"Texas Trailblazer" series features two Texas lawyers

As part of its "Texas Trailblazer" series, North Texas public television station KERA-TV will feature two veteran Texas attorneys, Harold Barefoot Sanders and Louise Raggio, and journalist Vivian Castleberry. All three Texans were chosen for their active role in and impact on civil rights and women's rights not only in Texas, but also the country.

Harold Barefoot Sanders (pictured) was a force behind desegregating the public schools in Dallas. He was Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Justice Department under President Lyndon Johnson, and he helped pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that ended discriminatory voting practices. Sanders went on to influence public policy and became a federal judge, serving for 27 years.

Louise Raggio was a role model for the women of Texas in the mid century. After World War II, she went to law school to help support her family. She helped to secure women's rights in Texas, leading the effort to pass the Marital Property Act of 1967. She continued to help pave the way for more rights for women, including equal property rights and individual rights for both married and unmarried women.

Vivian Castleberry helped change the face of journalism by changing the subject matter covered by the Dallas Times-Herald, focusing more on humanitarian issues than on entertainment. She was the first female editor of the Times-Herald in 1957, and she founded Peacemakers Incorporated and co-founded the Women’s Center of Dallas and The Dallas Women’s Foundation. She was also inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.

The "Texas Trailblazer" series is in three-parts and airs on Sundays, May 3, 10, and 18, at 8:00 p.m. and rebroadcasts the following Sundays at 12:30 p.m. All three parts will be rebroadcast beginning at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, May 24 on KERA-TV. The series will also be available online after the broadcasts at kera.org/trailblazer.

Texas A&M honors transgendered lawyer Phyllis Frye

As Houston lawyer Phyllis R. Frye (pictured) describes it, she’s “had more than [her] 15 minutes of fame, enjoyed it, and handled it well.” Still, she says she is honored and surprised that Texas A&M University has named  the Phyllis Frye Advocacy Award after her. Its first recipient is Dr. James Rosenheim, who will be recognized April 29 during a ceremony presented by A&M’s Department of Multicultural Services. A promo for the awards ceremony says Rosenheim exemplifies "Phyllis Frye's philosophy of not just walking through doors of intolerance, but tearing them down," and that Rosenheim is being recognized for nurturing relationships among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) staff, students, and community members over two decades.

Frye, a partner in Frye and Cantu, PLLC, is nationally known for her activism and advocacy on LGBT issues.

As a man, Frye received engineering degrees from Texas A&M in 1970 and 1971. She transitioned her gender in 1976, and says that over the years her involvement as an A&M alumnus went from being shunned by members of a Houston alumni group early on, to gradual acceptance at reunions of the Singing Cadets and her graduating class. Frye has received numerous awards for her work in  the legal community and the LGBT movement, but seems bowled over by this A&M recognition. “It’s very humbling,” she said. “To have a university name an award after you is a neat thing. I'm thrilled.”

CLE staff gives volunteers a standing O

TexasBarCLE, the State Bar's professional development program, is lucky to have hundreds of volunteer speakers and authors who help back up its slogan, "Education by the Bar, for the Bar." Staff members of TexasBarCLE recently honored four volunteers who they felt made outstanding contributions during 2008. J. Cary Barton of San Antonio, Chad Baruch of Plano, Rhonda H. Brink of Austin, and David A. Weatherbie of Dallas each received 2008 Standing Ovation Awards in the form of handsome blue obelisks engraved with their names (pictured).

"All of our volunteers deserve our gratitude for contributing to the continuing education of their peers," said Pat Nester, director of TexasBarCLE. "Nevertheless, some stand out each year for extraordinary dedication and commitment. The staff looks forward to singling out individuals that not only gave enormously to our efforts, but also were gracious, easy to work with, and -- oftentimes -- helped us out in a real pinch."

Random Profile - Albert John 'Al' Charanza, Jr.

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 80,000-plus attorneys, call them, and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Family: Married to Michelle Charanza for 18 years who is my law partner. She attended the University of Houston Law School and I went to South Texas College of Law; two daughters ages 16 and 14.

Best thing about being a lawyer: Helping others who cannot help themselves.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today?  Burn out from being overworked.

Bet you didn’t know: Last Judge Advocate in the U.S. Armed Forces to complete jungle training at the Jungle Operations Training Center, Fort Sherman, Panama before the U.S. closed the base.

