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New Times It’s a new year and a new title at Dallas-based Hughes & Luce for Edward O. Coultas � and maybe a new office for the firm. Coultas, who became managing partner of the 142-lawyer firm on Jan. 1, says Hughes & Luce may open an office in Houston this year. That will happen “as soon as we find the right group of lawyers,” says Coultas, formerly chief operating officer for the firm. Coultas says the firm hopes initially to staff a Houston office with a group of corporate lawyers, because a number of firm clients have work in Houston, and also a team of litigators. Hughes & Luce opened a Houston office a decade-and-a-half ago to serve two large Houston banks, but the firm closed it in 2001 after those banks became nationally owned. Coultas will serve a two-year term through Dec. 31, 2008, as managing partner. He succeeds partner Robert H. Mow Jr., who returned to his commercial litigation and professional liability defense practice after four years as managing partner. Coultas says he plans to continue Mow’s work by growing the firm with high-quality lawyers, and by providing exceptional service to clients. Criminal Law Clarity Last month when the U.S. Supreme Court issued Lopez v. Gonzales, it wasn’t completely clear whether the ruling extended from the immigration law context to the criminal law context. In Lopez, the court interpreted the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows immigration courts to deport non-U.S. citizens residing in the United States if they are convicted of “aggravated felonies.” In an 8-1 ruling in Lopez, the high court decided that immigration courts cannot deport aliens who have been convicted of state felonies that do not qualify as felonies under federal law. Whether Lopez’s logic applies to criminal law is significant in Texas, because hundreds of immigrants arrested for illegal re-entry into the United States can face sentences of up to 20 years in federal prison if a U.S. district judge finds they previously have been convicted of “aggravated felonies.” The Supreme Court also heard arguments in the appeal of an enhanced-sentence Texas illegal re-entry criminal case, United States v. Toledo-Flores, a companion case to Lopez. But the high court did not resolve Toledo-Flores, because it dismissed the case as improvidently granted. But in a Jan. 3 per curiam opinion, United States v. Estrada-Mendoza, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Lopez does apply to criminal cases. The judges said a trial court judge improperly had increased Pablo Estrada-Mendoza’s sentence for his criminal conviction for illegal re-entry, based on his prior state conviction for an “aggravated felony.” Estrada-Mendoza’s previous state conviction was for possession of a controlled substance � a felony under Texas law that is a misdemeanor under federal law, according to the 5th Circuit decision. “Lopez ineluctably applies with equal force to immigration and criminal cases,” the 5th Circuit concluded in reversing and remanding Estrada-Mendoza for resentencing. “The government agrees,” the court wrote. Estrada-Mendoza’s lawyer Michael Herman, an assistant federal public defender in the Southern District of Texas, expected the ruling. “I don’t think there was really any question about it, but they needed to clear that up,” Herman says of the opinion. “They just wanted to make sure it was crystal clear.” Mark Dowd, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District who represented the government in Estrada-Mendoza, declines comment. High-Profile Divorce They’re not telling who gets the $100 million home in Beverly Hills or the family’s Gulfstream jet. But lawyers for jet-setting couple David and Suzanne Saperstein confirm that the couple has divorced, ending more than 20 years of marriage. Harry Susman, the husband’s attorney and a partner in Susman Godfrey in Houston, says the divorce was set for trial on Jan. 23. “We settled instead,” Susman says. Donn C. Fullenwider, the attorney for the wife and a principal in the Fullenwider Firm in Houston, says the couple reached a confidential settlement on Jan. 5. Judge Lisa Millard of Houston’s 310th District Court granted the divorce on Jan. 9, Fullenwider says, adding that Millard is set to enter judgment in In the Matter of D.I.S. and S.C.S. on Jan. 23. David Saperstein sued for divorce in Millard’s court in July 2005. [See "Case of First Impression Gives Justices Chance to Interpret UIFSA," Texas Lawyer, Dec. 11, 2006, page 5.] Fullenwider says the parties also reached a settlement in the divorce case that Suzanne Saperstein filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. Susman and Fullenwider say they believe the divorce and settlement moots the couple’s legal battle over whether the Texas or California court has jurisdiction over spousal support. On Dec. 6, 2006, the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in In Re: Suzanne C. Saperstein, a case of first impression that would have given the justices an opportunity to interpret the construction of �159.204 of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which all 50 states adopted in the mid-1990s. “If the matter is settled, I don’t think the court will rule,” Fullenwider says.

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