Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange on target for start of enrollment Nov. 1

Member Benefits Inc. today provided the following update on the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange. Click here for the full update, which includes frequently asked questions and a list of important dates.

Member Benefits Inc. is committed to providing updates to those who have requested information. If you have not signed up for updates, we will continue to post them on the Texas Bar Blog. If you would like to sign up, click here.

From Member Benefits:

“We'd like to thank all members that have requested information about the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange. We are pleased that we are still on target to open for enrollment beginning November 1, 2013. Members will have access to plan offerings, decision support tools, and benefits like never before. All backed up by Benefits Counselors available to help members find the most suitable health insurance coverage for their needs.

“New insurance plans are being added daily from leading providers as they release their approved 2014 PPACA approved plan information. We hope everyone is eager to learn more about what will be available as we have more details coming your way over the next couple of weeks.”

Random Profile: Jerry Atherton, Tyler

Jerry AthertonFor 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: Being able to help my clients solve legal problems that they cannot solve themselves.

Most important career lesson: Be honest and punctual and always make a positive first impression.

Culinary talent: Just learned to make tamales.

Favorite restaurant: Pat Gee’s Barbeque located between Tyler and Kilgore.

If I had more time, I would: Teach young people math skills.

Bet you didn’t know: When I was younger (much younger), I could dunk a basketball (on a 10’ goal!!!).

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Gov. Perry Appoints Brown to Supreme Court of Texas

Today, Gov. Rick Perry announced the appointment of Jeff Brown of Houston as a justice of the Supreme Court of Texas.

Brown will join the court from his current role as justice of the 14th Court of Appeals, a position he has held since December 2007. Brown is also presiding judge of Harris County Success Through Addiction Recovery Drug Court No. 1, a former judge of the 55th Judicial District Court in Harris County, and a former associate attorney at Baker Botts LLP.

Among an extensive list of additional accomplishments, Brown served as law clerk to Texas Supreme Court Justices Jack Hightower and Greg Abbott. He is vice chair and past president of the Houston Law Review Board of Directors, treasurer of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, and past president of
the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists.

Brown received a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

"Jeff is an outstanding and accomplished jurist whose highest priority on the bench is preservation of the rule of law," said Perry. "Jeff is a staunch defender of the constitutional freedoms our state and our nation are founded upon and he will uphold these values with honor, dignity and integrity as a Supreme Court justice. I am pleased he will continue his lifelong commitment to public service and the people of Texas by accepting this appointment."

Brown’s term will expire at the next general election.

State Bar educational initiative launched in classrooms

As students across the state returned to the classrooms to kick off a new school year this August, the opportunity for attorneys to host a session of the State Bar of Texas project “I was the first. Vote for Me!” also began.

In Williamson County, Lisa Richardson joined forces with Wendi Lester-Boyd and Stacey Mathews, both fellow Williamson County attorneys, and Mya Mercer, principal of Old Town Elementary, to bring the program—and the importance of Celebrate Freedom Week and Constitution Day—to more than 400 first through fifth grade students. Pictured from left to right: Lisa Richardson, Richardson & Cechura, PLLC in Round Rock; Mya Mercer, Principal of Old Town Elementary, Round Rock ISD; Wendi Lester-Boyd, Wendi Lester and Associates, PC  

“I would love to be able to get this [project] into all the Williamson County schools,” said Richardson. “It’s an educational project that’s well-thought-out.”

Launched in July and inspired by Lisa Tatum’s election as the first African-American State Bar of Texas president, “I was the first. Vote for Me!” is a multimedia project that works to inform students about a series of historic leaders who were firsts, from Susan B. Anthony and Sam Houston to Cesar Chavez and Barack Obama. After students are introduced to each character by way of a colorful animation, they cast a vote for the “first” they believe a fictional school should be named for. The project incorporates lessons in reading, math, citizenship, and voting and aligns with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for elementary students.

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Goal30 aims to increase professionalism in Tarrant County

During the month of October, lawyers who practice family law in Tarrant County are encouraged to participate in Goal30, an initiative designed to increase professionalism, by re-reading the Texas Lawyer’s Creed and imparting its message into their everyday behavior. The creed, which was written in 1989, was reaffirmed by the Texas Supreme Court and the Criminal Court of Appeals this past March. The idea is to improve the working environment of lawyers—and improve how the public perceives attorneys. At the end of the month there will be a review of whether a focused effort on “best practices” by an entire community can change culture. For more information, go to Goal30.com


Lawyers support community, honor fallen co-worker

On Sept. 11, attorneys from the Dallas office of Holland & Knight volunteered to complete several service projects at the Texas Fire Museum.

Though they spent the day painting, landscaping, and cleaning, their work was not just a way to give back to the community—it was also a chance to pay tribute to Glenn Winuk, a New York-based partner and volunteer EMT who was killed during the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Through the nonprofit MyGoodDeed, Winuk’s brother co-founded the annual event, which fosters service by improving the lives of others, as a way of honoring both Winuk and all who perished in the attacks. In 2009, Congress officially designated the date as a National Day of Service and Remembrance under bipartisan federal law. 

Pictured above - Front row: Amy Pettis, Eric Kimball, Gladys Smith-McCloud, and Anthony Herrera. Back row: Angelica Beauchamp, Tyson Wanjura, Michael Emerson, and Jim Chadwick (Dallas office executive partner)

Celebrate Freedom Week with I Was the First!

This year, Celebrate Freedom Week is September 16-20. During this week, every social studies class in the State of Texas is required, under Texas Education Code, §29.907, to provide instruction regarding the intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) in their historical contexts.

