Judge Eric Shepperd starts term as Austin Bar Association president

Judge Eric M. Shepperd began his term as president of the Austin Bar Association today. During his one-year tenure, he will focus on raising the public’s awareness of legal services and highlighting the ways in which Austin’s legal community works to provide services to those in need.

Before serving in his current position as judge of Travis County Court at Law No. 2, Shepperd was the director of civil litigation for the Travis County Attorney’s Office and assistant attorney general for the Law Enforcement Defense Division.

Shepperd is active in service to the legal profession and the Austin community. He is a lecturer for the University of Texas Law School’s Trial Advocacy Program, a board member of the Texas Center for the Judiciary, and a board member and past chair of Leadership Austin, among other activities. Shepperd holds a B.A. in business from Andrews University and a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

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Board now accepting online applications and payments to sit for the bar exam

Law students and graduates planning to sit for the Texas Bar Examination can now file their applications and payments online thanks to the Texas Supreme Court’s decision to approve rules changes from the Texas Board of Law Examiners.

The board proposed doing away with the existing mailbox rule that required exam applicants to submit their declarations of intent and check payments through the mail. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, they can now do so online or via mail, although online will eventually be the only option.

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Legal nonprofit collecting backpacks for domestic violence victims

The Texas Advocacy Project is seeking donations in support of its annual Backpacks for Hope campaign. Through July 17, donors can drop off new book bags and school supplies, which will be distributed along with the project’s legal hotline numbers and safety planning literature to mothers and their children in domestic violence shelters across the state.

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HNBA introduces high school students to law through LEAP

The Hispanic National Bar Association Legal Education Fund is hosting the 2015 Legal Education Action Program (LEAP) this week at Rice University in Houston.

LEAP introduces Hispanic high school students to the legal system by enrolling and providing scholarships to selected students from diverse backgrounds across the United States.

The program also provides students the opportunity to meet with national and international business leaders, lawyers in private practice, government lawyers, government agency officials, state and federal judges, and law professors. Throughout the program, participants learn of the many different careers they can pursue with a law or graduate degree by interacting with leaders who resemble their diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.


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Groups offer free legal clinics for Central Texas flood victims

The Austin and Hays County bar associations, in partnership with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), are providing free legal clinics for victims of the Memorial Day floods, addressing issues such as denials of insurance claims, problems with a landlord or mortgage company, price gouging, and replacing important legal documents.

The free clinics are offered from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at St. John’s Catholic Church, 624 E. Hopkins, San Marcos, TX 78666. Attorneys and paralegals will be on hand to answer questions.

Flood victims can also call TRLA’s Disaster Assistance Hotline at (866) 757-1570 for answers to basic legal questions and to be connected to local legal aid providers.

Texans who were affected by the disaster can also call the State Bar of Texas legal hotline, available in both English and Spanish, at (800) 504-7030. Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help. For more information regarding the State Bar’s flood relief resources, click here.

Other resources available for flood victims can be found at texaslawhelp.org, trla.org/centexfloods, and irs.gov.

TexasLawHelp.org to be redesigned with grant money

The popular legal aid website texaslawhelp.org will soon get a makeover thanks to a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. The Texas Legal Services Center received funding from the TBF to hire professional Web designers to refresh the site through enhancing its search engine, improving functionality, and creating a mobile version.

Run by the center’s Self Represented Litigants Project and funded by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and State Bar of Texas, texaslawhelp.org provides free online legal information. It had 800,000 information downloads in 2014 and averages more than 1.1 million unique views every month. Many visitors are low-income Texans who are in need of resources on basic civil legal matters. The redesign will aim to make forms, assistance, and other pieces of legal information easier for users to access and navigate.

“Technology like time, does not stand still, and the website needs to be revamped to keep up with the changing way people access the Internet,” said the center’s Managing Attorney Elliott Fontenette. “For instance, in 2014 we saw a 100 percent rise in people accessing TexasLawHelp on mobile devices.”

Houston Bar to offer special LegalLine program for flood victims June 3

Houston residents affected by the recent flooding and other severe weather can find answers to legal questions during an extended LegalLine program from noon to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3, the Houston Bar Association announced today.

The association invites the public to call (713) 759-1133 to speak to an attorney knowledgeable in matters such as insurance, property, landlord-tenant law, contracts, disaster assistance, and other consumer issues.

“We recognize that many people in Houston will have a need for legal advice on how to deal with the damage they experienced,” Houston Bar President Laura Gibson said. “To meet this need, members of the Houston Bar Association are hosting an extended LegalLine program to give advice to those who have been adversely affected by the flooding conditions.”

The 11,200-member nonprofit association offers LegalLine as a public service on the first and third Wednesday of each month, usually from 5 to 9 p.m., giving area residents the chance to speak to volunteer attorneys for answers to legal questions, brief legal advice, and other resources.

For more information on flood relief resources, including the State Bar of Texas legal hotline, visit texasbar.com/floodresponse

Legal hotline, online resources offered for Texas flood victims

Victims of the recent flooding and other severe weather in Texas can call (800) 504-7030 to find answers to their basic legal questions and get connected with a local legal aid provider.

The State Bar of Texas is offering the legal hotline, along with this online resources page, to assist residents of the areas affected by recent thunderstorms, flooding, and tornadoes. 

Read the State Bar news release for more information.


Texas Bar Journal Announces its 2015 Short Story Contest Winners

Thank you to the 44 authors who submitted entries to the Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest this year. To keep the contest fair and impartial, author names were removed from each entry and replaced with numbers. Two panels of judges faced the challenging task of selecting the winners, and for each round, the same evaluation form was used for consistency. Ten entries advanced to the final round, which was judged by Mike Farris of Dallas, Stephanie Tillman of Houston, and Lane D. Thibodeaux of Bryan.

The winner, “The Corner Man,” by Amanda Moore, earned the highest number of points.

Please congratulate these attorney-authors for making it through the competitive first round of judging to the finals.


“The Corner Man,” by Amanda Moore (First Place)

“High Stakes Litigation,” by Russell W. Fusco (Second Place)

“The Color of Gravity,” by Blair Dancy (Third Place)

“A Formal Interview,” by Carolyn (Lyn) Fitz-Gerald Levin

“The Blues,” by Jason P. Steed

“Spider Bit,” by Ron Uselton

“Pennsylvania,” by David Portz

“A Coin for Charon,” by Frank J. Gonynor

“Clients,” by Scott Petty

“A Cold Dish,” by Terri B. Moore

Here’s an excerpt from “The Corner Man”:

At the beginning of every case, he was always civil and the true embodiment of what they talk about in the Lawyer’s Creed. If a case went to trial, however, the Ice Man had absolutely no mercy. My wife says that I exaggerate these things, and maybe I do. Over the years, I have become a bit cynical about things. No matter what anyone says, though, I still remember the trembling lips and flushed face of a notorious gang leader who wept in his chair after the Ice Man’s closing statement. It might be a courtroom legend, but I heard that the gang leader’s lawyer begged him to take a plea deal instead of taking a chance against the Ice Man.

The entire story, along with the second and third place winning entries, will be published in the June issue of the Texas Bar Journal.  


