Free clinics to help service members obtain stop loss pay

Lone Star Legal Aid (LSLA) will conduct two free clinics to help veterans and active military apply for RetroActive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) before the current deadline of April 8, 2011. Service members who believe they are eligible for RSLSP are encouraged to attend LSLA free help clinics on April 4 and April 5 in Killeen, Texas. Both clinics will take place at the Killeen Community Center from 9 am – 4 pm located at 2201 East Veterans Memorial Boulevard, in Killeen. LSLA attorneys and staff will be there to assist the eligible service members with the application process.

Service members, veterans, (and their beneficiaries) whose service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss, a forced extension of active duty military service, between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2009 may be eligible for RSLSP. Congress has extended the deadline several times to allow eligible persons extra time to apply for the pay and recently extended the deadline through April 8 under the Continuing Resolution the federal government is operating under.

The RSLSP additional payment of $500 for each month of involuntary service, results in average payments to service members of $3,700, an amount that could make a difference for a service member and their family now. This money could be especially important for families who qualify for free legal services. The average veteran or service member who qualifies for free legal services with Lone Star Legal Aid is living under the Federal poverty guidelines; this money could absolutely change their lives. 

Service members who plan to attend the April 4 or April 5 free clinics should bring all required forms to the clinics. For a complete list of the required forms visit your branch of military’s website or http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/0710_stoploss/.


For more information please contact Rebekah Mason, Staff Attorney, at (713) 652-0077 or at rmason@lonestarlegal.org.
 

Texas Board of Legal Specialization 2011 induction ceremony, certification applications, new specialty area, and new look for TBLS.org

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) is holding their 2011 induction ceremony at the Texas Law Center, is accepting certification applications for 2011, has a new specialty area, and has a new look for TBLS.org.

2011 Induction Ceremony
The TBLS Induction Ceremony will be April 19 at the Texas Law Center in Austin.

2011 Certification Applications
TBLS is accepting certification applications for 2011. You can find the specific requirements for each specialty area at the “Get Certified” section of tbls.org. 

New Specialty Area
The Supreme Court of Texas approved the Standards of Certification in the new specialty area of Criminal Appellate Law. This is the first new specialty area recognized by the Court since Workers’ Compensation Law in 2004. Certification will be available for Texas attorneys who have handled a sufficient number of post-conviction writs and appeals in criminal cases. You may review the Standards for specific information about the requirements, including the numbers and types of matters which qualify. The 2011 application filing deadline is Monday, May 2, 2011.

New Look for TBLS.org
If you haven't had a chance to explore the new site, TBLS encourages you to take a few minutes to see how TBLS is increasing Board Certified attorneys' presence on the Internet. TBLS has a new distinctive Board Certified Logo, a consumer-friendly search function using Google map technology, and a personal attorney profile page for every Board Certified attorney. TBLS continues to work on behalf of their members’ to raise awareness and communicate the benefits of working with a Board Certified attorney among Texas consumers.

If you have questions about the TBLS Board Certification program, please contact TBLS at its toll free number, 1-855-277-TBLS or send an e-mail to tbls@texasbar.com.

 

Law Students selected for Texas Access to Justice Commission internships

Texas Access to Justice Commission Logo

Fourteen law students from around the country have been selected to participate in the Access to Justice Summer Internship Program sponsored by the Texas Access to Justice Commission, in partnership with six Texas legal aid providers. The program encourages students to help address the civil legal problems of underserved individuals and communities, and to educate future attorneys about those problems.

The Access to Justice Internship Program provides a unique opportunity for law students to participate in an internship with nonprofit providers of civil legal services located in areas without a local law school. The program particularly benefits rural and underserved parts of Texas that receive much needed help in the delivery of legal aid for low-income Texans.

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Stars of Texas Bars and Judge Sam Williams contests

Local bar associations are invited to participate in the Stars of Texas Bars and the Judge Sam Williams contest. This year’s entries must be received by the State Bar of Texas, Local Bar Services department by Wednesday, May 4, at 5:00 p.m. For questions please email localbars@texasbar.com.

