Hearings on rules changes continued today in El Paso

The second of nine public education hearings on the proposed rules changes took place today in El Paso. The crowd of 26 was predominantly lawyers. The hearing was again moderated by Roland Johnson, immediate past president, with a presentation by Tom Watkins, chair of the Supreme Court Task Force that studied the issue in depth. Steve James, section representative to the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, was also on hand to listen to local comments. Click here to listen to the recording of today’s hearing

Excerpts of comments and concerns raised today:

  • An attorney from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid raised a question regarding proposed Rule 3.05, having to do with maintaining impartiality of a tribunal, namely, ensuring that the public knows about decisions being made that directly affect them. “We must have transparency to have justice; it is essential that the public have access to information. The proposed rule limits administrative attorneys’ ability to serve their clients.” Her suggestion was to leave the rules language as is concerning ex parte communications.
  • A lawyer from the Office of the City Attorney commented on arbitration agreements between attorneys and prospective clients, and how enforcement of the proposed new rule would work with respect to agreements already standing. His question was in regard to whether past agreements would have to be redone to comply with new rules if adopted. While no decisions have been made in that regard, Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson indicated the Court would probably make the rules effective going forward from any date of adoption.
  • Mark Osborn, an El Paso attorney who serves on the Professional Ethics Committee, addressed what he deemed a problematic issue with changes to Rule 3.05 pertaining to “pending matters.” “The rules already provide that you can’t unduly influence decision makers, and the proposed change is a green light for rich people to buy boards,” he worried.

In response to a question as to whether the rules would be offered as a package or voted on singly in a forthcoming referendum, Johnson responded that no decision had been made on whether the Bar would make a recommendation about a proposed ballot in its report to the Court.

Watkins added in response to a comment that the rules should not be changed for the sake of change, that the changes had been considered over many years and that all the changes had to be considered within the parameter of first protecting the public, then serving lawyers, and then providing uniformity over multiple jurisdictions. With increasing interstate practice and rapid-fire challenges presented by technology, careful consideration has gone into the drafting of each proposed rule change.

Johnson reminded the crowd that there is still time for the board to recommend changes for the Court to consider, and that the Court is open to input from lawyers and the public, as demonstrated by the presence of Supreme Court justices at the hearings. Today’s hearing was attended by Justice Dale Wainwright. Justice Phil Johnson attended the hearing in Lubbock.

The hearing Wednesday will take place in Houston. Participating lawyers will earn 0.5 hours ethics credit for attending the hearings. Public protection is an important core function of the Bar and citizens are encouraged to offer input, too. Click here to post a comment and click here for details on the proposed rules changes

The State Bar Board of Directors will take up the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the Texas Supreme Court by Oct. 6.

Public education hearings on proposed disciplinary rules changes kick off in Lubbock

More than 40 attorneys and members of the public turned out Monday in Lubbock to learn about proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct at the first of nine public education hearings to be held around the state this week and next.

Roland Johnson, State Bar of Texas immediate past president, provided background information on the issue and served as moderator during a Q&A session. Tom Watkins, chair of the Texas Supreme Court Task Force convened to study the issue, answered questions from those in attendance. Members of the State Bar Board of Directors Becky Baskin Ferguson of Midland and Kyle Lewis of Dumas participated, as well. Click here to listen to the transcript.

A sampling of comments and questions:

  • A lawyer who served on the State Bar committee charged with studying the proposed rules changes remarked that “some of the best legal minds in ethics and professional responsibility have spent thousands of hours of work…on the arduous process, trying to get it [the rules] as close to perfect as possible.”
  • Another attorney voiced a concern regarding whether “confidential” was defined too broadly. Many concerns raised had to do with definitions and interpretations.
  • A representative of a newly formed group, Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability, stressed the importance that the public interest be heard. She posed questions related to confidentiality, informed consent, and issues related to arbitration.
  • A question was posed about “prior contact with client or prospective client” as it relates to clients asking questions on lawyers’ websites, raising the issue of posting rules language to attorneys’ websites.
  • A number of questions were raised around the issue of prohibited sexual relations, including a request to define “sexual relations” and addressing expenses in addition to fees in proposed rule 1.13. Said Watkins in response to one such question, “We’re not trying to regulate sexual conduct with this rule; we’re trying to ensure adequate representation and protection for the client.”

Watkins and Kennon Peterson, Supreme Court rules attorney, responded to a wide range of questions, provided clarification, and offered insight on the process and task at hand.

Rule 3.05 concerning “ex parte communications” drew questions surrounding “pending” and “anticipated” matters, and the intent of state agency decision makers.

Tuesday’s hearing will take place in El Paso. Want to know more or voice your opinion? Click here to see the schedule (pdf) for the remaining hearings. Participating lawyers will earn 0.5 hours ethics credit for attending the hearings. The bar is deeply committed to protecting the public and wants to hear from citizens, too. Click here to post a comment.

The State Bar Board of Directors will take up the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the Texas Supreme Court by Oct. 6.

Click here for MP3 audio of the Lubbock hearing


Hearings continue this week on proposed amendments to the disciplinary rules

A series of public education hearings on proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct began this week. Those interested in the proposed changes are encouraged to attend. Attorneys who attend will receive one-half hour of ethics MCLE credit. 