Bar College offers financial assistance to help Texas lawyers

Every day, Texas attorneys work to ensure that their clients’ voices are heard and justice prevails. The toll of a demanding profession can leave many attorneys feeling exhausted, burnt out, and burdened by stress.

Last year alone, the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, or TLAP, received more than 500 calls from lawyers seeking help for themselves or a colleague with substance abuse or mental health issues.

“When individual attorneys are faced with challenges, the impact is felt by our profession as a whole,” said Veronica Jacobs, board of directors chair of the Texas Bar College. “If our profession is affected, the public we serve will be affected. It is imperative that we address these issues and provide the assistance needed to uphold the high standards of our profession.”

Oftentimes, lawyers come to TLAP with depleted personal and financial resources, presenting a significant challenge to starting treatment. Understanding this need, the Texas Bar College has pledged to provide $30,000 in funding for the Patrick Sheeran & Michael J. Crowley Memorial Trust, an independent entity designed to help Texas attorneys and their families affected by substance dependence or mental disorders by paying for treatment. The trust works in partnership with TLAP in providing critical assistance to lawyers who cannot otherwise afford services.


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UT law professor predicts possible outcomes of Supreme Court same-sex marriage cases

Speaking at a CLE hosted by the Austin LGBT Bar Association, Sanford Levinson—a professor of constitutional law and government at the University of Texas—said that it was clear as early as 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas which way the U.S. Supreme Court would rule on same-sex marriage and that the 2013 Windsor decision only made this more certain. The court will convene April 28 to hear oral arguments in four cases challenging state bans on same-sex marriage.

Ruling against these bans is what “everybody expects the court to do,” Levinson said, noting that the real question has always been why the court decided to take up the matter at this time. Levinson noted that he previously had predicted that the court would take up same-sex marriage by 2020, so it’s interesting to examine why it is doing so now. He also posited that other questions include what the vote count will be as well as who will write the opinion and what reasoning the opinion’s author will employ.

Professor Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas School of Law. Photograph courtesy of Christina Murrey and Texas Law.


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Registration open for Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention

The 26th Annual Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention will be held June 5-7 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel at the Campbell Centre in Dallas. Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, a volunteer group for lawyers in recovery, works in partnership with the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program of the State Bar of Texas.

The conference will feature nationally acclaimed speakers on 12-step recovery along with topics pertaining to professional burnout, peer support, cross addiction, spirituality in recovery, and practicing the principles of recovery in the practice of law.

Take advantage of the early bird registration rate of $225 till May 1. Scholarships are available. The price includes the cost of CLE programming, a Friday night ice cream social, a Saturday night banquet, a Sunday brunch, early morning yoga, and access to the hospitality suite.


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Houston lawyer raises more than $100,000 for charity bike ride

The morning after severe thunderstorms and hail caused the first phase of the BP MS 150 charity bike ride to be canceled, cool and clear skies kicked off day two of the annual event, which is typically a 180-mile trip from Houston to Austin. Because of the weather on Saturday, participants started on Sunday at the mid-way point. For the fourth year in a row, Houston lawyer Stephen Susman was the top fundraiser out of approximately 13,000 participants, bringing in $118,009. He was part of his firm Susman Godfrey’s team, named “Swift Justice,” which has raised more than $1.1 million since it started participating in the event 10 years ago. The BP MS 150 is organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society South Central Region and raises money for research into the chronic central nervous system disease that is estimated to affect more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

Above, from left: Nicholas Kuhn, Stephen Susman, and Harry Susman pose before the start of the BP MS 150 charity bike ride. Photograph courtesy of Dan Shih.

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TYLA launches Interns Across Texas program

The Texas Young Lawyers Association is proud to announce Interns Across Texas, a free program aimed at creating judicial internships for law school students all across the state.

Interns Across Texas aims to “kill two birds with one stone.” First, it is increasingly more difficult for law students to find meaningful internships while in law school that provide the “real-world” work experience that law firms or governments often require. Second, many of the judges in Texas lack access to smart, hard-working law students to assist in researching and drafting opinions and orders.

The goal of the Interns Across Texas program is to increase the availability of judicial internships throughout Texas by connecting law students looking for internship opportunities with state and federal judges in Texas who seek well-qualified interns.

The Web-based program allows judges to identify and ultimately hire law students across the state for unpaid, judicial internships for the summer, fall, or spring semesters. Students will apply for internships online, and judges will receive all applications electronically.

The user-friendly site allows judges to easily sort and select the best-suited applicant for each position. If you are interested in participating in the program, please sign up today!

Apprentice program reduces cost of hiring summer law clerks

As summer approaches, upper-level law students begin finalizing their plans for break. For many, this will include time as a law clerk. In an effort to help small law firms in the Houston area connect with these students, the University of Houston Law Center’s Career Development Office offers the Summer Apprentice Program. The goal of the program is to introduce students to opportunities at small firms, which typically do not have a robust hiring infrastructure. Participating firms and the Law Center will split the cost of a student’s salary.

“Students who are getting experience in smaller firms are often able to participate in projects they may not have exposure to in larger firms. In some cases, students are meeting clients, attending depositions or hearings, and drafting documents that directly impact the outcome of a client's case,” said Allison Hickey Regan, assistant dean for career development. “We have seen an increase in students wanting to practice in smaller firms, and this program gives them fantastic exposure.”

Placement interviews are currently taking place; firms interested in participating in the Summer Apprentice Program should go to law.uh.edu/career/Law-Firm-Apprenticeship.asp.

Documentary focuses on East Texas arson

In a little more than a month in early 2010, 10 churches within a 40-mile radius burned to the ground in East Texas. Tensions were high during those weeks, as heartbroken congregations watched flames engulf building after building. While evidence at the scenes pointed to arson as the cause of the fires, tracking down a suspect took some time; there was no consistent pattern in the burnings and, for a while, no strong leads. It soon grew to be one of the largest criminal investigations in East Texas history. Little Hope was Arson, produced by theCollaborate & Goodnight Smoke, details the burnings, their impact on the community, and the strategy of the investigation, which eventually led to the arrest and conviction of Jason Bourque and Daniel McAllister. The film also features interviews with the two young men, both of whom are now serving life sentences, as well as conversations with their families.

Little Hope was Arson is available on iTunes and is currently playing in select theaters in Houston, Lubbock, Tyler, and Edom. To see a trailer and showtimes, go to littlehopewasarson.com.

Foundation seeking entries for Spirit of FOI Award

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas is accepting entries for the 2015 Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award. The award recognizes outstanding work in promoting open government and the public’s right to know.

Nominations are open to newspaper, broadcast, and online media news organizations with work published or broadcast in the 2014 calendar year. All entries must contain the following:

  • A letter, headed with the name of the person or organization nominated and the classification entered, explaining the effort being cited
  • PDFs of pages containing the coverage being entered
  • Additional support documents or letters as deemed necessary

A nomination can be a single news story or series; an editorial or series of editorials; columns; editorial cartoons; or a community FOI project. All entries must be submitted electronically by midnight Friday, May 8 to kelley.shannon@foift.org with the subject line FOI AWARD.