Get the details:
Stars of Texas Bars [pdf]
Judge Sam Williams [pdf]

Electronic-filing effective today

Guest post by Osler McCarthy, Supreme Court of Texas staff attorney for public information 

Effective today, you may electronically file documents with the Texas Supreme Court, pay your fees, and serve opposing counsel using the Texas.gov electronic-filing system.

To use the electronic-filing system you must first choose an electronic-filing service provider and register. You must send two paper copies of your filing to the Court when you use the electronic-filing system.

If you choose to file using the traditional paper-filing method, you must still e-mail electronic copies of petitions, responses, replies, briefs on the merits, amicus briefs, post-submission briefs, motions for rehearing, and emergency motions to the Clerk of the Court on the same day that the paper copies are filed. The electronic copies must be e-mailed to scebriefs@txcourts.gov. An original and eleven paper copies are still required for most filings when using the paper filing method.

For more details, see the Electronic Copy and Electronic Filing Rules for the Supreme Court of Texas. For more information about creating electronic briefs, please read this Guide to Creating Better Electronic Briefs. You can also watch a video that shows step-by-step instructions for using Adobe Acrobat to create an electronic brief.

National Trial Competition: judges and witnesses needed

The American College of Trial Lawyers and Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) will host the championship rounds of the National Trial Competition (NTC) on Thursday and Friday, April 7 and 8 at the Harris County Civil Courthouse downtown on 201 Caroline Street, Houston, 77002. This competition is the premiere mock trial competition in the country. The top 28 law school mock trial teams from around the country will advance from their region to the NTC Championship Rounds in Houston. Read more information about the competition.

Women's History Month Profile: Hortense Sparks Ward

Hortense Sparks Ward
Hortense Sparks Ward
Photo courtesy of the Texas State Library & Archives Commission

Hortense Sparks Ward (1872-1944) was the first woman admitted to the State Bar of Texas, the first woman attorney in Houston, the first Southern woman attorney admitted to practice before the Supreme court, a Special Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and an influential women's suffrage advocate.

Attorney

Ward's interest in studying law began while working as a stenographer and a court reporter. After passing the bar exam in 1910, she practiced civil law in Houston with her husband — attorney and judge William Henry Ward. Most accounts of her life say that she chose to remain behind the scenes rather than appear in court because she was concerned  that all-male juries might react poorly to a female lawyer.

In 1915, Ward and her husband were admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ward practiced law until her husband died in 1939. She died five years later in 1944, survived by a daughter and eight grandchildren.

Women's Rights Advocate

As a suffragist and activist, Ward wrote stirring newspaper articles and lobbied Texas elected officials to vote for bills promoting women's legal rights. She played an important role in the passage of the 54-hour workweek for women in industry and in the passage of the 1913 married women's property law, which gave women control of their separate property and wages.

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Voting for State Bar and TYLA presidents-elect begins April 1

Election 2011 online voting for State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) presidents-elect will begin April 1 and end May 2. Paper ballots will be mailed April 1.

The State Bar Board of Directors approved the nominations of Guy Choate of San Angelo and F.R. "Buck" Files, Jr. of Tyler as State Bar president-­elect candidates. The TYLA Board of Directors approved the nominations of David Courreges of Austin and C.E. Rhodes of Houston as TYLA president-elect candidates.

To view the candidates' bios, please visit www.texasbar.com/elections.

Elsa Alcala Appointed to Court of Criminal Appeals

On Tuesday, March 22, Gov. Rick Perry appointed Elsa Alcala of Houston to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for a term to expire at the next general election.

A justice on the First Court of Appeals in Harris County, Alcala is a former district court judge and current vice chair of the State Bar of Texas Criminal Pattern Jury Charge Committee. She will fill the vacancy left by Judge Charles Holcomb, who retired from the Court in December.

