Much like the actual “bike share” bikes themselves, the topic of bike share programs seems to pop up around every corner in Dallas. Let me start by going on record as being pro-bike share.

But not everyone is a fan. Complaints about the bikes seemingly ring from every neighborhood from Oak Cliff to Preston Hollow. Perhaps we have all forgotten how impossible it used to be to bike around Dallas just 10 years ago. Maybe we need to realize this is not our daddy’s Dallas.

Take a drive through Downtown or Uptown on a weekend or, better yet, take a ride on a bike share bike. Look around. There are people biking everywhere. It’s all so beautiful.

Well, except for the bike share bikes themselves.

There are supposedly more than 20,000 bike share bikes currently located in Dallas, more than twice as much as New York City. They are scattered along the sidewalks, often laying on their side and inching over the curb into the street. Head to White Rock Lake and find some drowning in the shallow water near the shore. Make your way to Klyde Warren Park and find them strewn about, turning into a makeshift obstacle course for visitors. Or head to Highland Park and find a dozen parked in the front yard of a luxury home, the hip new alternative to toilet papering houses.

Many argue the bikes have become a nuisance and every Dallasite’s favorite gripe. The residents are declaring war on the two-wheeled invaders clogging their streets and sidewalks. They want laws protecting their city, but no one really knows what those laws should be.

In January, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax issued a letter to LimeBike, Ofo, VBikes, Spin, and Mobike giving a February deadline to clean up their messes. Broadnax threatened the city “may be left with no choice but to begin removing the bicycles in its rights of way, sidewalks, trails and/or trailheads that are identified as obstructions or hazards.” February came and went, and no laws were passed by the City of Dallas to rectify the problem. Instead, during a February 26, 2018 City Hall Meeting, attendees were informed regulations are coming, likely in the fall. So what is the holdup?

Perhaps the City is gauging the success of another major city that is attempting to solve their own bike share headaches.

After Seattle determined public bike share programs with required docking stations failed to encourage potential riders, it shut down its city-owned “Pronto” bike share system and opened its doors to privately owned dockless bike share programs like those in Dallas. Unlike Dallas, before allowing the companies to roll out their bikes, Seattle enacted regulations to govern how they could operate. The regulations require bikes be parked upright in areas of sidewalks with trees, poles, and other fixtures, or on a designated bicycle rack. On blocks without sidewalks, the bikes must be parked in a way that does not impede pedestrian or vehicle traffic. In addition, the bike share companies must provide a contact to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to call for staff to relocate or rebalance bikes within the specified time limits (two hours on weekdays, ten hours on weekends and holidays). The city can assess penalties for their crews having to relocate or remove bikes from any prohibited locations.

Seattle’s regulations were introduced in 2017, and the city is currently reviewing data obtained through the bike share companies and analyzing the success of its current permitting requirements. However, the city has already conceded the parking issues remained the most obvious problem. SDOT spokesperson Mafara Hobson identified problems with holding riders responsible for parking the bikes in improper spots when it could not be proven whether the rider actually parked incorrectly or someone came along later and moved the bike. As of the publishing of this post, SDOT was reviewing its options, and hopeful to have its final parking and storage requirements in place by Summer 2018, coincidentally just before Dallas plans to unveil its plan.

Thus, it appears Dallasites will have to embrace the beauty of bikes scattered among their streets for the foreseeable future while they await their own set of rules and regulations. Perhaps if they squint hard enough, they can imagine the neon bikes as the bright lights of New York City or Las Vegas… both of which actually have bike share regulations.

I have been writing on this blog about how Dallas County juries have shifted over the years from pro-defense to pro-plaintiff, or at least to a point where most prospective jurors in Dallas County don’t necessarily consider lawsuits a bad thing.  In the era of tort reform, this attitude among prospective jurors in Dallas County is very interesting.  My previous posts are here, here, and here.

But why do we care about juries anyway?  There are the constitutional reasons, and the traditions in our legal system that are tied inextricably to the jury trial process.  There are the defenders of the jury trial as the last line of defense against oppression.  And these are good reasons to care about the juries.

But my focus on why juries matter is more practical.  In Texas, juries matter because once a jury renders a verdict it is extraordinarily rare for the jury’s verdict to be overturned.  It happens, but not very often.  This is because legal and factual sufficiency challenges to a jury verdict are judged against very high standards.

The Dallas Court of Appeals just released a decision in Adams v. Bellas affirming a jury verdict where the court went through the standards for legal and factual sufficiency challenges to a jury verdict.

To overturn a jury verdict on legal sufficiency grounds, the court must first credit any evidence favoring the jury verdict if reasonable jurors could disregard contrary evidence if reasonable jurors could not.  If more than a scintilla of evidence supports the jury’s verdict, then the court has to uphold the verdict.  There is no weighing of the evidence on one side or the other.  The court simply looks at whether there is some evidence that would “enable reasonable and fair-minded people to reach the verdict under review.”

To overturn a jury verdict on factual sufficiency grounds, the jury’s verdict must be against the great weigh and preponderance of the evidence.  This means that the jury verdict will be set aside “only if it is so contrary to the overwhelming weigh of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and manifestly unjust.”

Taken together, the high standards for legal and factual sufficiency protect the philosophical value that we place on the role of the jury in our legal system. We have assigned the jury the role of weighing the evidence and resolving any conflicts or inconsistencies in the evidence.  We then shield the jury’s verdict from second-guessing by creating high standards for overturning the jury’s verdict.

