About 30 people attended the Thursday, Sept. 9, public education hearing in San Antonio on the proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
Once again, State Bar President Terry Tottenham welcomed those in attendance, Tom Watkins of Austin presented an overview of the rules and State Bar Immediate Past President Roland Johnson served as moderator. Also in attendance were local directors Allan DuBois of San Antonio and Steve Schechter of Boerne, Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, and Supreme Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson.
Only two people formally commented.
Enrique Valdivia, an attorney with the San Antonio office of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, took issue with proposed Rule 3.05 -- maintaining impartiality of a tribunal and ex parte communications. "Don't eliminate Section (c)," he said. "It's important to keep the rule as is." He referenced a specific case and the importance of transparency in administrative and environmental law cases.
Robert Loree, a partner in a small firm in San Antonio, asked a question regarding the binding arbitration clause in proposed Rule 1.08 and whether it is in conflict with the Texas General Arbitration Act. Watkins responded that when a statute is more restrictive than a DR, "you got to do both" and that the statute is not in conflict with the rule. Loree stated his firm has extensive experience handling such disputes and has four cases pending before the Texas Supreme Court. He said, "Satellite litigation doesn't advance the merits of the claim. As a practitioner, I'd like to see the rule benched. In the long run, it's in the best interest of both the client and the lawyer."
A question was posed as to how soon the implementation of new rules could be anticipated. Johnson reminded the group that the State Bar Board of Directors will address the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting, make a recommendation to the Supreme Court of Texas by Oct. 6, and when the court is ready it is likely that a referendum will take place. He reminded people to contribute comments on the blog or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For details on the proposed amendments, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.
The ninth and final hearing will take place at the Texas Law Center in Austin on Friday, Sept. 10.