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State Bar offers e-billing option for member dues

The State Bar of Texas is reminding members they can sign up for e-billing for a fast, easy, and green way to receive annual membership statements.

Attorneys who sign up for e-billing will receive an email on or shortly after May 1 with an attached statement reflecting their amount due for 2015-2016 State Bar dues and State of Texas occupation tax and legal services fee. The email will provide a direct link to the State Bar’s secure online payment process.

“Going paperless not only helps the environment, it also speeds up the processing of attorneys’ annual payments,” said Karen Conlon of the State Bar Membership Department in a recent email to members.

Attorneys who pay online have immediate verification that their payment was processed and applied to their account.

Members can sign up for e-billing through April 13 by clicking here.

Members with questions about e-billing can contact Karen Conlon at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1421, or by email at karen.conlon@texasbar.com.

TexasBarCLE, TYLA provide young lawyers insight into profession










“I don’t know what motivated you to join the legal profession. But what I do know is that a lot of my peers got into this profession to help people. I hope that the same calling will drive you to help others as well.” – C. Barrett Thomas, TYLA president-elect

More than 100 young lawyers learned useful information regarding networking, client development, and the importance of pro bono work, and heard advice from judges and experienced courtroom advocates, during a CLE program Friday in Austin.

TexasBarCLE and the Texas Young Lawyers Association hosted “Building Your Career: A Guide for New Lawyers” at the Texas Law Center and also offered the event as a live webcast. Legal professionals devoted their time to share key skills and advice they learned to propel their careers.

“The best advice that I have received from a mentor was to 1.) be excellent in all that you do, 2.) meet as many people as you can, and 3.) give thanks,” Adán D. Briones of Boardwalk Pipeline Partners in Houston said.

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State Bar board member picked as president of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Beaumont orthopaedic surgeon David D. Teuscher, M.D., a member of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, became president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Board of Directors today.

“David is a skilled orthopaedic surgeon, a distinguished veteran of our armed forces, a hardworking academy volunteer, and a passionate advocate for patients and the orthopaedic profession,” said Frederick M. Azar, M.D., outgoing academy president, in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such an experienced and committed individual at the helm of this organization.”

Teuscher is a longtime academy member and leader and a past president of the Texas Orthopaedic Association and the Jefferson County Medical Society. Before entering private practice in 1993, he served in U.S. Army operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and was chief of surgery at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

In a statement, Teuscher said he is honored to serve in a leadership capacity with the academy and looks forward to the challenges ahead. As president, his goals include improving surgical safety, protecting the value of musculoskeletal care, and increasing access to the academy’s educational programs.

Teuscher serves as a public member on the State Bar’s Board of Directors and as chair of the board’s Facilities and Equipment Subcommittee. He also serves on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and as a team physician for Lamar University’s NCAA Division I athletic teams.

For more information about the academy, visit aaos.org.


People's Law School at UH Law helps public learn basic rights

The University of Houston Law Center will host the People’s Law School from 9 a.m. to noon April 4. More than 40 volunteer attorneys, judges, and law professors will teach courses and answer questions on various topics at one of the country’s oldest and most notable law programs for citizens.

Richard M. Alderman, University of Houston Law Center professor emeritus, said more than 50,000 people have attended the People’s Law School and discovered that knowledge is power when it comes to law.

“The People’s Law School won’t make you an attorney, but it will help you settle disputes and avoid problems,” Alderman said in a statement. “Whether you are buying a car, preparing a will, dealing with a debt collector, or in a dispute with your neighbor, knowing your legal rights can make a difference.”

Attendees can visit three sessions and acquire information on their basic rights in business, tax, employment, health insurance, consumer, credit and debt collection, wills and estates, family, insurance, landlord and tenant, justice court, and Social Security law.

The free event is a partnership with the university’s Center for Consumer Law and the Houston Bar Association. Coffee and donuts will be served.

Registration is limited to the first 1,000 people. Take advantage now and register for the event by visiting peopleslawyer.net.


HNBA conference equips attendees with tools, discusses diversity, attorney well-being

SAN ANTONIO — Attorneys and legal professionals met to discuss helpful resources and topics including diversity and lawyers’ health at the Hispanic National Bar Association’s sixth annual Corporate Counsel Conference and 20th annual Uvaldo Herrera Moot Court Competition.

The conference was held March 18-21 at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter.

The HNBA Latina Commission hosted a plenary session on how Latinas can address gender bias in the legal profession.














Latinas represent approximately 0.54 percent of partners in U.S. law firms, behind African-American women, at 0.6 percent; Asian women, at 0.91 percent; and white women, at 18 percent, according to statistics from the National Association for Law Placement. The panel discussed reasons why gender bias still exists, potential avenues for reform, and how to empower women to achieve their potential.

The conference also focused on the health and mental wellness of minority attorneys. State Bar of Texas President-elect Allan K. DuBois and Bree Buchanan, executive director of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, shared their personal stories and the importance of achieving success without compromising well-being.

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Surveillance in a post-Snowden world

It’s been nearly two years since Edward Snowden blew the whistle regarding National Security Agency practices and became a household name. While some think of him as a traitor, others have lauded him as a hero.

Regardless of your feelings about the guy, there’s no question that his revelations changed the way we consider security and surveillance in the 21st century. That’s just what Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney with Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Robert Chesney, director of the University of Texas Strauss Center for International Security and Law, discussed during “What’s Next? Surveillance Reform Post-Snowden” at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive.

“This started as a discussion about the NSA and about that kind of surveillance, but it has morphed into something a little bit broader and something different,” Fakhoury said during the panel. “How do we talk about policing? How do we talk about surveillance, at even the local level, in the modern age where technology is eclipsing the ability of the law and the lawmakers to keep up with these changes in technologies?”


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SXSW panels take hard look at U.S. justice system

Two SXSW Interactive panels on Monday focused on the inner workings and effects of the U.S. justice system. Panelists of “Ex-Prisoners Speak: We Deserve a Second Chance” spoke on the flaws of the country’s prison system, which they said does nothing to help incarcerated men and women reenter society. Later, a couple of blocks away at the Austin Convention Center, the mother of Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted of being the kingpin of the Silk Road online marketplace, explained why she sees her son’s trial as unfair and unjust.

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Hispanic National Bar to host conference, moot court event in San Antonio

The Hispanic National Bar Association will host its sixth annual Corporate Counsel Conference and 20th annual Uvaldo Herrera Moot Court Competition on March 18-21 at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter.

The program is designed to provide attorneys, judges, and law students networking opportunities, workshops, and information on continuing legal education topics led by national experts.

State Bar of Texas President-elect Allan K. DuBois of San Antonio and Bree Buchanan, director of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program of the State Bar of Texas, will speak at a March 20 plenary session on achieving success without compromising your health in a demanding legal environment. The discussion will focus on the importance of life-balance issues and how personal neglect, mental health, and substance abuse affect the legal community.


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Run for a cause

Join in on the fun Saturday, March 21, 2015, and take part in the Houston Bar Association’s John J. Eikenburg Law Week Fun Run.

