Nominations Open for 2013 Super Lawyers Pro Bono Awards

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters Business, is accepting nominations for the 2013 Super Lawyers Pro Bono Awards through Oct. 30, the company announced.

The annual awards honor individual lawyers, law firms, law students, law schools, and other institutions in the legal profession that exemplify excellence in practice through delivery of volunteer legal services to the poor, underrepresented, or exploited.

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State Bar President-elect Nominee Process Under Way

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors is soliciting candidates for the 2014 president-elect race.

The board will consider potential nominees’ involvement in State Bar committee work, knowledge of State Bar operations, participation in local and specialty bar associations, and other activities demonstrating leadership ability. Although prior membership on the State Bar Board of Directors is not a prerequisite for nomination, it is important in determining whether a lawyer is a qualified nominee.

Nominees should submit a résumé and a statement of views of the key issues facing the bar, the role they would play in dealing with those issues, and what they would seek to accomplish during their tenure as president, all within the State Bar’s overall strategic plan.

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Houston Law Student Awarded Association of University Women Fellowship

South Texas College of Law student Stephanie deJesus of Houston has been awarded a 2013-14 Selected Professions Fellowship by the American Association of University Women, the association announced this week.

As part of the fellowship, deJesus will speak at local high schools on the importance of education, opportunities available to graduating students, ways to apply and pay for college, and how to choose a career.

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Texas Counties to Receive Additional Appropriations for Indigent Defense

AUSTIN – The Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) adopted a budget that allocates $35 million to the indigent defense formula grant program. The budget reflects a $15 million increase over the previous year thanks to legislative action to ensure that all dedicated funds collected specifically for indigent defense will again be available for that purpose. As a result, most counties will be eligible for a special formula grant disbursement in the new fiscal year that begins October 1. Counties in compliance with key provisions of the Fair Defense Act will be eligible to apply for formula grants. "We look forward to getting these dedicated funds out to counties in the coming months so that they can be put to work for indigent defense as intended," said Commission Chair Sharon Keller.

The Commission awarded discretionary grant funds to 21 Texas counties totaling more than $10 million dollars. Among these are nine counties who will be collaborating to support implementation of a web-based indigent defense process management system initially developed by Bell County with through grant funding from the Commission. The system is designed to improve representation and compliance with the Fair Defense Act through enhanced transparency, accountability and efficiency. These nine counties will join a collaborative effort through the Conference of Urban Counties TechShare Program to provide ongoing support, maintenance and development of the system. Commissioner and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said, "The application of technology has opened new opportunities to understand, manage and improve our indigent defense systems. These grants will help counties reap the benefits of innovation."

Finally, the Commission awarded a total of $628,108 to Austin County, Dimmit County, Kleberg County, Smith County, and Willacy County for extraordinary indigent defense expenditures in a case or series of cases. To be eligible for extraordinary grant awards, counties must demonstrate the extraordinary nature of the case or series of cases and direct litigation costs for indigent defense services are the only allowable expenditures.

Scam Emails Targeting Attorneys Making Their Rounds

From time to time, the State Bar receives notifications from attorneys that they've received scam emails. Here's the latest one that is circulating this week, which was reported by a lawyer as sent through the Find A Lawyer messaging system on the State Bar site:

Attention:Counsel, We the management of BP Global | BP Oil company mainly in Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG),United Kingdom require your legal representation for our delinquent customers We got your contact through your Bar Association and after going through your profile, we are of the convinced that you are qualified to provide the legal services we require. We are of the opinion that the ability to consolidate payments from your country will eradicate delays due to inter-continental monetary transaction between the united Kingdom and your country. We understand that a proper attorney client retainer (Agreement) will provide the necessary authorization and we are most inclined to commence talks as soon as possible. Your consideration of our request is highly anticipated. Jessica Johnston Human ResourceS Generalist Recruitment Section Twickenham,(UK). ............................................................ Copyright (c) 2013 BP Global | BP All Rights Reserved Cc:Escot Mollah Esmahill Group Manager BP Global Oil

Attorneys should be aware of scams of this type. For detailed information on scams targeting attorneys, see this article by State Bar ethics attorney Ellen Pitluk, which previously ran in shorter form in the Texas Bar Journal.

