Posted inLocal BarsPro BonoSpecial Event

Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program announces December legal clinics

The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program will host 11 free legal clinics—including an expunction clinic and a veteran’s clinic—this December at a variety of locations across the county. During the general sessions, which are open to Dallas County residents who meet income eligibility guidelines, volunteer lawyers will provide free legal advice and consultation in civil matters. Those planning to attend should bring proof of income, identification, and legal documents with them to the site.

Schedules and locations are as follows:

East Dallas (Grace United Methodist Church—4105 Junius at Haskell)—5 p.m.

  • December 3 and December 17

South Dallas (Martin Luther King Jr. Center—2922 MLK Blvd.)—5 p.m.

  • December 1, December 8, and December 22

West Dallas (2828 Fish Trap Rd.)—5 p.m.

  • December 10

Garland (Salvation Army—457 W. Avenue D, Garland 75040)—5 p.m.

  • December 17

Friendship West Baptist Church (2020 West Wheatland Rd., Dallas)—5 p.m.

  • December 16

St. Phillip’s Community Center (1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Dallas)—5 p.m.

  • December 15

Expunction Clinic (2828 Fish Trap Rd., Dallas)—4 p.m.

  • December 15

Veterans Resource Center (4900 S. Lancaster Rd., Dallas) (for veterans only)—2 p.m.

  • December 4

DVAP is a joint initiative of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. For more information, go to

Posted inMember BenefitsMember Discount Program

Member benefits for holiday shopping needs

Now’s the time to get started on your holiday shopping! Visit the State Bar of Texas Member Discount Program website for exclusive savings on gifts for everyone on your list. Plus you’ll find discounts on décor and treats to get everyone in the holiday spirit!

Jewelry is a great way to make the holidays special for someone you love. Blue Nile is the leading online retailer of diamonds and fine jewelry – save 10% off standard products. Corporate Jewelers offers 66% off their online inventory – plus an additional 20% off when you use code Bene20. Eve’s Addiction offers 25% off fine silver jewelry.

Spread holiday cheer with fresh fruits, flowers and gift baskets this season! Make someone smile by sending a truly original arrangement from 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, or try a basket of goodies from 1-800-BASKETS.COM. The holidays wouldn’t be complete without a popcorn tin – check out The Popcorn Company and save 15%. Send the chocolate lover in your life a sweet treat from Edible Arrangements.
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Posted inTexas Bar TV

Ignite SBOT – Melissa Marks Garner

As part of Ignite SBOT at the 2015 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, Melissa Marks Garner of Melissa Marks Garner Corporate Wellness in Dallas presents, “Hitting Pause: Mindfulness for the Analytical Thinker.” The talk covers how mindfulness can help manage stress and disease, its benefits for analytical thinkers, the science behind mindfulness meditation, and tips on how to use it.

Posted inGovernment

When seeking public records, know your rights, responsibilities

If you’ve seen news reports on suspicious state contracts or chemical waste pits or officials’ text messages in the Waco biker shootout, you may notice a recurring theme: government records obtained through the Texas Public Information Act.

Kelley Shannon is the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas

Kelley Shannon is the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, a nonprofit in Austin.

Fortunately, our state’s public information law, created in the early 1970s, presumes that government records are open unless a specific exemption in the law keeps the documents off-limits.

The public has a right to know. That means all citizens—not only journalists—can access government records.

“It’s very easy,” said award-winning reporter Melissa Correa of KRGV-TV in Weslaco, explaining her use of the information law. She carries printed sections of the law around with her and requests items like government audits, receipt books, and salaries. “Every time a Public Information Act request comes back, it’s like Christmas.”

Anyone can do the same and hold their elected officials accountable.

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Posted inLaw Firms and Legal DepartmentsNewsPro Bono

Civil rights group honors six Texas attorneys

On Saturday, the Texas Civil Rights Project presented its 2015 Kristi Couvillon Pro Bono Awards to six Texas attorneys who volunteered on several important cases across the state. The awards were presented at the project’s 25th anniversary Bill of Rights Dinner on November 14, an event that also honored outgoing TCRP Founder and Director Jim Harrington, who is retiring.

  • Ryan Bates, a solo in Austin, appealed to the 5th Circuit when a lower court wouldn’t grant attorneys’ fees to the TCRP, which was successful in its representation of protesters in Occupy Austin vs. City of Austin. Bates was able to obtain the fees from the City of Austin.
  • William DeMond and Meagan Hassan, attorneys in Houston, and Kervyn B. Altaffer Jr., a Dallas solo, represented a disabled inmate’s family in Holden v. Tarrant County. The Tarrant County Jail placed the inmate within access of a high-risk inmate, who eventually murdered the disabled man. The county did not notify the family and buried him in an unmarked grave. These attorneys worked to enable the family to properly bury Holden.
  • Partner Ralph Miller and associate Nathan White—litigators with Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Dallas—successfully appealed the case of a hearing-impaired couple in South Texas that is claiming discrimination by the hospital where their daughter was treated for cancer.

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Posted inAmerican Bar AssociationJudiciary

ABA launches guide for appointing counsel in civil cases

Texas judges who are considering appointing counsel in civil cases can now consult the ABA Directory of Law Governing Appointment of Counsel in State Civil Proceedings. The directory, released by the American Bar Association in 2014 with the assistance of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, provides state-by-state guidance on when judges must, can, and can’t appoint counsel in various types of civil cases based on state statutes, court decisions, and court rules.

According to John Pollock, coordinator of the NCCRC and staff attorney at the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Maryland, the publication is unique in how it addresses every civil subject area and provides state-specific details.

“If a judge is presented with the question of whether to appoint counsel for an indigent litigant, either because the litigant raises it or the judge sua sponte considers it, he or she can check the appropriate subject area section,” said Pollock. “If there’s no law on the subject, the judge could look at the entries for sister states and see what those states have done. Plus some state statutes and court decisions authorize judges to appoint counsel for any civil case, so the directory talks about that, too.”

For more information, including Texas-relevant content, go to the full directory.

Posted inNewsSpecial EventState Bar

Hundreds of new Texas lawyers to be inducted Monday

On the morning of November 16, the State Bar of Texas will congratulate and administer the oath of office to hundreds of incoming attorneys at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony, held at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin at 10 a.m. Almost 2,000 test-takers passed the July 2015 Texas Bar Exam and are eligible to be inducted at the event.

While the ceremony takes place twice each year, this particular one is notable because it will include not only new lawyers but also established attorneys from across the state. Following the 84th Texas Legislature’s passage of SB 534—which added to the lawyer’s oath a pledge to advance civility and integrity—the State Bar has invited all practicing attorneys to come to Austin to recite the new oath with their colleagues.

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Posted inMember BenefitsNewsTechnology

State Bar members can now access free legal pleadings

The legal research service Casemaker just added 6 million pleadings to its list of available features. All State Bar of Texas members—who have free access to Casemaker as a part of their membership benefits—can obtain up to five pleadings a month at no cost.

To find a pleading through Casemaker, following these instructions:

  1. log in to your My Bar page on the State Bar’s website;
  2. click on the “Online Legal Research” tab and select “Texas Library” under the Casemaker section;
  3. search for the pleading as you would search for any other item on the Casemaker database. Alternatively, you can directly search the pleadings.

If more than five pleadings are needed, they can be purchased for about $2 per pleading.

Casemaker’s new pleadings offerings come from a deal it stitched with the legal tech company Mozato (formerly named File & ServeXpress), which is based in Irving. In the near future, the partnership will also give users—including State Bar members—free access to five expert-witness profiles from Mozato’s expansive CaseEdge database that lists professionals who have testified at trial.