Now in its 30th year, the event has raised more than $1 million for the Center, a private nonprofit United Way agency that serves more than 600 developmentally disabled individuals through education, job training, health care, and other resources. The races—a one-mile children’s run, an 8K-wheelchair event, an individual 8K race and team competition, and a non-competitive one-mile family walk—begin at 7:30 a.m. at Sam Houston Park.

Entry fees for the event are $30 for the 8K run—$35 after March 12—and $18 for the one-mile children’s run and family walk. The three-person team entry fee is $300—and goes up to $330 after March 12.

Stick around after the races for live music, refreshments, and an awards ceremony.

Registration is available online at lawweekfunrun.com or at the following locations:

Luke’s Locker, 1953 West Gray
March 19, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Center, 3550 West Dallas
March 20, 2015, from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Sam Houston Park, 1100 Bagby
Race Day Registration, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.


Texas Monthly finalist for ABA Silver Gavel Award

A serialized magazine story detailing a 1982 Waco triple homicide is among the finalists for the American Bar Association’s 2015 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts.

Texas Monthly’s “The Murders at the Lake,” by executive editor Michael Hall, was among 14 Silver Gavel finalists announced Wednesday and the only finalist named in the magazine category. 

The awards recognize outstanding work that fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system. Winners will be announced May 13.

The finalists are listed below along with a link to their work.

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Runway for Justice to benefit Austin-area women

Paris Fashion Week is in full swing, but style mavens don’t have to travel to the City of Light to see the hottest trends.

On March 5, the Austin Young Lawyers Association will host its inaugural Runway for Justice, where attorneys will model casual, business, and evening looks. Proceeds from the evening will support the AYLA Foundation and the Women’s Resource Fair, which provides food, clothing, job assistance, medical care, and more to hundreds of low-income women in Travis County.

Thursday’s event, held at Mercury Hall, 615 Cardinal Lane in Austin, kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres will be served, and each guest will take home a swag bag.

Tickets are $50 per person, or $75 for VIP. A four-pack of VIP tickets is $250. For more information, go to ayla.org.



Frisco ISD teacher earns statewide honor in social studies education

A Frisco ISD teacher who helps write curriculum for State Bar of Texas law-related education programs has received statewide recognition for her leadership in social studies education.

Dodie Kasper, Frisco ISD’s high school social studies coordinator, received the 2015 Dr. Rosemary Morrow Social Studies Supervisor of the Year Award from the Texas Social Studies Supervisors Association. She accepted the award Friday at the association’s spring conference in Austin.

The award is named for Dr. Rosemary Morrow, a former association president and longtime member.

Kasper volunteers as a curriculum writer and consultant to the State Bar Law-Related Education Department, which works to advance law-related and civic education programs throughout Texas through curriculum development and educator training. Kasper is a past recipient of the State Bar Leon Jaworski Award for Teaching Excellence in law-related education.


What's Wrong With the Pursuit of Happiness? Part 2

By Michael Winters


 Part 2: Meaning is available even when happiness is not.

Imagine that you are representing pro bono a 19-year-old client who is seeking asylum. She has fled her home country, a land in which women are considered second-class citizens and corruption is rampant. Her husband has disfigured her in an acid attack and has promised that next time he will succeed in killing her. Her children have been taken from her, and she has no resources. Despite this, she is confident in the American judicial system. After a year in a detention center and despite your best efforts, she is denied asylum as a matter of course and is summarily deported. In this situation, attempting to derive pleasure or happiness would not be appropriate. But seeking meaning from the experience could be beneficial.

As exemplified in this scenario, it is not always possible to experience happiness. However, extracting meaning from experiences is always possible. Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, dedicated his life to helping people identify meaning, even in the most desperate of circumstances. Frankl survived three years in Nazi concentration camps, where he lost most of his family, including his pregnant wife. Yet despite such heart-wrenching loss, he managed to derive meaning from it and, in 1946, published the now classic Man’s Search for Meaning, which has sold more than 10 million copies. His insights remain relevant today.


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Buck takes office as 2015 Houston Bar Foundation chair

William R. Buck of Exxon Mobil Corp. is the new chair of the Houston Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Houston Bar Association.

Buck took office Feb. 26 at the foundation’s Annual Meeting and Luncheon at the Four Seasons Downtown, according to an HBA news release. He succeeded John Eddie Williams Jr. of Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas LLP, who will serve as immediate past chair.

Buck is general counsel-upstream companies for Exxon Mobil, where he manages law support for exploration, development, production, and related research operations. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Colorado and is admitted to the Texas, Colorado, New York, and Louisiana bars.

Buck also is a member of the Tahirih Justice Center Advisory Council and a former chair of the Oil & Gas Practice Committee of the Institute of Energy Law. 

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New scam targeting attorneys

We have received a report of a scam from an attorney who received a request for assistance. She spoke on the phone to the proposed client, who asked that a buyer send the firm a 15 percent deposit from a purchase price to use as a retainer, that the firm bill their fees against it, and return the remainder to the client. Upon further searching, the attorney uncovered a scam.

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Texans prominent at ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston









The American Bar Association’s 2015 Midyear Meeting came to Houston this month, and it wasn’t hard to find Texans in prominent roles.

Texans were speakers and award recipients during the concurrent meetings of the ABA and several related groups, including the National Association of Bar Executives, the National Conference of Bar Presidents, and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

State Bar of Texas President Trey Apffel helped open the bar presidents’ conference by welcoming the leaders to Houston and explaining the city’s nicknames, including Space City, Bayou City, and H-Town.

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Conference challenges bar associations to R.I.S.E.

The National Association of Bar Executives held its 2015 Midyear Meeting in Houston this month, as did several related groups, including the American Bar Association, the National Conference of Bar Presidents, and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

The NABE conference focused on the bar as a business, a theme that was first presented at the group’s annual meeting in Boston. Attendees were challenged to “R.I.S.E., which stands for Reach, Improve, Serve, and Engage.”

Takeaways from some of the sessions are listed below.

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What's Wrong With the Pursuit of Happiness?

By Michael Winters


Part 1: All emotions are needed to be whole.

Since Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, the words “the pursuit of happiness” have served as a motto for this nation. Essential to our culture is the belief that there is a fundamental urge—indeed, a right—to seek happiness. The field of psychology, however, had been largely silent on how to achieve happiness until about the year 2000. Since the turn of the millennium, there has been an explosion in research on happiness.

This torrent of research was in response to the overwhelming amount of research focused on anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness. Coined “The Positive Psychology Movement,” positive psychologists set out to understand and promote happiness rather than focus on ways to identify, manage, or avoid suffering and melancholy.


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Mindfulness matters in law school

By Katerina P. Lewinbuk

Just as I finished answering a student’s question, another hand went up. When I gave that person the floor, he asked the exact same question I just answered. Some of his classmates giggled while others rolled their eyes. The student, however, gave me a surprised look, observed the class’s reaction, and then whispered, “What?” I tried to suppress my frustration, but part of me really resented his presence “in body only” and his lack of desire to pay attention.

Or was it a lack of ability to stay focused?

I went on with my day and never thought about the student again until I was in my car driving home. In my head, I engaged in a conversation with him, venting about how I take my teaching seriously and the least he could do was to follow along and pay attention. My internal dialog, which felt so real, escalated as the topic changed to faculty meetings and how our law school should approach new American Bar Association directives. The next thing I knew, I was standing in front of my house trying to open the door with my office key. What route did I take home?