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The Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation to Recognize Commitments to Diversity within the Legal Profession

(Houston, TX) The Eighth Annual Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation (MABATX Foundation) Scholarship Luncheon will be held August 22 at the Double Tree Hotel in Downtown Houston.

The luncheon will include a scholarship award program for select students from the three Houston-area law schools. The outstanding law students were chosen as 2013 MABATX Foundation scholarship recipients because they exemplify the core goals and ideals of the Foundation: leadership, commitment, justice, and equality within the Hispanic community and beyond.

“It is important that we encourage a new generation of lawyers to have the courage and strength to be committed to their clients but also committed to their communities,” said attorney Benny Agosto, Jr., founder of MABATX Foundation, and partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend in Houston.

Following a keynote address given by Susan Sanchez, Senior Council for Exxon Mobil Corporation, the following people will also be recognized for their contributions and commitments to advancing the position of Hispanic members of the Houston community:

  • For Outstanding Service in the Community as an Entrepreneur, Jorge Ferraez of Latino Leaders Magazine
  • For Outstanding Service in the Community as a Pioneer in the Media Industry, Lana Hughes and JP Pritchard of News 92
  • For Outstanding Public Service to the State of Texas, Senator Rodney Ellis
  • For Outstanding Service in the Judiciary, Justice Patricia Alvarez, San Antonio Court of Appeals
  • Lisa Tatum and David Chaumette will also receive awards recognizing their commitments to diversity within the legal profession

The annual luncheon serves as both a platform for recognition as well as a fundraiser for the MABATX Foundation. Since its inception in 2006, the Foundation has raised over $150,000 for its scholarship program and to further its mission of promoting the social, economic, and educational advancement of the people of Texas. To learn more about the Foundation, please visit

Cameron County Commissioners Court accepts donation of restored minutes

On August 15, the Cameron County Commissioners Court accepted the donation of the restored minutes of the District Court of Cameron County from 1885 through 1891. The book was restored due to the generosity of Judge Migdalia Lopez of the 197th District Court and her husband, Nemecio Lopez. Among the cases memorialized in the books were the proceedings of King v. Cavazos, a court ruling that led to the development of the King Ranch.

From left: Judge Mark Davidson, a member of the Texas Bar Historical Foundation; Aurora de la Garza, Cameron County District Clerk, Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos, Judge Migdalia Lopez, and Nemecio Lopez.

Random Profile: Houston Tower, Austin

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-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 people.

Most important career lesson: Be humble and diligent.

Bet you didn’t know: I can walk on my hands and freestyle rap.

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Third annual Twitter Brief competition under way

The State Bar of Texas Appellate Section’s Annual Twitter Brief competition garnered more than 100 entries in its first two years, some from as far away as Hawaii. (See last year’s winning entries here.)

The section hopes to continue that trend this year. Tweet about the competition with the hashtag #140brief.

Competition rules: Draft an appellate brief consisting of no more than 140 characters (including spaces). Email your brief by Sept. 6, 2013, to Karen Precella at The winning Twitter briefs will be announced at the section’s annual meeting and printed in the Appellate Advocate.


Attorney: Ruling could affect how courts certify juvenile offenders as adults

We recently caught up with Houston lawyer Jack Carnegie about his work in the case of Cameron Moon, whose 2010 murder conviction was recently reversed after an appeals court ruled Moon should not have been tried as an adult.

Carnegie, an attorney with Strasburger & Price, L.L.P, who argued Moon’s case pro bono, said the decision is noteworthy because child certification rulings rarely get reversed on appeal. The July 30 decision by the 1st Court of Appeals in Houston was the first of its kind in more than two decades, he said.

