused his attention to developing an immigration solution that effectively meets the country’s security and economic needs. To do so, the Administration has created a strategy to utilize government resources in a way that puts national security and public safety at the forefront—prioritizing immigration enforcement.

While speaking at the Hispanic National Bar Association Annual Convention in Dallas earlier this month, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, stated the Administration’s position very clearly. The Department of Homeland Security has made the removal of those who have been convicted of a crime in the United States the top priority. Through the direction of the President, the DHS removed 79,000 more convicted criminals in 2010 than in 2008. By directing their attention to target the deportation of criminals who have been convicted of serious crimes, as opposed to those who are low priority cases, enforcement resources are used more effectively.

Currently, the deportation caseload is being reviewed on a case by case basis to identify those that have been convicted of a crime and those that pose a security risk to the nation. Such a process will cover a wide array of individuals, including those brought into the U.S. as small children, military veterans, and even the spouses of active duty military personnel. To determine priority of these cases, the Department of Justice and the DHS will use common sense guidelines and consider a person’s ties and contributions to the community, familial relationships and even military service records.

This approach not only tailors immigration enforcement to where it is needed most, but is a firm step toward Congress and the Administration mending the immigration system.