For more information about the appointment, which is pending Senate confirmation, click here

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Random Profile: Judge Antonia (Toni) Arteaga, San Antonio

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?

The part of my job I do best is: Care. I take the situation at hand seriously and never lose sight of the lives affected, both positively and negatively, by my decisions.

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: Three things you need to be successful in court … (1) preparation (2) preparation and (3) preparation ... by the Honorable Larry Noll.

Latest pursuit: Completing my first half-marathon.

 

 Talents (beside law):  I can make an amazing princess castle cake.

Current Project: Learning how to create balloon animals.

Favorite food: Any breakfast food, especially chorizo and egg with papitas.

Favorite movie: The Poseidon Adventure (the original).

Favorite sport: basketball or football - as long as one team is UT or the Spurs.

 

Collects: I collect refrigerator magnets.

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Houston Bar Association's John J. Eikenburg Law Week Fun Run Set for March 26

Fun Run logoThe Houston Bar Association's 26th Annual John J. Eikenburg Law Week Fun Run will be held on Saturday, March 26 at Sam Houston Park, 1100 Bagby, Downtown Houston. The first race starts at 7:30 a.m.

All entry fee proceeds will be contributed directly to THE CENTER, a nonprofit organization dedicated to offering people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to reach their full potential and to contribute to their community through education, job training, socialization, community living, and health care.

Since 1986, the Houston Bar Association has raised over  $886,000 for THE CENTER.

The event features an 8K run, a one-mile non-competitive children's run, a non-competitive one-mile family walk, and a wheelchair division in the 8K. The 8K race is an official spring series race of the Houston Area Road Runners Association, and is a sanctioned U.S.A. Track and Field event.

Visit the Fun Run website to register and learn more about special events planned for this exciting race!

New MCLE requirements take effect June 1, 2011

Beginning June 1, 2011, a minimum of 12 of the 15 hour MCLE requirement must be completed through attendance at “Accredited CLE” activities. A maximum of 3 self-study hours per compliance year will be allowed. Please review the changes at  www.texasbar.com.

State Bar YouTube Contest Deadline April 1

Lone Star Stories logoThere’s still time to enter your videos in the 2011 State Bar YouTube contest! The deadline is April 1, and entering is simple: Just go to www.texasbar.com/texansonjustice for the contest rules and entry form. Then, pull out your video camera and shoot a 30-second PSA-style video that answers the question: “How do lawyers make a difference in our society?” Upload your video to YouTube and remember to tag it “statebaroftexas.” Winners will be announced May 9 as part of the State Bar’s Law Day celebration. Prizes of $500 each will be awarded in three categories: Under 18; 18 and over; and People’s Choice Award. The contest is open to residents of Texas and attorneys licensed to practice in Texas. It’s especially a great project for your children, so get them and their friends involved!

 

Lawyers volunteer and earn a "Standing Ovation"

Eight Texas attorneys were honored this month by the State Bar of Texas for their exceptional contributions in 2010 to the Bar's continuing legal education efforts. Justice Harvey G. Brown, Jr., of Houston, David A. Chaumette of Houston, Tina R. Green of Texarkana, Randall Coyt Johnston of Dallas, Christopher Kirby of Bastrop, Michael C. Smith of Marshall, Peter S. Vogel of Dallas, and Charles M. Wilson III of Addison each received an award from the staff of TexasBarCLE, the Bar's division for providing continuing legal education and one of the premier providers in the nation.

The award, a handsome cobalt blue obelisk, is inscribed with "A Standing Ovation — Staff Appreciation for an Outstanding Volunteer of 2010." It also bears the name of the recipient, the logo for TexasBarCLE, and the seal of the State Bar of Texas.

Pat Nester, Director of TexasBarCLE, explained the significance of the award. "It is a recognition by the staff of individuals who have stood out this last year for their extraordinary commitment — of time, of leadership — and for the inspiration and insights they provided."