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EEOC active as 50th anniversary approaches, Texas lawyers told

Nearly 50 years after its creation as part of the historic Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking stock of its objectives and the challenges that remain, Chair Jenny R. Yang told Texas attorneys Jan. 22 in Dallas.

Yang, speaking to about 300 attendees at the TexasBarCLE Advanced Employment Law Course, said the commission has made much progress since opening in July 1965 with the duty to enforce federal laws barring discrimination in hiring and employment. Still, some workers remain vulnerable to discrimination, including pregnant women, immigrants, and temporary workers, she said.

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State Bar of Texas offers members discounted registration to ABA TECHSHOW

The State Bar of Texas is offering its members the opportunity to register for ABA TECHSHOW 2015 at a significant discount.

State Bar of Texas members can save up to $355 off the registration price for the conference, scheduled for April 16-18 at the Chicago Hilton. Early bird registration ends March 6.

Receive your discount by using the State Bar of Texas event promoter code TECHSHOWEP15. Register now at techshow.com.

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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 March 16 at the address below or by email at Changes@ca5.uscourts.gov.


Notice of Proposed Amendment to 5TH CIR. R. 34.7

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2071, we give notice the court is considering amending 5TH CIR. R. 34.7 as shown below. Proposed changes are identified with strike out or redline text.

We will accept written comments for consideration on the proposed change through March 16, 2015. You may write to:

Clerk of Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
ATTN: Rule Changes
600 South Maestri Place
New Orleans, LA 70130

or send comments electronically to Changes@ca5.uscourts.gov

Read the proposed circuit rule change.


New Voices of Recovery podcast now available

The latest episode of the Voices of Recovery podcast is now available.

In Episode 4, “No More Secrets,” a Texas lawyer tells of her struggles to achieve and maintain sobriety in spite of life’s worst challenges.

The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, part of the State Bar of Texas, created the podcast to let bar members know that help is available and recovery is possible.

Each episode features an in-depth interview with a Texas attorney, judge, or law student about their struggles with substance abuse or mental health issues. The guests remain anonymous to protect their privacy.

Find Voices of Recovery on the TLAP Web page or on iTunes

Jury duty: A front-row seat to justice

By Katherine Cabaniss

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in The Examiner News and is republished with permission. Find resources for jurors at texasbar.com

Recently, a high-profile case was tried in my court. A jury heard evidence for more than two weeks. The media was highly interested and consistently present. The courtroom was packed.

In the case, 12 citizens and two alternates had a front-row seat to watch the court proceedings in person. Each of these persons had appeared at jury duty. They were selected through the voir dire process to sit as jurors and hear the case.

Many, many people tuned in to the evening news to find out the latest information about the case. However, the jurors were there to hear everything live and in person.

Have you received a summons to jury duty lately? You never know what kind of case you might get to hear!

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Former State Bar president appointed as UT regent

One of the three regents recently appointed to the University of Texas System Board of Regents is a former president of the State Bar of Texas. David Beck, a senior partner in Beck Redden in Houston, was named a regent on Thursday by Gov. Greg Abbott. The well-known trial lawyer led the State Bar from 1995 to 1996. A biography of Beck is available on the State Bar’s website.

Joining Beck as a newly appointed regent is Sara Martinez Tucker, the CEO of the National Math + Science Initiative based in Dallas. R. Steven Hicks, owner and executive chairman of the private investment firm Capstar Partners, was appointed as a regent in 2009 and 2011 by former Gov. Rick Perry and reappointed by Gov. Abbott this week.


A Quick Guide to Slowing Down

By Michael Winters


“When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.”
—Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

It is now possible for us to be connected to an array of devices almost 24/7, only pausing a few hours for sleep before waking up and starting all over again. We feel compelled to always respond, and our attention spans are shorter than ever. But does this connectivity make us happier? Does it make us better at our jobs? Are there alternatives?

As 2015 begins to unfold, it may be worthwhile to evaluate the pace of your life and considering slowing down. Ask yourself:
• Do I wake up feeling rested and ready to start the day?
• Can I identify what’s important to me and do I live up to and in accordance with those values?
• How do I react when I am in a traffic jam? Am I upset or anxious about the delay or do I take that time as an opportunity to reflect on my day?
• When a loved one talks, do I ask questions? Do I really listen? Do I check my phone while they are talking?
• Is there any sacred time when I can’t be reached?

If you answered any of these questions in a way that is inconsistent with the person you want to be, consider slowing down. Here’s how.

Set aside time to disconnect each day.
By carving out a block with no obligations each day, you are creating space in your life to take a breath and slow down. Contemplation, prayer, and a nap are great ways to spend that period and take life down a notch. It doesn’t matter how you choose to slow down as long as your needs are the only consideration during this sacred time. You can start with as little as 5 minutes.

Take mini-vacations.
A few days away can be relaxing and reenergizing if you commit to disconnecting. Try it at least once. Block out a weekend on your calendar, give your colleagues sufficient forewarning, get your work covered, and then take off. If you must maintain some contact, include in your out-of-office reply a specific time each day that you will be checking email and messages—and then stick to it. Focus on your immediate surroundings and sensations while away and rein in those thoughts of the office.

Take a page from the Slow Food movement.
Eating slowly is good for your physical and mental health. A simple exercise is to put your fork down between each bite and chew your food completely, until it slides down your throat. Savor the multiple flavors. And enjoy the social benefits of not rushing through a meal by listening to and talking with your dining companions.

Think through complex decisions.
In some situations you may be rewarded for making quick decisions, but during other times, it may prove beneficial to weigh options before making a commitment. Instead of immediately hitting “reply” (or worse, “reply all”) to a distressing email, wait until the following morning, after you have had time to think about it overnight. Consider how your response may be interpreted. Even if you return to your typical style of thinking and decision-making for less important tasks, engaging in this exercise will leave you with a different perspective on the benefits of slowly thinking through complex decisions.

Slow down as a means to an end.
Eknath Easwaran, the author of Take Your Time: How to Find Patience, Peace and Meaning, noted, “Slowing down is not the goal; it is the means to an end. The goal is living in freedom—freedom from the pressures of hurry, from the distractions that fragment our time and creativity and love.” Easwaran is right. Slowing down allows us to be truly present; it is a way of experiencing life to its fullest and helps us identify and enjoy what is most important.

Michael Winters is a psychologist in Houston. He has cultivated his practice around the concept of meaning-centered living and is a frequent guest on local television and radio programs. For more information, go to DrMWinters.com.

Entries sought for 2015 Texas Gavel Awards

Starting today, the State Bar of Texas is accepting submissions for the 2015 Texas Gavel Awards, honoring journalism that fosters public understanding of the legal system.

Entries published or broadcast during the 2014 calendar year will be accepted for the print, broadcast, and online categories until 5 p.m. April 1. Awards will be presented Sept. 17 at the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas annual conference in Austin.

For more information on the Texas Gavel Awards, including eligibility requirements and submission guidelines, visit texasbar.com/gavelawards, call (512) 427-1713 or download the entry form

The Texas Gavel Awards program is coordinated by the State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee and judged by an independent panel.