Another little known fact: That I was a Texas Cheerleader.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? The President of the United States. I would not be politically correct and speak what the American people want to hear from a leader.

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On India trip, lawyers find it's a small world

Richard and Carolyn Pena, left, and Indian tour guide

A delegation of U.S. lawyers returned from India last month with a simple but important lesson: lawyers everywhere share a common bond, and that's a passion to protect and defend the Rule of Law, sometimes during very difficult circumstances.

The US-India Law Forum was led by former State Bar of Texas president Richard Pena on behalf of People to People Citizen Ambassador Programs, a group originally spun off from the State Department to promote international understanding and friendship through cultural exchange. Pena, a workers compensation lawyer who is also president of the American Bar Foundation, had led 11 previous legal delegations for People to People, to places like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Tibet. The first trip was a delegation of Texas lawyers to China in 2000.

In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, India is struggling with issues regarding terrorism and how it will respond as a country and a legal community. The group of 26 delegates met personally with the chief justice of the Indian Supreme Court, justices of the New Delhi Supreme Court, and the equivalent of the attorney general of India. They also met a group of lawyers who personally knew Gandhi and are working to promote the principles of peace and peaceful resistance as India works to determine its future. The delegation focused on learning about India's legal system, but also on making personal connections. “A lot of what we’re doing is relationship building,” says Pena. “It’s not unlike what President Obama did on his recent South America trip. You interact and build a foundation for future relationships and support.”

Gandhi's living quarters                          

The group saw some tourist sites, but Pena explains that these trips are about much more. “The Taj Mahal was great and unique and everyone should see it, but it’s a thing. The people of India and of other countries that we visit are the real story -- the struggles that they face and how lawyers are helping them, sometimes in the face of great odds.”

Another goal of the People to People trips is to expand the world views of participants. “They learn that there are really no borders anymore. We’re all part of a global community,” Pena says. In India and Egypt this may take the form of a legal summit addressing issues of terrorism law.

Pena stresses that the legal delegations never pick “easy” destinations like Paris or London. Instead they go places where they feel they can make a difference.

The next trip is planned for Israel this November. If you’re interested in participating, contact Pena at (512)327-6884.

Update: Richard J. Stone of Ball Janik, P.C., in Portland, Oregon kept a journal while on the trip. Read it here (pdf format).

Telling An Untold Story

In 2004, a little-known, yet landmark, legal case was celebrated. Fifty years before, Pete Hernandez v. State of Texas set legal precedent when it was ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court that Mexican Americans and all other racial groups were protected under the 14th Amendment. Before the case, Mexican Americans were considered white, and therefore, were not protected by the 14th Amendment.

Released today on DVD, A Class Apart, A Mexican American Civil Rights Story, brings to light the story of a small-town murder case that led to the landmark ruling. Pete Hernandez was convicted in the 1951 killing of Joe Espinosa in Edna. His lawyers — Gustavo C. Garcia, Carlos Cadena, John Herrera, and James DeAnda — appealed the decision, arguing that the all-white jury that convicted Hernandez did not constitute a jury of his peers since Mexican Americans were not allowed to serve on juries. The Texas Supreme Court upheld the ruling, saying that Mexican Americans were legally considered white. Not wavering in their struggle, Hernandez’s attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, reasoning that despite being legally considered white, Mexican Americans faced Jim Crow-style discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and ruled in Hernandez’s favor. The ruling was a step for the Mexican American civil rights struggle, leading to challenges to employment, education, and housing discrimination.

Directed and produced by Carlos Sandoval, A Class Apart not only focuses on the civil rights movement, but also on the attorneys who argued the case, from the reserved and dependable Cadena to the charismatic, yet sometimes reckless Garcia. In one particularly tense moment of the film, Herrera’s son, Mike Herrera, describes how Garcia had an all-night drinking binge on the evening before he was to make his oral argument to the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Despite his antics, Garcia delivered a passionate argument, captivating the justices so much that they allowed him 16 extra minutes to make his case.

A Class Apart, an AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentary and PBS Home Video, features bonus scenes, a slideshow of photographs, and printable teacher and discussion guides.

PLS Honors Legal Aid Attorneys

The State Bar Poverty Law Section honored five attorneys at its annual conference, which concludes today. The section awarded its Noble Award for Lifetime Achievements in Poverty to Texas Legal Services Center attorney Randall D. Chapman, which was presented by Texas Access to Justice Commission Chair Jim Sales. Sales lauded Chapman for his work in the Texas Legislature and his work on behalf of poor Texans.

