Registration is open for 2011 Annual Meeting

Online registration is open for the 2011 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting. Annual Meeting is your once-a-year opportunity to learn, connect, and grow. Whether you are looking to earn CLE credits, hear dynamic speakers, or meet exhibitors and sponsors who can help grow your business, Annual Meeting is where you can find it all.

This year's featured keynote presentations are Mike Thornton, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and former Navy SEAL, who will speak at the Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon and H.W. Brands, bestselling historian and biographer who has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, who will speak at the General Session Luncheon.

This year's Annual Meeting will be in San Antonio on June 23 and 24 at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio and Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. For more information and to register, please visit www.texasbar.com/annualmeeting.

Chief Justice Delivers State of Judiciary Address

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson today delivered his biennial State of the Judiciary address. Among the issues Jefferson discussed were juvenile justice, access to justice, indigent defense, judicial selection, and the preservation of court records.

"I ask you to take action this Session," Jefferson implored members of the House and Senate. "Give us the assurance that, at this crucial juncture, we did not turn our backs on the neediest among us, but continued to serve them as the Constitution so strongly demands."

To read Jefferson's full address, click here.

ATJ Commission proposes legislative plan to legal aid funding crisis

At a press conference held today at the State Capitol, representatives of the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the Supreme Court of Texas announced four legislative proposals to address the funding crisis in the Texas legal aid system.

To highlight an expected reduction of 51 percent in funding for legal aid — a decline of $23 million — the Commission will propose to the 82nd Legislature:

• To increase state district court filing fees by $10;
• To establish a dedicated Judicial Access and Improvement Fund, which would include a $2 recording fee on all non-judicial filings with a county clerk (exception would be motor vehicle filings) and a $10 court cost at justice courts and municipal courts in misdemeanors;
• To create a Consumer Assistance Fund from payments of restitution arising from consumer protection suits; and
• To include a $95 fee for creditors in the mortgage foreclosure process for property lenders of second and third resort.

"We all know that there are some problems with our budget, but I am going to do whatever I can to make the case that, whatever cuts we have to make, [access to justice] is not an area that we should go back on," said Sen. José Rodriguez, D-El Paso, who authored Senate Bill 726, the Judicial Access and Improvement Fund Act. "If we are going to live up to the promise of [equal justice for all], we are going to have to invest in our legal justice system."

Pictured are State Bar President Terry Tottenham, former Commission Chair James Sales, Commission Chair Harry Reasoner, Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, ATJ Commissioner Dick Tate and Jacqueline Pontello, executive director of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA), and former AVDA client Crystal B., who spoke about how legal aid services helped her escape an abusive relationship.

Referendum 2011 - Timeline of development of proposed rules

The process leading up to the Referendum included numerous opportunities for those who had concerns with the proposed rules to make their voices known. This process has taken a long time, debate has been invited and ongoing throughout, and the debate and input by lawyers and the public has benefited the proposed rules that are under consideration. Every Texas lawyer is encouraged to read the proposed rules and decide for him or her self whether these rules reflect the way they practice in 2011. Then, vote responsibly.

A brief overview of the process:

  • The committee began developing these proposed rules in 2003. The Supreme Court appointed an independent task force to look at the rules and review the committee’s work. There were many differences that led to multiple reports and joint hearings before the Court.
  • In October 2009, the Supreme Court published the proposed rules for comment. It received more than 500 comments. The Court went through those comments and made numerous changes based on the input it received.
  • In April, the Court asked the State Bar Board of Directors to consider the revised rules and report back by Oct. 6, 2010. The Board sought written input both through the mail and electronically and held hearings throughout the state. A member of the Court attended each of the hearings that were conducted. The Board compiled and considered all the comments received and made changes to the proposed rules for recommendation to the Court.
  • Shortly before the October deadline, the Bar Board began to receive strong concerns about the proposed rules concerning conflicts. The Board voted to send all its proposals to the Court with the exception of the Conflicts rules which the Board asked for more time to consider and consult with those who had expressed strong concern with those proposals.
  • The Court allowed the Bar to continue the debate on the Comments portions of the proposed rules, to hold another public meeting with ethics counsel and others from throughout the state, to ensure those concerns were heard and addressed.
  • On November 5, the Board adopted the remainder of the proposed rules and sent them to the Court with a petition for referendum.
  • The December 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal included the proposed rules to be voted on. The January issue included commentary and asked numerous people whether they would advise support of the rules. An educational webcast explained the new rules and advised viewers of some of the concerns expressed by those who did not support specific rules.
     

New grant will expand legal help for Texas veterans

The Texas Veterans Commission today announced the recipients of more than $2 million in grants for veterans' assistance.

Among the awards is a $95,000 grant to the Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) for the purpose of expanding its Veterans Legal Hotline for Texas veterans who do not have access to civil legal services. According to TLSC's Randall Chapman, the grant will allow it to increase hotline hours and hire additional staff to help provide the service.

Legal services provided to veterans primarily address issues relating to family, employment, housing, consumer, probate, and access to health care and benefits.

For details on State Bar of Texas efforts to provide legal help to Texas veterans, see Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans.

Random Profile: Constance Mims, Fort Worth

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys 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: The ever-taxing test of my cognitive abilities!