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Texas Bar Historical Foundation awards grant

Travis County District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza gratefully accepted a grant award from the Texas Bar Historical Foundation on Aug. 13, 2013. The funds will be used to preserve the District Court Civil Minutes: Volume B, the second oldest in the county.

Volume B accounts for court records from the fall term of 1848 to the fall term of 1849, a time when the State of Texas was asserting itself into the framework of the United States after nearly a decade as an independent republic. This unassuming volume records many significant cases relating to the growth of Texas and its historical figures, such as Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas. In 1848, Houston served as one of the first senators from Texas in the United States Senate and was considered a contender in the nation’s presidential race.

The Texas Bar Historical Foundation selected Volume B because the important document has become so fragile—the binding is loose and the pages are brittle and falling from the book block, requiring immediate attention. Once preserved, the records will be publicly accessible and stored in a climate-controlled environment in the Travis County Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse.

The foundation also selected a similar project in Cameron County to preserve court records detailing the tumultuous history of South Texas.

Pictured above from left, Alexandra Myers Swast, State Bar staff liaison to the Texas Bar Historical Foundation, and Travis County District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza.


2013 Gavel Award winners recognized at luncheon

The State Bar of Texas honored winners of the 2013 Texas Gavel Awards on Friday during the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas’s annual conference in Austin. 

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We Salute You

Rocking lawyer musicians are getting amped up about Law Jam 4, a benefit concert for pro bono legal aid at the Granada Theater in Dallas on August 17. Six bands whose members are comprised of Dallas-area lawyers and judges will be rocking the house to raise money--and awareness--for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, a joint initiative of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas that provides free legal services to the poor. 

Musical genres range from roots sounds (Black Dirt Tango's singer Steve Henry lived down the street from Robert Earl Keen back in the day) to eighties tunes (Big Wheel often performs its version of the Modern English hit "I Melt With You") to indie rock (Noah Snark covers the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Tom Petty, to name a few). 

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the lineup includes Black Dirt Tango (6 p.m.), Blue Collar Crime (6:55 p.m.), Big Wheel (7:50 p.m.), the Catdaddies (9 p.m.), Noah Snark (9:55 p.m.), and Random Blue (10:50 p.m.). Tickets are $25 (advance) or $35 (at the door). For more information or to purchase tickets, go to

Random Profile: Martina Meritz, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-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: Take everything in stride.

The part of my job I do best is: Negotiations. I like to find creative ways to come up with settlement strategies.

Who is your favorite on-screen or literary attorney, and why? Atticus Finch…He was the essence of a great human being.

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Former Justice Hightower dies at 86


Jack Hightower, who served in the Texas Legislature, in Congress, and on the Texas Supreme Court, died Saturday in Austin. He was 86.

Hightower served as a state Supreme Court justice from 1988 to 1996 before retiring. A graduate of Baylor University Law School, he received his law license in 1951 and spent time in private practice, as a district attorney, and as an assistant Texas attorney general.

“Texas has lost a true champion among its public servants and the Court has lost a colleague who at his very core was what a judge should be,” Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson said. “Jack Hightower had integrity, wisdom and a singular purpose: to serve the public by the rule of law.”

A lover of books and history, Hightower was the president emeritus of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, an organization he helped found while on the bench.

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Appeals court seeking written comments on proposed circuit rule change

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit released the following notice about a proposed circuit rule change and is accepting written comments through Sept. 13 at the address below or by email at


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Local bar associations, other groups recognized for improving access to legal services

Local bar associations, young lawyer associations, and State Bar of Texas sections were recognized for their commitment to pro bono service and access-to-justice issues during the State Bar’s annual Local Bar Leaders Conference.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht presented the Pro Bono Service and Deborah G. Hankinson awards on behalf of the Texas Access to Justice Commission on July 27 at the Westin Galleria in Houston.

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