So why do juries matter?  Because under our system, once the jury delivers its verdict it is procedurally and practically very difficult to overturn the verdict.  Oh, and also for all those constitutional reasons and tightly-held traditions long associated with our legal system.

Previously I posted about Dallas County juries here and hereLast week a federal jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $1.041 billion to six plaintiffs who received defectively-designed hip implants.   Of the total verdict, $32 million was for compensatory damages, and the rest was for punitive damages. The federal jury that ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a billion dollars was made up of jurors from the Northern District of Texas, which includes more than just Dallas County.  But Dallas County is the largest county in the Northern District of Texas, and I believe that the jury’s verdict is further proof that Dallas County jurors believe that civil lawsuits are an appropriate way to monitor and police large corporations.

When I first started practicing law in Dallas in the early 1990s, the prevailing sense around the campfire was that Dallas County was a pro-defense venue.  Over the years there have been some huge verdicts out of Dallas County in business disputes and commercial matters, but it seemed to most observers that personal injury plaintiffs did not fair as well in Dallas County.  In my earlier posts I gave my two-cent opinion that Dallas County was no longer pro-defense, or even neutral, because of the increasing frequency of eye-popping verdicts in personal injury cases.  In September, Bloom Strategic Consulting published a report of a survey that it conducted of 1000 prospective Dallas County jurors.  I wrote about the survey’s results in my first post about Dallas County jurors, and I believe that this report should be required reading for any lawyer with a case pending in Dallas County.  Based on what I have been seeing lately, I think that Dallas County is pro-plaintiff.

For Johnson & Johnson, I expect that the federal judge will reduce the punitive damages award to confirm with Texas’ cap on punitive damages, especially considering that the award of compensatory damages ($32 million) is approximately three percent of the overall verdict.  However, the fact that Johnson & Johnson may never have to pay a billion dollars to the plaintiffs from last week’s verdict should not be confused with the message that the jury seemed to send to Johnson & Johnson, and what that message says about Dallas County juries.

For better or for worse, I think most would agree that this has been one of strangest and most contentious presidential elections in recent memory. Whichever way the election turns out, history will be made. If Ms. Clinton wins, she will, of course, be the first female President of the United States. It is well documented that if Mr. Trump wins, he will be the oldest President ever to take office.

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Copyright: elfivetrov / 123RF Stock Photo

What seems to have gone unnoticed this election year is the amount of Texas judicial seats up for re-election. According to Ballotpedia, three Texas Supreme Court seats, three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seats, and twenty seats in the fourteen district courts of appeal are on the ballot for Election Day. The Texas Supreme Court is the highest court in Texas for all civil matters, and the Texas Court of Criminal appeals is the highest court for all criminal matters.

Each of the three Republican incumbents up for re-election in the Supreme Court (Debra LehrmannPaul Green, and Eva Guzman) have drawn Democratic, Libertarian, and Green party challengers. Again according to Ballotpedia.org, all nine current Supreme Court Justices are Republican. If two or three of the incumbents lose, this could signal a significant shift in the historically conservative Supreme Court.

In the Court of Criminal Appeals, eight of the nine sitting Judges are Republican, with Judge Lawrence Meyers being the lone Democrat on the Court. Judge Meyers is running for reelection, as is Republican Judge Michael Keasler. Republican Judge Cheryl Johnson is not running for reelection, and her seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals has drawn candidates from all four parties.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals, which hears both civil and criminal appeals from the Dallas, Collin, Grayson, Hunt, Kaufman, and Rockwall county district and criminal courts, also has the potential for some change this election. Republican incumbent Justice Lana Myers is being challenged by Democrat Judge Gena Slaughter, the current sitting Judge for the 191st District Court in Dallas County. Republican incumbent Justice David Schenck is being challenged by Democrat Judge Dennise Garcia, the current sitting Judge in the 303rd Family District Court in Dallas County.

Currently, all thirteen sitting Justices on Fifth District Court of Appeals are Republicans. Thus, even if both Judge Slaughter and Judge Garcia win seats, the impact upon the Court as a whole may be small, but the impact upon the parties appearing before the Court may be big. Appeals usually are heard in three-judge panels.  Therefore, rather than facing three Republican Justices for any one case, a party potentially could face a panel containing one or two Democrats.

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Copyright: sebra / 123RF Stock Photo

Locally, in Dallas County, incumbent Democratic Judge Eric Moye’ is being challenged by Republican Barry Johnson for his spot as Judge of the 14th District Court.  Also, Republican Greg Gorman and Democrat Maricela Moore are battling it out for the 162nd District Court after former Judge Phyllis Lister-Brown passed away.

There are, of course, many more judicial races — too many to cover in this blog post.  But after all is said and done, the question that remains is what difference does it make whether a Judge is a Republican or Democrat?  Or whether a particular Court is dominated by Judges of a particular politicial affiliation?

The answers to these questions could be and probably are the subject of many articles and books.  To the extent one can make generalizations, the quick answer is many believe Republican Judges tend to favor business and Democrat Judges tend to favor individuals.  Republicans tend to favor defendants and Democrats tend to favor plaintiffs. This is far from being universally true, and just like in law school, there are exceptions to every rule and exceptions to the exceptions.

But no matter what you believe, Election Day 2016 no doubt will prove to be interesting on both a national and a local level.