To help Texas teachers, the State Bar of Texas has created a resource—I was the First. Vote for Me! This interactive, web-based program features animated historical firsts, including Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony, and others related to the American Revolution, U.S. Constitution, abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, and more. In honor of Celebrate Freedom Week, and to help students learn the Declaration of Independence, these characters are featured in a special animation reciting a paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Visit the website to listen and learn why these important people, and their contributions to American freedom, make them the most important first!

Henderson County DA, sheriff offer free officer training course

More than 270 Henderson County peace officers recently received free training through a course offered by the Henderson County district attorney and sheriff’s offices.

District Attorney Scott McKee and Assistant District Attorney Justin Weiner presented the course to update peace officers on recent court decisions and changes to state and federal law that affect local law enforcement. The officers, representing 27 law enforcement agencies, received the training for free, which saved the agencies and taxpayers money, McKee said in a news release.

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office sponsored the course to ensure officers received continuing-education credit through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.

Random Profile: Jessica Mangrum, 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?

Personal: I grew up in West, Texas. 

Areas of practice: I have a litigation practice, including construction, personal injury, and professional liability. 

Education: I went to UT Austin for undergrad and law school. I bleed burnt orange. 

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SBOT, legal aid groups to offer free family law CLE event

Attorneys can take advantage of a free family law CLE event in five Texas cities in September and October.

The State Bar of Texas and legal aid organizations are partnering to offer Family Law Essentials: Giving Back to Your Community, starting Thursday in El Paso. The event will also take place in Amarillo, San Marcos, Longview, and Abilene.

A full schedule appears below.

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Governor Appoints Hecht to be Chief Justice

Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information
512.463.1441 or osler.mccarthy@txcourts.gov

From the Governor’s Office:

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Justice Nathan L. Hecht of Austin as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. Justice Hecht's term will be effective Oct. 1, 2013, and is set to expire at the next general election. He will serve as the 27th chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas.

"I am proud to appoint Justice Hecht as chief justice of the highest court in the state," Gov. Perry said. "I know Justice Hecht to be a man of the most upstanding character and integrity, with an uncompromising commitment to protecting the interests of the citizens of Texas. As the most senior justice on the Court, his dedication to the rule of law and wealth of knowledge and judicial experience will be invaluable as he serves in this new role."

Justice Hecht was first elected to the Supreme Court of Texas in 1988 and is the senior justice on the Court. Justice Hecht has won re-election four times. During his time on the Court, Justice Hecht has authored more than 350 opinions. He is also responsible for the Supreme Court's efforts to assure that all Texans, including those living below the poverty level, have access to basic civil legal services.

Prior to his service on the Supreme Court of Texas, he served as a justice of the Texas 5th Court of Appeals and as judge of the 95th Judicial District Court in Dallas County. He is also a former associate attorney and shareholder of Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney and Neely, PC, now known as Locke, Lord, Bissell and Liddell, LLP, and is a former law clerk to Judge Roger Robb of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Justice Hecht is a member of the State Bar of Texas, the District of Columbia Bar, and the American, Dallas, and Austin Bar associations. He is a commissioner of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, a life fellow of the American Law Institute, a fellow of the American, Texas, and Dallas Bar foundations, and a past member of the US Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure. He served as a lieutenant in the US Navy Reserve Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAGC).

Justice Hecht received a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law.

Ferguson, Tottenham to Join Texas Access to Justice Foundation Board

Becky Baskin Ferguson of Midland and Terry O. Tottenham of Austin have been appointed to serve on the Texas Access to Justice Foundation Board of Directors, the foundation announced Wednesday.

Ferguson and Tottenham were appointed to three-year terms to the foundation, which provides grant funding for civil legal aid in Texas. The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors approved the appointments. 
Ferguson has spent more than 30 years in communications and public service in Midland. She recently served a three-year term as a public member on the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors and currently serves on the State Bar’s Advertising Review Committee.
Tottenham, of counsel to Norton Rose Fulbright, is certified in personal injury and civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. A former president of the State Bar of Texas, he initiated a statewide coalition of lawyers who provide pro bono services to needy veterans and their families.
Visit the Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s website for more information on the appointments.


Random Profile: Rich Melendez II, Houston

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: I get to compete every day. 

Most important career lesson: Learn from others, but always be yourself. 

How do you think the practice will change in the next 15 years? I think juries will need more video and multimedia to process information. Kids don’t learn from reading a book anymore. 

Favorite TV program: Sons of Anarchy.

Bet you didn’t know: I had to go to summer school to graduate high school.

Another little known fact: I was in Saudi Arabia and Iraq in the first Gulf War-U.S. Army. 

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Chief Justice Jefferson Announces His Resignation

The Texas Supreme Court has confirmed news reports that Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson will resign effective Oct. 1. The court’s full news release appears below.

Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson announced Tuesday that he will leave the Supreme Court of Texas effective October 1, 2013.

 Chief Justice Jefferson has not determined his plans upon retirement.

Under his leadership, the Court drastically reduced the number of cases carried over from one term to another and significantly increased the use of technology to improve efficiency, increase transparency and decrease costs. 

“I was fortunate to have served under Chief Justice Thomas R. Phillips, who in his nearly 17 years transformed the Court into a leader not only in jurisprudence, but also in the hard work of administering justice fairly,” Jefferson said. “I am most proud to have worked with my colleagues to increase the public’s access to the legal system, which guarantees the rights conferred by our Constitutions.”

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The TBJ September issue

Inside: A look at the 83rd Session and the important legislation you need to know, from changes in business law to new procedures such as e-filing. Plus: Tips on managing your brand via social media, pop culture references that have made their way into legal decisions, unsolved cases that need a fresh perspective, and dangerous minds that need to be addressed. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.