OFFICE

About the Firm

Corinna Steele, Attorney at Law & Mediator, provides legal counseling in the areas of criminal and juvenile defense; lawsuits involving Children’s Protective Services; wills and probate matters; and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Mission Statement

The focus of the practice is to serve the community in a manner mutually beneficial to clients while providing income for the firm. People who consult with the firm are confronted with some of the worst moments of their lives; they or someone they love are charged with a criminal or juvenile offense; they are confronting the potential loss of their children through a Child Protective Services lawsuit.; they need to plan for the event of their own death or they have experienced the loss of a loved one and they need to settle the estate; or they are facing insurmountable debt and they need some type of relief.  These people need someone to help them navigate the legal system; as well as someone who can, with empathy, enable them to process the many choices which impact their future. While it is very important to find someone competent to represent a client in whatever their legal situation is, it is also important to find someone who cares not only about the outcome but who is invested in the client.

The firm’s services are focused in the following specific directions:

Criminal Defendants:

The firm’s goal is to help people make the right choices during a difficult and often frightening time.  While there are consequences to illegal behaviors,  the punishment should not be so severe as to ruin the rest of someone’s life.  The firm strives to assert any defenses available to the defendant and when necessary, negotiate an agreement with the state that fits the criminal charge.

Most people do not choose to take criminal cases to trial.   While that is always an option, the majority of clients simply want to resolve the case in a quick and efficient manner.   Quick and efficient is a relative term in the life of a criminal case.   Criminal court is not traffic court, it takes more than one appearance to resolve a case.

It is important for a client to realize, that each prosecutor brings their own perspective and prejudices to any discussion.   A defense attorney’s job is to sell the client’s version of the events; the prosecutor adds their officer’s story and typically, the two sides meet somewhere in the middle.

Fort Bend County has some new programs available to defendants, with the advent of the new District Attorney, Brian Middleton.   There is a Fresh Start program available at both a misdemeanor and felony level for drug offenders and a similar program for DWI defendants.

Juvenile Respondents:

Juveniles should be helped to make better choices in their lives than what has brought them to a particular case in court.  Often, although they have supportive parents, they do not respond to the structure provided.  In addition to defending the child in the lawsuit against them, it is also important to find programs or services including counseling that will help the juvenile in completing their maturing process.

Juvenile cases are a hybrid between the criminal system (which controls the charges) and the civil system (which dictates how the case is handled).  A juvenile can be kept at home with his parents; placed outside the home in some type of group home or alternative placement; or sentenced to spend time in a Texas Youth Commission facility.  Juvenile cases are also complicated by school district involvement, particularly if a child has offended in some way at school.

The goal in the juvenile system is to provide some means of reaching the child and to turn their behavior around, while protecting the public.   It is an area of the law that requires working with the juvenile and with their family.

CPS Cases:

Because they face the potential loss of their children, it is extremely important to help parents make better choices in the care of their children.  While the stated goal of CPS is to reunite families, it is sometimes forgotten during the life of a CPS case.  The firm strives to remind the parents, and CPS itself, that families more often than not, should be reunified  whenever possible, instead of separated.

A CPS case begins with allegations that there has been some type of neglect or abuse.   An emergency hearing is held before a judge to determine if there was a good reason to believe that the child needed to be protected from his home environment and/or parents.    Both parents and the child are  entitled to representation.   If the judge believes the Department has a good reason to provide protection for the child, the child is removed and placed either with suitable family or in a foster placement.

During the life of a CPS case, the parents are typically asked to complete services (parenting class, drug / alcohol evaluation, psychological exam, counseling) which are geared to aid reunification with the children.   There are regular court appearances during the life of a CPS case, where the judge is kept up to date about what is happening with the children (school, medical visits, contact with parents), the children’s needs and the progress of the parents.

A CPS case has a life line of 12 to 18 months.  Time is of the essence for most parents to deal with the reason the case began, so they can be reunited with their children.  If reunification is not recommended by CPS, they could seek to place the children with a permanent alternative to the parents (family or friend of the family) or seek to terminate the parental rights and find an adoptive family.

Probate:

Important events such as births, adoptions, deaths, marriages and divorce necessitate the drafting and execution of current wills.  Along with a current will, it is important to maintain a power of attorney for health care decisions and a directive to physician to assure that an individual will obtain what they want concerning the disposition of their estate, or the care of their person should they become incapacitated.

With the death of a loved one, it is imperative to assure the transfer and disposition of the decedent’s property is according to their wishes.   Filing for and qualifying letters testamentary is an important part of this process.

Probate involves helping the person designated in a will to qualify to manage the estate.   An application is filed with the Court and a court hearing is held to determine if the applicant is eligible to serve as the Executor.    The Court provides the authority to the Executor, in the form of Letters Testamentary, to serve on behalf of the estate.   Those letters will be provided to whoever the Executor needs to deal with — he serves in the place of the deceased person.

The Executor’s job is to gather up the assets of the estate and to either distribute them or turn them into liquid assets that can then be disbursed to the people named in the will as beneficiaries.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:

An initial consultation outlines the options available for people who are faced with insurmountable debt.   People have all kinds of reasons for filing for debt relief; ranging from job losses, medical diagnoses, injuries, divorce, death etc.   By listening carefully to the situation,  and by outlining options for dealing with debt, Corinna answers all your bankruptcy questions.   She is a bankruptcy attorney who believes information  is the best tool she can pass on during a free consultation.  She will go over the process of how to file for bankruptcy as well as the cost to file bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 is a federal relief granted to individuals who are unable to satisfy their creditors.  It provides for a financial reboot where certain debts are discharged and the individual is able to start their financial life again, free of most consumer debt.    The bankruptcy code was changed to provide for a qualification process where consideration is given for each filers’ income after certain qualified deductions.

An individual’s eligibility to file under Chapter 7 is evaluated and if eligible, a petition is filed, creditors are notified and a discharge is sought.   Chapter 7 does permit certain secured debts, such a mortgages or car notes, to be reaffirmed, so those items can be kept for the benefit of the filers.   What that means practically speaking, is that while the debtor can  keep the item, the debt continues for the secured item; the other unsecured debts, are forgiven.

Facing an overwhelming amount of debt; receiving collection calls; facing foreclosure or debt collection lawsuits; or just realizing that you cannot pay your creditors timely, leads to many feelings of worthlessness, isolation and depression.   Trying to figure out what you can do about debt, or unpaid bills is one of the most stress filled times for someone.  Making the decision to ask for financial relief through bankruptcy is very difficult, but it can lead to long term relief financially and emotionally.

Reasonable fees:

Although providing representation is the business that generates income for the firm, it should not be at so high a cost that the average person cannot afford to obtain counsel.  The firm strives to provide quality legal representation at a reasonable fee.   A flat fee is used for every service offered, which is based on the approximate time it takes to resolve each type of case.   Please see  “Pricing”.

A policy of payment agreements is in place to try to assist those who need it to afford the attorney’s fee.  Credit cards are accepted.