The attorneys’ contributions included chairing and serving on committees to plan and present continuing legal education courses, speaking and writing for courses, and generating ideas for new programs.     

"Volunteers are the lifeblood of what we do," Nester continued. "Hundreds graciously give of their time and expertise to help us each year. Without them, continuing legal education from the State Bar wouldn't be nearly as high quality, as abundant, or as affordable. It's one of the great manifestations of lawyers giving back to the legal profession."

TLA's Teacher of the Year Award deadline is approaching

In recognition of the vital role that teachers play in law-related education, the Texas Lawyers' Auxiliary is sponsoring its annual High School Teacher of the Year Award. The award honors public and private high school teachers in Texas who have made significant contributions in law-related education, developing and supporting programs which enhance awareness of legal rights and the American legal system. Candidates may be nominated by teachers or principals. The entry deadline is April 15, 2011. Download application.
 

Call for nominations for 2011 Chief Justice Jack Pope Awards

The Texas Center for Legal Ethics is now accepting nominations for the third annual Chief Justice Jack Pope Professionalism Awards. One award each will be presented to an appellate judge and an appellate lawyer who epitomize the highest level of professionalism and integrity. Active and retired lawyers and judges are eligible. Awards will be presented during the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society Dinner in June.

The deadline for nominations is April 1. For more information, please visit http://www.txethics.org/News.aspx?id=19

Nominations are open for LeadershipSBOT

The State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association are looking for 20 Texas lawyers to participate in LeadershipSBOT. This diversity initiative is designed to recruit, train, and retain Texas lawyers for leadership positions in the legal community and the State Bar of Texas. Program participants will be selected to reflect the cultural, ethnic, geographic, and practice area diversity of the state. It is not designed to compete with bar association and local affiliate leadership academies but to complement those exceptional programs.

Nomination forms should be submitted by July 1, 2011. Read the nomination letter and download the nomination form.

9th Annual Texas Minority Attorney Program (TMAP) is here

The Texas Minority Attorney Program (TMAP) is a one-day live CLE seminar and networking event geared towards minority and women solo and small firm practitioners. Participants have the opportunity to learn more about the issues facing solo and small firms, discuss various client development strategies, and network with area judges and other legal professionals.

This year's topics include Advertising Your Practice: Do’s and Don’ts, Legal Research for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners, Avoiding a Grievance, and Judges Panel: A View From the Bench. The course benefits include a full day of CLE for only $75 (register by the deadline), lunch included, course materials provided on a convenient USB drive, the opportunity to gain valuable CLE and earn ethics credit, and the opportunity to learn how to enhance client services. The MCLE credit will be 6.75 Hours (2.75 Ethics) for San Antonio and 6.5 Hours (1.75 Ethics) for Houston.

TMAP will be held at Bright Shawl in San Antonio on April 1st and at South Texas College of Law's Garrett-Townes Auditorium in Houston on May 6th. For more information, to view the brochure, and to register for the seminar, please visit www.texasbar.com/tmap.

Random Profile: Dan Hargrove, San Antonio

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?

Most important career lesson:
Meet people. 

Bet you didn’t know:
I lived in Sweden for a year and Egypt for 6 months.  I speak neither Swedish nor Arabic.  But my Spanish from growing up on the Texas border came in handy with the Columbian soldiers we served with in the Middle East.  Good soldiers, even though they scorned my border Spanglish. 

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Learning About the Lege

Want a refresher on how the Texas Legislature works? TexasBarCLE is rebroadcasting its webcast, “The Texas Legislative Process: What Every Lawyer Should Know,” on Tuesday, March 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. Topics include a review of the legislative process, ethics rules regarding interactions with legislators and staff, and a look at the major issues for the 82nd Legislature. Participants can earn two hours of MCLE credit (including one hour of ethics). To register, visit www.texasbarcle.com. And to stay informed on what is happening at the Capitol, be sure and sign up for the Friday Update, a free weekly e-newsletter on proposed legislation that may affect the legal profession.