The Supreme Court of Texas has asked the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors to consider proposed amendments and provide recommendations or comments to the Court by Oct. 6, 2010. Read details on the proposed changes at www.texasbar.com/ethics and provide comments here.

The public education hearings will take place:

Lubbock – Monday, Aug. 30, Noon – 2 p.m.

Texas Tech University School of Law
Lanier Auditorium, Room 153
1802 Hartford Avenue
El Paso – Tuesday, Aug. 31, Noon – 2 p.m.

Commissioners Courtroom, 3rd Floor
500 E. San Antonio
Houston – Wednesday, Sept. 1, Noon – 2 p.m.
Hyatt Regency, Dogwood Room
1200 Louisiana Street
Tyler – Thursday, Sept. 2, Noon – 2 p.m.

6205 S. Broadway Avenue
Dallas – Friday, Sept. 3, Noon – 2 p.m.
Dallas Bar Association
Belo Mansion, Winstead Ballroom
2101 Ross Avenue
Corpus Christi – Tuesday, Sept. 7, Noon – 2 p.m.
Town Club, 6th Floor
800 N. Shoreline Blvd.
McAllen – Wednesday, Sept. 8, Noon – 2 p.m.

Casa de Palmas Renaissance
101 N. Main Street
San Antonio – Thursday, Sept. 9, Noon – 2 p.m.
Bexar County Courthouse (Old Courthouse)
Presiding Courtroom, 2nd Floor
100 Dolorosa
Austin – Friday, Sept. 10, Noon – 2 p.m.
Texas Law Center
Hatton W. Sumners Conference Room
1414 Colorado Street

Reminder: TMCP is next week, Sept. 1-3

Don't forget: the Texas Minority Counsel Program (TMCP) is next Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 1-3, at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Dallas, Texas.

The mission of the TMCP is to expand and increase the opportunities for minority and women attorneys to provide legal services for corporate and government clients, and to encourage corporations and government agencies seeking outside counsel to hire and retain minority and women lawyers.

Visit our web page at www.texasbar.com/tmcp for more information and to register today.

Gene Cavin Award Honors Justice Cook

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eugene A. Cook III (at left in photo) was honored with the Gene Cavin Award at the annual "Summer School" course sponsored by the College of the State Bar of Texas and TexasBarCLE in Galveston July 22-24 at Moody Gardens. The award was presented by one of the course planning committee members and himself a prior Gene Cavin Award recipient, Charles M. Wilson III. A former chair of the Bar's Continuing Legal Education Committee, Justice Cook was the principal architect of the Texas Lawyer's Creed, adopted by the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, making Texas the first state to adopt a code of conduct for its lawyers.

Named for the State Bar's first full-time CLE director, the Gene Cavin award is the highest honor given annually by the State Bar of Texas in the area of continuing legal education.

Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat - Sept. 22 -24, 2010

This two-day event provides valuable training on increasing the quantity and quality of legal services available to the poor through pro bono efforts.

This year's retreat will provide excellent training and networking opportunities for anyone responsible for coordinating pro bono efforts for a legal services program or a law firm. Discussion will be focused on how to effectively deliver legal services to low-income Texans.

The deadline to register is Sept. 6, 2010. Get more details including a registration form and agenda.

TexasBarCLE Webcast Offers Veterans Benefits Law Training

As part of the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans initiative, TexasBarCLE is offering a live webcast on the Basics of Veterans Benefits Law. The webcast, scheduled for Tuesday, August 24, from 9 a.m. to noon, is designed to give attorneys who have an interest in representing veteran claimants seeking U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits a primer in this growing area of practice. Attorneys who want to represent a veteran on a VA benefits claim must be accredited by the VA.

For attorneys who are already approved by the VA to represent veteran claimants, this webcast also provides the three hours of CLE necessary to maintain their accreditation. The course will focus on VA disability benefits, the rules regarding attorney representation of a veteran with benefits claims, basic eligibility for VA benefits, claims procedures, etc.

Attorneys who agree to take one VA benefits case pro bono within one year can take the course at no charge. Visit TexasBarCLE.com to learn more or to register.

TexasBarCLE to offer free webcast on proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct

TexasBarCLE will be offering a free webcast on the proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The webcast will include a group of panelists and will focus mainly on discussing the proposed amendments, the process by which the proposed amendments were developed, and reasons the changes are needed.

Immediate past president of the State Bar of Texas, Roland Johnson, will serve as moderator for the webcast. Panelists will include Patricia Chamblin, chairwoman of the State Bar Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee; Linda Eads, a past chairwoman of the State Bar’s disciplinary rules committee; Tom Watkins, chairman of the Texas Supreme Court task force on the disciplinary rules; and Kennon Peterson, the Texas Supreme Court’s rules attorney.

The live webcast is free and will be on Wednesday, August 18, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The webcast is worth two hours of MCLE credit, including two hours of ethics credit. Register for the webcast for free on TexasBarCLE.com. To find out more about the proposed amendments, visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.

Texas Minority Counsel Program (TMCP) set for Sept. 1-3 at Las Colinas

The 18th annual TMCP conference - Sept. 1-3, 2010 - will attract corporations and government agencies wishing to participate in informational interviews with minority and women lawyers. The program will also include a two-track CLE program designed for minority/women lawyers and corporate/government counsel. It will be held at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas.

Click here for the TMCP brochure, sponsor list and interviewing opportunities.