The TBJ May Issue

Inside: C.E. Rhodes, Priscilla Camacho, Victor Villarreal, and Sam Houston on how they are getting the word out to students about the TYLA project What Do Lawyers Do? Plus: A look at social host liability in Texas, a new book by James L. Haley on the history of the Texas Supreme Court, a video that uses Brady V. Maryland to train law enforcement officers, and tips on how to wow if you land at a solo or small firm after law school. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue. 

Champions of Justice Gala raises $338,000 for veterans

The Champions of Justice Gala benefiting veterans was held on Tuesday, April 23, at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center in Austin. Some of Texas’ most prominent lawyers, members of the Texas Supreme Court, members of the Texas Legislature, and State Bar of Texas leaders gathered for the special event. Texas Access to Justice Commission Chair, Harry Reasoner, thanked them for their continued support to expand access to justice for the underserved.

Guest speakers included Paul Melton, President of Board of Directors of the Department of Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation and Lt. Michael E. Thornton, U.S. Navy Seal (Ret.), Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient.

Lt. Thornton is the only Medal of Honor recipient in over a century to save the life of another Medal of Honor recipient. He reads the U.S. Constitution once a month to ensure he continues to understand its meaning. He thanked the State Bar of Texas and its members for leading the way nationwide to help veterans, and for helping to open the eyes of other state bars about what lawyers can do to help. Lt. Thornton noted how important this mission is to him, “Giving back to the greatest nation in the world that has given me everything in the world.”

Melton spoke about the debt we have to the men and women who are fighting for our country. "We are returning veterans at a faster pace than has been seen since 1945," Melton said. He referred to the people in attendance as the best in the Texas legal profession and emphasized that there is no higher calling than pro bono efforts on behalf of veterans.

The Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Stewart W. Gagnon of Fulbright & Jaworski in Houston for his years of pro bono work. Gagnon advocates for the most vulnerable Texans through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers program, veterans’ legal clinics, and legal helplines. Gagnon thanked the Access to Justice Commission for honoring those who rush to help those in need. 

James C. “Jim” Harrington, executive director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin, received the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground award for his singular contributions that have made an extraordinary impact. He has dedicated 40 years to legal service, working tirelessly for equal rights for migrant workers, the handicapped, children’s privacy, and battered women. Harrington said that his clients’ faith in the system gives him the faith to move forward — access to justice is a group effort and all of those in attendance are one community who believe in equal access to justice.

The awards were presented by Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson. Chief Jefferson acknowledged Chief Justice Jack Pope's 100th birthday last week, and noted that Chief Pope is responsible for inaugurating Texas IOLTA.

For more information, please visit www.texasatj.org

Congratulations to the 2013 Law Day winners!

The State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) invited local bar associations and young lawyer affiliates to participate in the statewide Law Day contest. This year’s Law Day theme was Realizing the Dream: Equality for All. Contest winners will be recognized on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at the Texas Law Center. The State Bar of Texas and TYLA will host the luncheon and present the awards to the winners. View this year's contest winners [PDF].

Texas House Honors Justice Pope on His 100th Birthday

Retired Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jack Pope, the longest living state chief justice in U.S. history, was honored Thursday by the Texas House of Representatives on his 100th birthday. State Rep. Dan Branch, who was a law clerk for Pope in 1983-84, introduced him at the ceremony and sponsored a resolution celebrating Pope’s life and career.

Other jurists, including current and former members of the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, also attended the afternoon ceremony. Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson spoke at the event, calling Pope “a remarkable jurist and an even more remarkable man.”

Jefferson and Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht read numerous letters congratulating Pope on his 100th birthday, including from President Barack Obama, former U.S. presidents, and Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Pope spoke briefly at the event, thanking those in attendance for honoring him.

Pope began his 38-year career as a Texas jurist in 1946 when he was appointed to a district court bench in Nueces County at the age of 33.  In 1950, voters elected him to serve on the San Antonio Court of Civil Appeals. Pope was elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1964, where he served as a justice and then chief justice, until he retired in 1985.

