Panel to focus on First Amendment opinions

Education and journalism leaders will discuss findings from the most recent “Future of the First Amendment” survey during a streamed session on Sunday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. Panelists will include Carol Lange, director for the Journalism Education Association; Alan Weintraut, a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Journalism Teacher of the Year; and Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, will moderate the session.

The 2014 study, funded by the journalism- and media-focused John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, suggested a shift in student beliefs about the First Amendment. According to the findings, 24 percent of high school students think the amendment goes too far in guaranteeing the rights of religion, speech, press assembly, and petition; in 2004, 35 percent of surveyed students held that belief.

Among other points, the foundation also reported an increase in digital news consumption among students and found that a majority oppose businesses tracking their online searches. The national survey of 10,463 high school students and 588 teachers was the fifth in a series that has been conducted by the foundation over the past 10 years.

The panel will be streamed at newseum.org/streaming. To access the survey results, go to knightfoundation.org/firstamendment.

Dallas legal organizations plan wills clinic for area residents

The Dallas Area Paralegal Association and the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program are sponsoring a wills clinic at Fowler Christian Apartments in Dallas on Sept. 27.

Pro bono lawyers will be paired with a client seeking assistance and will have a month to communicate with the client and prepare a will. A corresponding ceremony where testators must sign the will before two witnesses and a notary is scheduled for Oct. 25.

Lawyers from all practice areas are invited to help with the clinic. Completed pro bono hours can be applied toward the ongoing State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division Pro Bono Sections Challenge as well as a Care Commitment badge on an individual’s MyBarPage. Snacks, water, and copy paper donations are also welcome.

For more information or to indicate interest in participating, contact Risa Burgess at (817) 296-8673, Mary Morman at (469) 499-6350, or probono@dallasparalegals.org.

The deadline for registration Sept. 22, 2014.

 

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Tom Keyser: The Living Years

The following article originally appeared in San Antonio Lawyer magazine and is reprinted with permission from San Antonio Lawyer and the San Antonio Bar Association.

By Steve Peirce

Tom Keyser stood on a chair in the gym of his rented townhouse, a rope tied around his neck. He once was a Catholic school kid from Cumberland, Maryland, who had shown such promise as a baseball player that he was drafted in 1967 by the Baltimore Orioles, and now he was a father of three who had lost his marriage and his home, and was about to lose his law license. All he had to do was take one small step and the pain would be over, but he lost his nerve. It was the Summer of 1990.

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Students, TEX-ABOTA celebrate Constitution Day

Dozens of high school students gathered at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 17, filling seats in the chambers of the Texas House of Representatives in recognition of Constitution Day. The Texas Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates invited the 11th- and 12th-grade students, who represented public and private schools across the state, to attend the annual James Otis Lecture series, developed by ABOTA to educate students on the U. S. Constitution.

The day included a college-level address from Nathan Allen, author of Arsonist: The Most Dangerous Man in America, which is a biography of the lecture’s namesake—early-American lawyer James Otis Jr.—who supported the initiation of the American Revolution.

Allen’s message to the students touched on juryless trials, writs and general warrants, and the Fourth Amendment, among other issues.

Similar sessions are taking place across the nation this week. For more information, go to abota.org.

 

EDITORIAL: Celebrate the Importance of American Freedom

By Trey Apffel

The Constitution is a crucial thread in the fabric of our country’s history. As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once said, the Constitution changed world history “for the perpetual benefit of mankind. In 1787, no country in the world had ever allowed its citizens to select their own form of government, much less to select a democratic government.”

Although the Constitution was written long ago, the founding document still plays a significant role in our daily lives as it guarantees the precious liberties and fundamental rights for all U.S. citizens and puts “governance in the hands of the people.”

 In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1776, which established Celebrate Freedom Week. Texas public schools are encouraged to spend the week focusing on the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts. Local school districts honor Celebrate Freedom Week during the week of Sept. 17, Constitution Day, to commemorate the signing of the historic document in 1787.

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District court judge, State Bar staff member receive prestigious awards

The Judicial Section of the State Bar of Texas recently presented two of its most important awards at the Bar Foundation Luncheon, held in conjunction with the Judicial Education Conference in Fort Worth, on Sept. 8, 2014. Tracy Nuckols, project manager of State Bar sections, received the Friend of the Judiciary Award, and Larry Gist, senior criminal district judge of the Jefferson County Drug Impact Court in Beaumont, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Judicial Lifetime Achievement Award is given annually by the section to a current or former Texas judge who has earned a reputation for judicial excellence. “I am very honored to receive this exceptional award,” said Gist, who is the first non-Supreme Court of Texas justice to receive the award. “I hope it encourages all judges to not only be fair and impartial but to make sure that the perception of fairness is always shown. I am very proud to be a member of the judiciary of Texas and serve with so many outstanding men and women.”

In the presence of about 600 Texas judges, Nuckols accepted the Friend of the Judiciary Award, which has been presented to state lawmakers. Nuckols, who has worked for the bar for 16 years, manages a four-person department that is responsible for helping the 47 sections of the State Bar with their communications, newsletters, websites, and other initiatives.

“It meant a great deal to me that the Judicial Section recognized me by giving me this award,” said Nuckols. “I was very honored—and surprised. But it is mainly a recognition of the people who I work with—they are enthusiastic and they are problem-solvers. I could not do this job without them.”

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Gavel Awards presented and court access discussed during FOIFT conference

Journalists and legal professionals converged on Friday, Sept. 12, at the Hilton in downtown Austin to discuss public access to courts, social media use in open government, and new laws and best practices involving the Texas Public Information Act, as part of the 2014 Bernard and Audre Rapoport State Conference. The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas sponsored the event.

The opening panel—moderated by Tom Williams, partner at Haynes and Boone and FOIFT vice president—included Elisabeth Earle, Travis County Court At Law judge; Joe Shannon, Tarrant County district attorney; and Joel White, First Amendment attorney and FOIFT board member and provided a lively conversation on “Rights, Roadblocks and the Public’s Access to the Courts.”

 

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State Bar of Texas Member Discount Program

Fall is coming. Are you ready to host football parties and holiday gatherings? Your State Bar of Texas Member Discount Program can help you prepare – and keep your budget in check.
 

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Pro Bono Volunteers Receive Training in Austin

From Sept. 3-5, 2014, approximately 43 attorneys from across the state met in Austin at the Texas Law Center to receive training and share ideas as part of the annual Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat, put on by the Legal Access Division of the State Bar of Texas.

The retreat aimed to give the attendees—who are responsible for coordinating pro bono efforts for their firms, corporate legal departments, legal aid groups, and local bar associations—the interpersonal and leadership skills they need to work effectively and efficiently with clients and volunteers. Coordinators learned about innovative pro bono models, fundraising strategies, and policy trends that are being used around the state and country. They also brainstormed tried-and-true as well as new strategies and planned events, such as the American Bar Association’s pro bono celebration, taking place Oct. 19-25, 2014, in various locations nationwide.

 

 

 

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Texas Minority Counsel Program's Networking through Service project

Mid-morning on Sept. 3, all attention in Room 205 at Austin’s Woodbridge Elementary was directed to the front of the class, where lawyers Apara Dave and David Urteago stood at the whiteboard answering questions about their profession. Eager students waved their hands in the air, vying for the chance to interact with the special guests.

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