Texas Gavel Awards recognize excellence in journalism that educates the public about the rule of law, the legal profession, and the judicial branch of government; and discloses practices or procedures needing correction to improve the practice of law, the courts, or the justice system.


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Therefore, be it Resolved: 2015

As we enter 2015, many people are deciding on their New Year’s resolutions. If you are thinking about what you can improve, congratulations!

It’s important, however, to think about the form your goals should take. If you want to create lasting change, consider altering an attitude rather than just one behavior. So instead of making the resolution to lose 15 pounds, resolve to care for your body. This distinction is significant: changing an attitude is more likely to achieve the desired result than a simple change in behavior.

Why attitude is more important than behavior

Let’s go back to the goal of losing 15 pounds. You could hit the gym twice a week, eat well, and successfully lose the 15 pounds by the end of April. But then what? Does that mean you can order seconds and ease off on going to the gym?

Another way to lose 15 pounds might be by acquiring a really nasty case of food poisoning. You’d still achieve the identified objective but not in a manner in keeping with the true underlying desire.

Changing attitudes is complex and requires ongoing maintenance. This underscores why resolving to alter an attitude (care for your body), as opposed to a identifying a specific goal (drop 15 pounds), is more likely to produce desired results.

How to make and achieve attitudinal goals

If you already have a behavioral resolution, you can translate it into an attitudinal goal. Start by asking yourself why you want to make this specific change. Once you have discovered the underlying motivation, then you can conceptualize the goal in attitudinal terms. For example, if your original resolution was to “not work weekends,” the attitudinal goal might be to recognize the importance of your family and your own mental health.

Once you have identified the reason to change, you can then brainstorm specific goals that can help you achieve the desired adjustment. If your goal is to spend more time with your family and on yourself, regular date nights, quality time with the kids, and time to meditate on a daily basis could be definable to-do goals.

Set a variety of measures to evaluate your progress. Perhaps date night is less meaningful than a long-overdue vacation with the entire family or maybe you realize that me time is less fulfilling than anticipated—what you really need is a regular guys’/girls’ night out. With this range of actions, you are achieving and maintaining your overall goal that is based on the underlying motivation.

Monitoring your progress

Check in with yourself. To start, schedule a monthly reminder to evaluate your progress. Use a scale to rate your attitude change, from 0 (no attitude change) to 10 (complete attitude change).

You can also add evidence for the evaluation. Let’s return to the example of prioritizing family and self. Here, you might list time spent with your partner, trips taken, poker nights and dinners out with friends—anything that you feel is an accurate, honest actualization of your resolution.

Attitudinal Goal Progress: Prioritize my family and myself
My attitude change rating: 5/10
In January, I have moved toward my goal by: Attending three of son’s soccer matches and two dates with spouse
In January, I missed chances to move toward my goal by: Canceling a night out with friends and missing two scheduled family dinners

If you score a rating of 5 out of 10, shoot for a rating of 7 out of 10 for the next month. Be mindful of setting the bar too high: if you are unrealistic in your goal, you may find it too difficult and give up. Instead, try and adopt a long-term perspective.

In our efforts to achieve goals, we do not simply “solve” issues once but “re-solve” over a period of time. Resolutions are often difficult and require willpower and effort to achieve. By shifting your focus from behavior to attitude, you can create lasting, meaningful change in your life.

Michael Winters is a psychologist in Houston. He has cultivated his practice around the concept of meaning-centered living and is a frequent guest on local television and radio programs. For more information, go to DrMWinters.com.

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Five Questions: Austin lawyer-physician Alejandro Moreno on CIA torture report

Alejandro Moreno—associate director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at the University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin—shares his insight into the Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, released by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday, Dec. 9. The report, parts of which are being disputed by the CIA and some politicians, alleges that CIA officials used brutal interrogation methods against terrorism suspects, that the agency was not completely transparent with the Bush administration about its activities, and that such actions did not produce meaningful results.

Moreno, a physician and Texas attorney, has cared for victims of torture and has conducted and testified in numerous medical and legal investigations of torture in the United States and abroad. He consults the nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights and co-founded and co-directed the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights at Boston Medical Center, a multidisciplinary center that provides comprehensive care to survivors of torture and related trauma. He also has served as a medical and legal adviser to the Center for Survivors of Torture in Texas. Moreno additionally has led comprehensive training programs around the world for forensic physicians, prosecutors, attorneys, and adjudicators, and he has provided legal advice to NGOs and government officials overseas implementing the Istanbul Protocol—the international standard on how to conduct an effective medico-legal investigation of alleged torture and ill treatment.

All responses are the opinion of Moreno and do not necessarily indicate a reflection of the views of the State Bar of Texas.

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Five years for freedom: How two Texas attorneys helped get a man off death row and out of prison.

Manuel Velez was spending his first months in solitary confinement in Huntsville when attorneys began reviewing the trial that put him on death row. The Dallas firm of Carrington Coleman had heard concerns from the Capital Punishment Center at the University of Texas School of Law that Velez might be mentally impaired. So the firm, which has a strong pro bono program, sent an email to its four dozen attorneys to see if any were interested in taking on the case. Lyndon Bittle and Neil Burger, as well as several others, volunteered their time. Once they got the file and began reading the trial transcripts, they realized there was much more to the story.

A construction worker from Brownsville, Velez had been convicted of and sentenced to death months earlier for killing his girlfriend’s one-year old child, Angel, who Velez had found Oct. 31, 2005, on the couch with troubled breathing. At the hospital, Angel was declared brain dead and then removed from life support. The autopsy revealed that blunt force trauma had fractured the boy’s skull in two places and resulted in a subdural hematoma—bleeding that surrounds the brain. Both Velez and his girlfriend were charged in Angel’s death.

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The TBJ December issue

We explore criminal law, from the transformation of federal sentencing to the Michael Morton Act and how it has changed the way cases are handled in Texas. Plus: Training the state's next generation of nonprofit lawyers, dealing with mental health issues, and drafting clear and effective findings. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue. 

Access fund can help offset communication costs

To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, lawyers provide auxiliary services, such as a sign language interpreter, to ensure effective communication with clients with disabilities. For some attorneys, the costs of such aids can add up quickly. To help lawyers better serve their clients and to make legal services more accessible for all, the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division and the Disability Issues Committee have launched the Communication Access Fund, which reimburses for these auxiliary services.

Additionally, the Disability Issues Committee is working to develop training and resources to help attorneys better understand ADA obligations and how to reduce costs when using supplementary communication aids. For more information, go to texasbar.com/communicationaccess.

The importance of professionalism

 By Stuart D. Colburn

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, so it seems fitting to take a moment or two to pause and reflect on what it means to be an attorney—how we work, interact with colleagues and clients, and uphold the rule of law. In a profession as honorable and noble as ours, it is imperative that we treat others with respect and courtesy. The following account will hopefully act as a reminder—and a prompt—to reaffirm your commitment to the Texas Lawyer’s Creed and our profession.