Impact Awards, which honor Texas attorneys or poverty law professionals for a significant poverty law case, were given to Kevin Paul Dietz of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, John W. Kennedy of Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, attorney and Texas Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin), and Susanne C. Seré of Lone Star Legal Aid. Dietz and Kennedy were honored for their work representing families of the Yearning to Zion Ranch in the FLDS case last year. Seré was championed for her efforts to help those affected by Hurricane Ike obtain housing. Naishtat was awarded for his work in the Texas Legislature on behalf of poor Texans.

Legal aid attorneys from around the state who attended the conference received presentations on such subjects as dealing with ethical dilemmas in everyday practice, debt collection, and assisting identity theft victims. The conference featured speakers Gerald McIntyre, a directing attorney at the National Senior Citizen Law Center in California, and Houston attorney Rich Tomlinson.

Random Profile - Laura Upchurch, Brenham

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 80,000-plus attorneys, call them, and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Best thing about being a lawyer: Being able to use intelligence, creativity, and compassion to help people solve problems.

Latest pursuit: Attempting to train the puppy my family got from a shelter last fall. He likes to chew everything from garden hoses to pencils and constantly manages to find new ways to escape from our backyard. 

Bet you didn’t know:  In sixth grade, I taught myself to write backwards in cursive, which served to entertain my friends and teachers. Sad to say, this skill has little practical application as a lawyer. 

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2008-2009 YouTube Contest winners announced

Here are the official winners of the 2008-2009 State Bar YouTube Contest, "Ideals That Unite Us," in which State Bar President Harper Estes invited all Texans to contemplate the ideals that unite us as citizens of this country.

In the Over 18 category, the winner is Gabriel Evans' video, "Memories Unite Us:"

In the Under 18 category, winners for the second year in a row, the Chaumette brothers, Raphael and Alexandre, won with their video "Ideals: Every Citizen Counts!"

And the winner of the People's Choice Award is Manuel Hernandez's "Ideals That Unite Us - Raising the Bar for Justice:"

All entries were evaluated by a panel of judges to determine the winners of the Over 18 and Under 18 categories. The People's Choice winner was determined by the video that received the most views on YouTube.

Evans and Hernandez will receive $2,500 cash prizes for winning in the Over 18 and People's Choice categories.  And the Chaumette brothers will receive a $2,500 scholarship for winning in the Under 18 category.

All winners have been invited to attend a red carpet awards ceremony to be held in conjunction with next week's State Bar board meeting in Fort Worth.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this year's contest. We will announce the theme of the 2009-2010 State Bar YouTube Contest later this year, so stay tuned!

Linda Addison a 2009 Margaret Brent winner

Linda Addison, a partner in the Houston and New York offices of Fulbright & Jaworksi L.L.P., is one of five recipients of the 2009 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. This ABA award was established in 1991 to honor outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence and paved the way to success for others. Addison's honors and professional achievements are too numerous to list here, but she's a longtime contributor to the State Bar of Texas, in many roles. Other Margaret Brent honorees this year include Helaine M. Barnett, Judge Arnette R. Hubbard, Judge Vanessa Ruiz, and Loretta A. Tuell. Read more in the ABA's press release.

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Throwing the book at them: Harper Estes recommends his favorite books

We asked State Bar President (and resident bibliophile) Harper Estes to name some of his favorite books. His selections, as of the time of writing:

Novel: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972 and should be read by anyone who loves either the American West or great writing.

Biography: Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie. This book won a Pulitzer in 1981. It is very readable and covers a lot of history, both of Peter the Great but also that era of Russian and European history. Perhaps the best recommendation I can give – you won’t mind that it’s a very long book.

General History: Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963 by Taylor Branch. This book won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for history and is the first in a three-volume history of the Civil Rights movement. It is thought provoking and poignant. It is one of my favorite books and would have to be to have me list it before Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson and the recent masterpiece Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Historical Fiction: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. My hands-down favorite work of historical fiction, this book won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The book is about the Battle of Gettysburg and sparked my interest in Civil War history. Shaara’s son, Jeff, has made a career of writing prequels and sequels; although some are good, they are no match for his dad’s great novel.

Books About Lawyers: Is there really any choice? To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and became an instant classic. Richard “Racehorse” Haynes says every lawyer should make a habit of reading this book once a year. He is right.