During his career, Pope had numerous noteworthy accomplishments, including the establishment of formal judicial education for Texas judges, a judicial ethics code, state water rights, and reforming and simplifying how cases are pleaded and tried. 

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State Bar of Texas, ABA, Lone Star Legal Aid and Local Bar Associations Stand Ready to Assist Texans Impacted by the Disaster in West, Texas

The State Bar of Texas has established a disaster legal hotline – 800.504.7030 – to assist people with basic legal questions following the devastating plant explosion in West, Texas.

The hotline – answered in English and Spanish by Lone Star Legal Aid – is intended to help low-income persons affected by the disaster with such issues as replacing lost documents, insurance questions, landlord-tenant issues, and consumer protection issues such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process. Residents can call and leave a message any time. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help. 

A partnership between the State Bar of Texas, Texas Young Lawyers Association, American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, Lone Star Legal Aid, local bar associations, and other legal services providers throughout Texas is making a range of assistance available.

Additional resources are available at www.texasbar.com/disasterresponse and www.texaslawhelp.org.

The State Bar of Texas reminds the public that solicitation of a potential legal case is a crime unless the lawyer has a family relationship with you or you have been a client of the lawyer in the past or are currently a client. Solicitation of you is also a crime if perpetrated by a non-lawyer employee or representative of the lawyer, unless the previous conditions exist. Please report any prohibited contacts by lawyers or their representatives, whether in person, telephone or otherwise, to your local law enforcement authority or the State Bar of Texas at 877.953.5535.

Attorneys who want to volunteer to help may visit our Disaster Relief and Attorney Resources page.

Cindy Tisdale of Granbury elected State Bar of Texas board chair

Attorney Cindy Tisdale of Granbury was elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas. She will take office during the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting to be held June 20-21 in Dallas, and will serve as chair until June 2014. Read the official press release.

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TAJF grant application deadline for legal aid to veterans extended to May 1

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) has extended the application due date until May 1, 2013 for proposals to fund legal aid programs that provide civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans. Proceeds from the Champions of Justice Gala for Veterans have been designated to fund these grants. 

These funds are to address the increased demand for legal services at a time when many veterans are returning from the war in Afghanistan. Selected applicants will help increase, support and deliver free civil legal services that help low-income Texas veterans with many critical civil legal services in matters such as family law, employment, housing, consumer, bankruptcy and probate as well as including filing claims for compensation or pensions from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Legal assistance is also needed for representing veterans in filing claims for indigent veterans suffering from service-connected disabilities. The scope of work to be funded can also help family members of living or deceased veterans apply for VA benefits. 

Grant applications will be submitted online through the TAJF web grants online system which will require applicants who are not existing grantees to register and once approved, complete the online application and submit it by the due date of Wednesday May 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm. You can access the online grants system by going to grants.tajf.org. For more information, contact Jonathan Vickery at jvickery@teajf.org or 1-800-252-3401 ext. 110

Random Profile: Mary Grace Ruden, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Areas of practice: I joined the Harris County Public Defender’s Office in March 2011. Prior to joining the office, I was in private practice where I represented clients accused of misdemeanors and felonies in state and federal courts. While in private practice, I also orchestrated mock trials and shadow juries for major white collar crime litigation.

Latest pursuit: Currently I am in the Mental Health Division of the Harris County Public Defender’s Office. The Mental Health Division is designed to provide specialized defense services to mentally ill defendants, with attorneys supported by social workers who connect defendants with mental health services in addition to representing them.
 

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The TBJ April Issue

Inside: State Bar president-elect candidates Trey Apffel of League City, Steve Fischer of Rockport, and Larry W. Hicks of El Paso talk about the issues facing the legal profession, ethics, and the next generation of lawyers. Plus: A comprehensive look at the oil and gas industry in Texas, Supreme Court of Texas Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson on the state of the judiciary, a Q&A with TYLA president-elect candidates Rebekah Steely Brooker of Dallas and Alfonso Cabañas of San Antonio, and tips on dealing with the electronic media. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.