“We are not used to plaintiff and defense attorneys getting along,” said the bailiff to a shocked out-of-town attorney following a two-day civil trial. The bailiff, affable and well-liked as evidenced by the number of folks who admitted knowing him during voir dire, explained that most attorneys openly disparage each other—and not necessarily under their breath.

Some Texas litigators might assume this trial had taken place in a large city, where Rambo-litigation tactics have been common and are sometimes still practiced. But the setting for the trial was a small Hill Country hamlet. The bailiff’s comments were surprising because this small town should be a place where attorneys get along.

The good behavior of the lawyers in this case was not because the two attorneys were long-time friends. Indeed, we had never met before. We had our objections and our legal disagreements. However, we could make our points without hate or contempt. In fact, we played the part of small-town lawyers that even the small town did not recognize.

Others have criticized attorney behavior with far more insight and articulation than I. Some clients and jurors even expect bad behavior. The media portrayal of lawyers strengthens these perceptions, and our own commercials and billboards tell the world that successful lawyers win by intimidation and bully tactics.

Some—but not all—judges lament this behavior, as I discovered several years ago. I had presented motions to abate in two cases in two different cities. In each case, my client was paying benefits. The suit was filed to protect against a statute of limitations, but the parties were awaiting a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court that would fundamentally change the governing law and therefore the attorney’s preparation and discovery. My client would owe the other side’s attorney fees if we did not prevail. Therefore continuing discovery would have increased the legal expenses that my client might have been obligated to pay.

A judge in northern Central Texas listened to the lawyers’ arguments and asked opposing counsel what harm to his client would granting the request for abatement cause. My adversary (an exceptional attorney) didn’t answer the question and instead reiterated his argument. The seasoned judge calmly repeated his inquiry, only this time perhaps with more emphasis. I don’t remember the specifics of the non-answer, but I do remember the judge’s response: “Do you know the green-card rule here?” The other attorney admitted he was not familiar with that rule. Neither was I. The judge continued, “When a fellow attorney asks you for something and it does not hurt you or your client, you grant the request. Otherwise your green card to practice . . . [here] will be revoked. Do you understand?” My then-immediate feeling was elation that my arguments had won the day. Upon reflection, however, the more meaningful lesson—and the reason for the decision—is the admonishment to treat lawyers as lawyers should be treated.

A couple of months later, we appeared in another courtroom ready to make the same arguments in a different courthouse to a different judge. I arrived early to observe the judge’s style. The judge would decide early on in his ruling and then proceed to mock the “losing” lawyer until satisfied with the gallery’s response to his comedic routine. My opponent’s arguments won the day this time.

Divergent results in a courtroom, especially in different geographical locales, are not surprising and even expected. I examined the courtroom behavior, and the treatment of lawyers by the bench and other lawyers was the sharpest distinction.

I have often repeated the green-card lesson to young lawyers, believing such courtroom culture best matches the ideals of justice and professionalism. Although we do not always reach our ideal, it is far better to reach and fail than to settle for the low expectations of bad behavior.

My friend and former State Bar of Texas President Richard Pena recently returned from Turkey, where attorneys were being arrested for standing up for the rule of law. As we discussed his trip, I could not help but think that half a world away, our honorable profession struggles with professionalism.

Changing a culture takes determination, patience, and leadership. If change will come at all, leaders must envision it, judges must require it, lawyers who value professionalism must encourage it, and we all need to expect it.

A culture of professionalism at the bar is worthy of our aspirations. A small-town bailiff should not be surprised when litigants behave as they should.

Public again warned against paying for fraudulent immigration legal services

In the days since President Barack Obama announced his decision to take executive action on certain immigration policies, there will likely be an increase in scams targeting those who are interested in avoiding deportation under the new plan.

According to an article in the Austin American-Statesman on Monday, Mexican authorities and Austin-area attorneys are warning the public against using fraudulent notarios and other individuals who act as lawyers but are not licensed. It will take several months before immigrants in the United States can even apply for work permits under Obama’s plan, so people should be cautious when paying for such quick legal assistance.

In August, amid the unaccompanied minor situation along the Texas-Mexico border, the State Bar of Texas similarly warned the public against using notarios and others who falsely represent themselves as lawyers. To read that press release, which has additional information on notario fraud, go to http://www.texasbar.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Press_Releases&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=26689. The State Bar’s Web page on immigration legal resources is available at texasbar.com/immigration.

Texas Supreme Court approves restyled evidence rules

The Texas Supreme Court approved an order Wednesday adopting revised evidence rules, triggering a comment period that ends Feb. 28.

The revisions to the Texas Rules of Evidence are intended to mirror 2011 amendments to the Federal Rules of Evidence, with the goal of making the rules easier to understand, according to the court order.

Final approval of the restyled rules will be effective April 1.


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State Bar advises on Erwin Center street closures and parking ahead of new lawyer induction on Monday

On the morning of Nov. 17, the State Bar of Texas will congratulate and administer the oath of office to more than 1,000 new attorneys at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony, held at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

If you are a newly licensed attorney or a proud family member or friend attending the event, you’ll notice that the grounds surrounding the Erwin Center are looking very different. With construction of the Dell Medical School Project and the realignment of Red River Street fully underway, some streets and parking lots are currently closed. Please read on for important information regarding these changes.

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David R. Olivas on being a veteran

A year after graduating from law school, Navy Reservist David R. Olivas was deployed to Afghanistan, where he spent time in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh, Kunduz, and Bagram. His tour of duty ended on Jan. 5, 2014, and the 35-year-old currently resides in Flower Mound, practicing criminal law as a Dallas County assistant district attorney.

Tell us about when you joined the service. What went into your decision?
I was going to school at my parents’ desire instead of my own. I wanted to travel and work, so I thought I’d join the Navy. I decided to tell my parents about my intent to drop out of college and join the service. My dad was eating enchiladas and had just taken a bite when I stated, “Guys, I think I’m going to join the Navy.” He stopped chewing and looked at me with complete shock.

Why did you choose this military branch?
I chose the Navy for many reasons: I wanted to leave Texas; I loved the uniform; the Navy would teach me a foreign language; and I knew I would get to see the world. I left Texas for training; I got to wear the Navy Blues; the Navy taught me some Arabic; and I became fluent in Spanish. As fate would have it, I was stationed in San Antonio for nearly eight years. I did, however, get to deploy with the British and Dutch navies. After almost nine years, I quit active duty, joined the Navy Reserve, and moved back to DFW to attend Texas Wesleyan School of Law’s evening program. The Monday after graduation from law school, my chief told me I was on the short list to deploy. One year later, I was stepping off a plane in Afghanistan.

Did you find that there were a lot of attorneys in the military or that many soldiers talked about wanting to become attorneys?
In the Navy, we have what’s called a sea-lawyer. This individual usually knew it all and let everyone else know it.

Has your military experience influenced the way you practice law?
Leadership, devotion to duty, and time management were the biggest tools the Navy taught me. These tools have allowed me to manage my caseloads and separate what is important and what is not. My leadership experience influences how I look at cases, associate with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and treat everyone with the same level of respect. We were taught to become consummate professionals. I strive to maintain that reputation.

Do you see similarities in being a solider and being a lawyer?
We know when to speak and, most important, when to keep quiet.

