ABA sues FTC over the Red Flags Rule

Yesterday the American Bar Association announced it had filed suit seeking to bar the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from applying the Red Flags Rule to lawyers. The Red Flags Rule requires "creditors" and "financial institutions" with covered accounts to implement programs to identify, detect, and respond to warning signs of identity theft. There has been some confusion regarding which businesses the rule does and does not apply to.

In late July, the FTC delayed enforcement of the rule until Nov. 1, 2009, and indicated in a press release that it would soon provide additional guidance regarding how to determine whether the rule applies to a particular business.

The ABA claims that:

"the FTC has failed 'to articulate, among other things: a rational connection between the practice of law and identity theft; an explanation of how the manner in which lawyers bill their clients can be considered an extension of credit under the FACTA; or any legally supportable basis for application of the Red Flags Rule to lawyers engaged in the practice of law.'"

For more on the suit, see the ABA's press release and this report by the National Law Journal.

For details on the Red Flags Rule, see the FTC's How-To Guide for Business.

Honoring the Best in Texas Journalism

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the State Bar teamed up to present the 2009 Texas Gavel Awards to nine Texas journalists on Friday during the FOIFT John Henry Faulk awards luncheon in Austin. The journalists were awarded for their efforts in helping to further the public's understanding of the legal system.

In addition, FOIFT honored Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis (D – Houston) and Texas Rep. Todd Hunter (R – Corpus Christi) for their work in getting a journalist shield law — the Free Flow of Information Act — passed in the last legislative session. Hunter and Ellis, shown with attorney and FOIFT member Paul Watler, were presented the James Madison Award, the FOIFT's highest award.

FOIFT and SBOT presented 2009 Texas Gavel Awards to the following journalists:

• Chris Vogel, Houston Press, "Crime Doesn't Pay (Back)"

• Dawn Tongish and Barry Blonstein, KDAF-TV Dallas, "DNA, Set Me Free"

• Brian New (third from left), Michael Humphries, and Larry Burns, KENS-TV San Antonio, "Stranded at the Pump"

• Elliott Blackburn (second from left), Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, "Hope Deferred," and 

• Steve McGonigle and Jennifer Emily, The Dallas Morning News, "Mistaken Identities."

Ellis, the luncheon's keynote speaker, praised the media for acting as a government watchdog. The Texas senator talked about the importance of newspapers, especially in these tough economic times ("I get them on Kindle, but I like to have something in my hands too.") and encouraged veteran journalists to mentor aspiring reporters.


Random Profile - Victoria Broussard

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: Walking in the courtroom when I know I am prepared and ready to rock and roll.

Bet you didn’t know: My son, Jean-Luc, is a fourth generation only child and was named after Jean-Luc Pickard, the Captain of the Starship Enterprise, Star Trek, The Next Generation.

Another little known fact: My mother told me when I was a young girl that I would be a good attorney.

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A new take on the case digest

Casemaker, which provides free caselaw for Texas lawyers, has launched a unique case digest service for Texas legal pros. 

The site kicks the traditional digest up a notch by allowing keyword searches and sorting case summaries by practice area, court, and even judge. Take a look now for free, and starting on September 1st sign up for a free 30-day trial of the service, which will cost $39.95 per year.

For a tour of the new case digest service, sign up for a free webinar, offered every Monday.

Remember that Casemaker 2.1 is free to all Texas lawyers and includes the full text of cases from all 50 states and an expanded federal library. Casemaker offers free live and recorded webinars on its research tools.

Taking on a Texas-sized Job

Taking the lead of the largest law library in the world, Roberta I. Shaffer will have plenty to keep her busy. Roberta, who is Texas-licensed, was appointed Law Librarian of Congress by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Roberta currently is executive director of the Federal Library and Information Center Committee/Federal Library Network, but will begin her new position on Aug. 30.

Shaffer’s excited to start what she calls “a lifelong dream.” She says this is the best time in history to have this particular position. “The collections of the Library of Congress give meaning to the concept of democracy. Join these incomparable collections across all disciplines together with the power of technology, and opportunities have no limits.”