2011 LeadershipSBOT Class

LeadershipSBOT through teambuilding and development of leadership skills contribute $1,000 to ProBAR.

Some of this year's class (pictured below) participated in a team building exercise. The class will spend the next couple of days attending workshops and listening to a line-up of speakers on a variety of leadership topics.

The State Bar established the LeadershipSBOT program to prepare lawyers for leadership positions in the legal community. Participants commit to serve at least one year on a committee or board of the State Bar, and must demonstrate a willingness to use the LeadershipSBOT experience within their communities. 

Nominations are now being accepted for next year's class. For more information please contact Kelley Jones King at Kelley.JonesKing@texasbar.com.

Fraud Alert: Con artists targeting lawyers with sophisticated scams

On March 2, the State Bar received a call from Houston lawyer Richard Merrill, who was targeted by an elaborate variation on an email scam that has targeted lawyers for some time. The email scams usually involve overseas criminals pushing bogus debt collection matters - if the scam succeeds, the targeted attorney deposits a fake cashier's check in trust and then disburses funds before the check clears (and is on the hook for the money).

Instead of email, Merrill was contacted directly by a Houston realtor who thought she was helping a London-based doctor buy a house in Houston. In fact she was dealing with a scam artist who had stolen the doctor's identity. Merrill offered his services and ultimately received a bogus cashier's check as a down payment for the house. Luckily for Merrill, his bank identified the check as fraudulent before it was deposited. Read Merrill's full account here.

The State Bar also heard from a Dallas firm which was listed in the return address field on about 300 bogus checks for $3,000 to $4,000 mailed from Fort Worth by scammers who asked their victims to send $500 in order for their checks to clear. The Bar also heard from a Dallas firm whose identity was stolen as part of a payday loan scam in which the scammer purported to be from the firm and attempting to collect a debt.

Attorneys should be extra-vigilant for scams of this type, and never issue a check from a trust account until deposited funds have been collected. Matters involving bank fraud are investigated by the Secret Service. If you are targeted, contact an office in your area.

For detailed information on the problem, see this article by State Bar ethics attorney Ellen Pitluk, which previously ran in shorter form in the Texas Bar Journal

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

 What does “property” mean in the 21st Century? Is property something you can touch or, in the tech age, is property an idea? Can the framework for human life be considered “property?” This month’s issue of the Texas Bar Journal looks at what “property” means today and how that is shaping the law.

Legal ArticlesCultural Property: Who Owns It and What Laws Protect It?
 by Professor Marilyn E. Phelan; Music, Lyrics, and Copyright: Intellectual Property Rights in Music by David Showalter; America's Most Mysterious Gold Coins 
by Steve Roach; One Bad App Spoils the Bunch: Brand Protection in the App Era 
by David Bell and Hope Hughes; and Avoiding a Science Fiction Soap Opera: Excluding the Pre-Embryos from Probate by Bridget M. Fuselier.

Profile — Texas lawyers take their passions seriously, as you'll see from a story about Larry Macon, a San Antonio lawyer who holds the world record for most marathons run in a single year.

Texas Gavel Awards call for entries

April 1, 2011 is the entry deadline for the Texas Gavel Awards, honoring journalistic excellence in legal reporting. Visit www.texasbar.com/media for the call-for-entries brochure.

The Texas Gavel Awards program is coordinated by the State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee.

Awards will be presented August 12, 2011 in conjunction with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas annual conference in Austin.

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The Red and the Black

State Bar President-elect Bob Black of Beaumont has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Texas Tech University School of Law. Black, a shareholder in Mehaffy Weber, P.C., will become the first graduate of the school to serve as president of the State Bar of Texas when he takes office during the State Bar Annual Meeting in June. Among many professional accomplishments, Black has served as president of the Jefferson County Bar Association, chair of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, and trustee of the Texas Bar Foundation.