The end of lawyers? Susskind shakes up ABA Techshow

Legal technologist Richard Susskind created a huge buzz among attendees of last week's ABA Techshow with his keynote speech about the future of the legal profession. Susskind's latest book, "The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services," foretells radical changes to business of law, including a commoditization of nearly every aspect of legal services aside from a lawyer's own expert judgment.

According to Susskind, in order to meet client demands of "more for less," lawyers will have to become much more efficient, which they'll do through commoditization of legal work and "multi-sourcing" (breaking up a legal matter into many pieces which are handled by different providers). They must also, says Susskind, learn to collaborate through community-based sharing of legal knowledge. Online social networking, he predicts, will dominate legal services.

Lawyers of the future will be project managers and risk managers, not "expert trusted advisors" as they're thought of today. Rather than frame his predictions with gloom and doom, Susskind emphasized that we're not near "the end of lawyers" but in a time of tremendous opportunity for those willing to innovate and approach work differently.

A free video of Susskind's keynote will be posted soon on the ABA Techshow website.

Attorney, author, morning DJ - Roxanne Wilson has it going on!

Meet Roxanne Wilson - attorney, morning show deejay, Jazzercise instructor, author, and community volunteer. The 30-year old Austin hot-shot has a story and message to share with young professionals everywhere.

Upon graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, Wilson moved to Austin to practice at Winstead PC. One of Wilson’s many volunteer activities was involvement in the Baylor Alumni Association. Through the association, Wilson found an unusual opportunity to try-out for the hit reality television show, "The Apprentice."

Putting her law practice on hold, Roxanne had a three-month experience like no other! As America watched, Wilson waited a long time for “The Donald” to tell her, “You’re fired.”   Quite successful on the show, she was a final four contestant.

Taking a leap of faith, so to speak, Wilson authored the book, Footprints in the Boardroom.  A strong Christian, Wilson believes that maintaining Christian values while pursuing a successful business career is obtainable. Wilson is committed to spreading this message to young professionals through her book and toolkits.

Wilson is now the host of “Family Friendly Mornings” on Austin radio station 102.3, The River. While her career demands most of her time, Wilson remains committed to giving back. She serves on the Public Relations Committee for the Junior League of Austin – A Christmas Affair; volunteers for the Make-A-Wish, is active in the Susan G. Komen  for the Cure Foundation, and devoted to her church.

For a glimpse of Roxanne and to view her blog, visit www.theriver1023.com.


Walton honored by Anti-Defamation League

State Bar Immediate Past President Gib Walton was awarded the 2009 Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Award by the Anti-Defamation League on March 31. Founded in 1913, the ADL is the country’s premier human relations and civil rights organization. Walton’s leadership is indicative of this mission, ensuring that minorities have a voice and hold leadership positions that really matter and placing a strong emphasis on protecting the rule of law in society.

Upon accepting the award, Walton thanked his mentors, family, and close friends. He attributes his efforts to his father, Dan Walton who helped to increase diversity on juries when he served as Harris County District Attorney and district judge.

More than $200,000 was raised for the ADL by sponsorships and ticket sales purchased by those honoring Walton at the awards luncheon.


No joke about it -- Austin attorney is funny

Last time the State Bar caught up with Austin attorney John Ramsey, he was fresh out of law school and had just started practicing with Nunis & Associates. He was also just named Funniest Person in Austin. That was back in 2005. Since then, he’s performed throughout the country, most notably in Aspen for HBO’s USA Comedy Arts Festival and in New York City for Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham series.

Seems Ramsey is taking his brush with fame in stride. “The best thing about having comedy as a hobby has been the free trips with my wife,” Ramsey says. He’s still performing in Austin, but manages to do a couple of shows out of state when his job allows.

Ramsey has no plans to leave his position at Nunis & Associates for his hobby, saying “it is far more likely that I will leave the comedy world to become a full-time lawyer.” Considering how supportive his firm is of his comedy career, it's no wonder Ramsey would choose law first. Boss Bob Nunis allows Ramsey to shift his schedule if need be, and Nunis and the other attorneys at the firm have even gone out to see a few shows.

Catch the funnyman this weekend, when he performs Friday and Saturday at Austin’s comedy club, The Velveeta Room.

Live at Gotham  
John Ramsey – Russian Poop Joke
Joke of the Day Stand-Up Comedy Free Online Games