Most important career lesson: Read everything before  signing ... seriously ... in its entirety!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? The shrinking practice of law coupled with the growing list of attorneys. 

Favorite composers: John Williams and Danny Elfman, every movie they score is the better for it!

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In Memoriam: Chief Justice Joe R. Greenhill

Former Chief Justice Joe R. Greenhill — the longest-serving justice in the history of the Supreme Court of Texas — died today at his home in Austin. He was 96. Greenhill was born in Houston in 1914, graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1939, and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Governor Price Daniel appointed Greenhill to the Court in 1957. He succeeded Robert W. Calvert as chief justice in 1972 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1982. 

For more information about Chief Justice Greenhill and his judicial legacy, click here.

Law Day: the legacy of John Adams, from Boston to Guantanamo

The State Bar of Texas is asking local bar associations around Texas to encourage students in their communities to participate in the 2011 Law Day program. Students in grades K-12 are asked to “explore how lawyers in the past and present have promoted justice by defending unpopular clients.”

The State Bar of Texas will celebrate Law Day on Monday, May 9, at the Texas Law Center in Austin. The deadline for all submissions is Friday, April 1, 2011. Get the full details and an entry form [PDF]

 

Registration is open for the 2011 Poverty Law Conference

This year's Poverty Law Conference will be April 6th-8th, 2011 at the Hilton Downtown Austin. The annual conference is a three-day event that provides valuable training on poverty law issues affecting low-income and poor Texans. The conference offers targeted continuing legal education with a specific public interest focus and will feature presentations from some of the most knowledgeable poverty law practitioners and private attorneys in their respective fields.

For more information and to register online, you may visit www.texasbar.com/plc.

Sens. Hutchison, Cornyn announce application process for U.S. district judges in the eastern, southern and western districts of Texas

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today announced that they were accepting applications for three judicial vacancies in Texas. A vacancy for U.S. District Judge is open for nomination in the Eastern District of Texas in Sherman. A second vacancy for U.S. District Judge is open for nomination in the Southern District of Texas in Galveston, and third is open for nomination in the Western District of Texas in El Paso. All who applied in 2008 for the Sherman and El Paso vacancies—and remain interested—are encouraged to reapply.

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State Bar Board Passes Resolution Supporting Prime Partner Banks

On Jan. 28, during its quarterly meeting in Austin, the State Bar Board of Directors passed a resolution supporting Prime Partner banks. The resolution urges lawyer organizations in Texas to move their business to Prime Partner banks because they voluntarily provide millions in additional funding to legal aid programs in Texas.

Click here for a list of Prime Partner banks. 

After interest rates crashed to nearly zero percent in 2008, Prime Partner banks voluntarily agreed to offer one percent interest on lawyer trust accounts. The interest on those accounts — known as IOLTA (Interest On Lawyer Trust Accounts) — funds legal aid programs throughout Texas. These legal aid programs assist low-income families through domestic violence, housing, disability, and other legal problems.

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Texas Bar Journal forms now online!

You no longer need to send an email, fax, or letter to submit your Laurel, Lawyer on the Move, or  Memorial to the Texas Bar Journal. Visit www.texasbar.com/tbj to submit your announcement or Memorial with our new online forms. Filling out the forms is quick and easy.

Texas Hispanic Community at the Crossroads Conference

Join the HIspanic Issues Section for the Texas Hispanic Community at the Crossroads Conference on Tuesday, February 22, 2011. Highlights of the event include: Update on Federal Immigration Reform; State of the Border and International Law Enforcement; Federal Legislative Legal Developments: Washington Perspective; and 82nd Texas Legislative Update from State Representatives and Senators. Get more details and a registration form

Honoring a Texas Legal Legend

On Jan. 23, Texas lost one of its legal legends, Louise Ballerstedt Raggio. She was 91. Named the "Mother of Family Law in Texas," Raggio was a well-known civil rights activist and champion for the rights of women and children in Texas.

Raggio was instrumental in establishing property rights for women in Texas by advocating for the passage of the Texas Marital Property Act of 1967.

In addition to helping the state's women and children gain legal rights, Raggio garnered a long list of firsts: the only woman in her class at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, the first female assistant district attorney in Dallas, the first female State Bar director, just to name a few. On the TexasBarBooks blog, you can find an autobiographical video and tribute to Raggio.

Random Profile: Mike Sims, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys 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:  Helping others become lawyers

Most important career lesson: Arrive early, stay late, and remain curious.

Bet you didn’t know: I’ve traveled to all 50 states.

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Guy D. Choate and F.R. "Buck" Files Jr. vie for president-elect spot

The State Bar of Texas has announced that attorneys Guy D. Choate of San Angelo and F.R. “Buck” Files Jr. of Tyler will face off in an election of the state’s lawyers this spring to become president-elect of the State Bar of Texas.

Guy Choate is a partner at Webb Stokes & Sparks, L.L.P. in San Angelo. He is board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Buck Files is a shareholder and founding member of Bain, Files, Jarrett, Bain & Harrison, PC in Tyler, where he practices criminal defense law. He is board certified in criminal law by TBLS, and in criminal trial advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

Click here to read the news release.

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