Billington said in a news release that Shaffer brings to the position “both extraordinary vision and demonstrated leadership skills” that will surely serve Congress and the public well. Roberta has an impressive academic background, to boot. She received her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law (graduating cum laude), graduated with highest honors from Emory University with a master’s degree in law librarianship, and graduated cum laude from Vassar College with an A.B. degree in political science/demography.

Roberta taught at several school libraries, including serving as dean and a professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin from 1999 to 2002. She was director of the University of Houston Law Center’s Legal Communications Program and associate director of the center’s Law and Technology Program.

Though Roberta calls her new position "a big job — Texas-sized, if you will,” she’s looking forward to tackling the challenges that lie ahead, including properly identifying, organizing, and digitizing the Library’s collections, as well as utilizing new sources of information — think blogs, Tweets, and wikis.

Roberta says the Law Library of Congress can serve Texas attorneys well as they deal more and more with foreign businesses. The Law Library of Congress has laws from more than 200 non-U.S. jurisdictions and a legal staff of lawyers from those countries who can assist with language barriers and in finding the correct sources. Further more, Roberta says by studying and comparing our laws with the laws of many other nations, Texas attorneys can find innovative ways to use law to solve the complex issues of our time. 

Recent law grad aces After The Bar Exam

Just eight days after State Bar President Roland Johnson launched AfterTheBarExam.com on August 1, one recent law grad completed the program. He'll receive a certificate of completion and can also claim CLE credit for certain courses once he's licensed.

After The Bar Exam features free resources and webcasts intended address concerns of those about to face the challenges and opportunities of a life in the law.

We've invited the gung-ho grad to appear on this blog and will reveal his name and future plans if he agrees (there's no pressure).

If you have questions or comments about After The Bar Exam, please email us at after@texasbar.com


Random Profile - Thomas W. George, Austin

Thomas GeorgeFor 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: Single, two children, six grandchildren.

Areas of practice: civil trial law/health care law and policy/university teaching.

Education: M.S., J.D. - American University; LL.M. Health Law & Policy Institute - Univ. of Houston Law Center; Ph.D. - UTMB

Bet you didn’t know: I have an interest in end-of-life legal and medical issues; a doctorate with emphasis on bioethics.

Another little known fact: I have a ranch in Wyoming; although I never go, I just love knowing it’s there.

Mentors/heroes: There are so many! Two favorite Lawyers: Mahatma Gandhi & Clarence Darrow & my high school English teacher, Dorothy Waisner, our own “Good Morning Miss Dove.”

Best thing about being a lawyer: So many wonderful things: i.e., meaningful involvement and opportunity to make a difference in peoples lives.

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Texas Legal Community Loses Legend, Emily C. Jones

Emily C. Jones, former director of Texas Lawyers Care, the State Bar’s legal services/pro bono support, and former director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, passed away early this morning after a five-year battle with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Known as a feisty and strong-spirited advocate for access to justice initiatives in Texas, Emily committed her entire career to helping low-income Texans gain access to legal assistance. More than that, Emily led by example — even while facing personal health obstacles — inspiring other Texas attorneys to do pro bono work.

Emily began her career as a legal aid attorney, working with East Texas Legal Services right out of law school. She later went into private practice as a civil rights attorney. Emily left law for a while, teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. She joined the State Bar in 1996 as a program attorney with Texas Lawyers Care and became the second executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, which was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 2001. In addition to her duties as director of the Commission and Texas Lawyers Care, Emily continued taking pro bono cases. She retired as director of Texas Lawyers Care in May 2008 and as director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission in December 2008 due to health reasons. In May, the Texas Access to Justice Commission honored Emily with the inaugural Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award for her work. The award recognizes an outstanding individual whose extraodinary spirit — like Emily's — and demonstrated commitment to legal services has improved society and inspired others. 

Plans for Emily’s memorial service are pending.

UPDATE: A memorial gathering for Emily will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22 at the Texas AFL-CIO building (1106 Lavaca St. in Austin, near the corner of Lavaca and 11th streets). For more information, visit Emily's Caring Bridge website at www.caringbridge.org/visit/emilyjones/journal.