If you could give someone a piece of advice before joining the military, what would it be?
No one will look out for your interest better than yourself. The military will use you for everything, so learn your job, do it well, and use the military for everything you can—education, training, and certifications.

What does being a veteran mean to you?
To me, a veteran is reliable. We do our job right and work efficiently.


2015 Law-Related Education Conference: Cornerstones of Civil Rights

The 2015 Law-Related Education Conference will be held Jan. 30-31, 2015, at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The focus of the conference will be on the journey to achieve civil rights from the beginning of our nation to the present.

Key legislation, people, and events from 1789 to today will be presented in general sessions followed by breakout sessions featuring classroom-ready lessons.  

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The TBJ November issue

We explore e-filing, from tips on how to make the process easier to one county's experience during its digital document transition. Plus: Reaching your full potential, meeting the new deans at four Texas law schools, and honoring our veterans. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue. 


Past President Tatum accepts ABA award for community service

SAN ANTONIO — State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa M. Tatum, who helped launch successful pro bono and civics education projects during her presidential year, was recognized Friday for her community service.

Tatum, the owner of San Antonio-based LM Tatum, PLLC, received the 2014 Making a Difference Through Community Service Award from the American Bar Association Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. The award, which honors an attorney—living or deceased—who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the local community, was presented during the 9th Annual National Solo & Small Firm Conference.



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Texas law school updates manual on infectious disease outbreaks

Hours after a man in New York was diagnosed with Ebola—the fourth diagnosis in the United States—the University of Houston Law Center has announced an updated version of its legal manual on infectious disease outbreaks.

The manual was created by the law school’s Health Law and Policy Institute and is titled “Control Measures and Public Health Emergencies.” It includes flow charts and sample forms among its 100 plus pages and is designed to give judges and law enforcement officials information on how to handle situations like quarantine and isolation. The book also features chapters on state and federal jurisdiction, distribution of executive branch authority in Texas, and the role of Texas courts during a public health emergency. Revised from an earlier 2010 version, the recently released manual includes the latest applicable Texas and U.S. law.

The University of Houston Law Center is providing the book as a PDF for free at: http://www.law.uh.edu/healthlaw/2014-HLPIBenchBook-2.pdf.

The center’s Health Law and Policy Institute is holding a public health preparedness program on Nov. 7 for judges and officials in law enforcement, county and city government, and public health. The event will take place from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m. at the law center’s main campus in Houston. The deadline to RSVP to healthlaw@uh.edu is Nov. 4.

Pro Bono College members, Champion of Justice law firms honored at reception

The Texas Access to Justice Commission kicked off Pro Bono Week on Monday with a reception honoring law firms and individual attorneys that support access to justice efforts in Texas. 

Gov. Rick Perry and the Supreme Court of Texas both issued proclamations designating this week as Pro Bono Week in Texas. The commission’s annual reception, held at the law firm of Vinson & Elkins in Austin, started off the week by celebrating the supporters of the commission’s Access to Justice Campaign, as well as those who support access to justice throughout the year by providing pro bono legal services.

“Every person deserves access to the courts,” said Jenny Smith, the Texas Young Lawyers Association liaison to the commission. “If we as lawyers don’t provide that, no one will.”


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Foundation celebrates pro bono week, honors legal aid advocates

Texas access to justice leaders marked the start of the weeklong National Pro Bono Celebration on Monday with tributes and awards to attorneys, legislators, and organizations that make legal aid a central part of their work.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation presented the awards during a luncheon with the Texas Supreme Court in Austin. The event coincides with national pro bono week (Oct. 19-25), an American Bar Association initiative to highlight the need to protect and expand access to justice through volunteer civil legal services.

Attorneys provide more than 2 million hours of free legal or indirect services to low-income Texans each year, the equivalent of about $500 million, according to the University of North Texas Survey Research Center. But for every 11,000 Texans who qualify for legal aid, there is only one legal aid lawyer, according to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. The luncheon honored those who are working to address that need.

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National Black Pre-Law Conference celebrates decade of inspiring black lawyers

The National Black Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair will host its 10th annual celebration in honor of empowering aspiring black lawyers.

The free event will be held Friday and Saturday in the Houston Marriott Westchase. Late registration begins today and ends Wednesday.

The conference brings together aspiring lawyers, parents, supporters, friends, law students, judges, and law school representatives to help students begin their law school career with “insider” information and encouragement on their journey to become successful attorneys.

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Texas lawyers, legal organization to receive ABA Difference Makers Awards in San Antonio

Three Texas attorneys and a San Antonio legal services organization will receive national awards for breaking down barriers through community service, pro bono work, and service to the legal profession, the American Bar Association announced today

The list of 2014 Difference Makers Awards recipients includes State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa M. Tatum, former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, Houston immigration lawyer Harry Gee Jr., and RAICES, a San Antonio-based legal services and education organization for refugees and immigrants.


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Texas Lawyers Auxiliary honors 2014 Teacher of the Year

The Texas Lawyers Auxiliary recently met at the Texas Law Center in Austin to celebrate the 2014 Teacher of the Year.

The award is presented annually to a high school teacher who offers his or her students opportunities and experiences in the field of law. This year, Kim Grosenbacher, a government teacher at Champion High School in Boerne, was recognized.

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Texas attorney warns of email collections scam

A Texas attorney contacted us to report he had received an email message believed to be part of a large collections scam targeting law firms across the U.S.

We are reprinting his warning below, with edits for style and brevity. The FBI encourages victims of debt collection wire fraud to report it to their local FBI office (www.fbi.gov) or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov). 

The FBI in February issued an advisory on organized crime groups targeting U.S.-based attorneys with debt collection wire fraud schemes. You can read the full advisory here

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The View

Artist and retired lawyer Cedric Hustace on avoiding a “whoops” moment, listening to classical music and jazz, and putting that first dab of color on canvas.

Indiana-based artist Cedric Hustace uses the world around him—from blooming flowers alongside a path in the middle of nowhere to cultural dancers in downtown Bucharest, Romania—to capture life as he sees it. His impressionist paintings that mix vibrant color and contrasting elements are like a sensory wake-up call. Through his rich work, one realizes the beauty of everyday life. A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Hustace grew up painting and playing music, and his early passion for the arts stayed with him during his undergraduate years in El Paso and while attending classes at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. Admitted to the Texas Bar in 1963, Hustace led a successful career as an attorney, practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, and Evansville, Indiana, before retiring in 2002. Now the artist, accomplished musician, and sports aficionado (who has participated in race-walking marathons, half marathons, and triathlons) travels the globe with his wife, Carol, taking in the view and inspiring others through his work. The Texas Bar Journal interviewed Hustace, who created the cover art for the October 2014 issue, about his process, his motivation, and the relationship between painting and practicing law.

How do you start a painting?

The first thing I do is either make a sketch or take a photo for reference, or maybe a little of both. I have to give serious thought to the dimensions of the piece. The sketch and photo must be proportionally the same as the size of canvas I plan to use, for example, 12 inches by 16 inches, 18 inches by 24 inches, or 24 inches by 36 inches. The Halloween cover for the Texas Bar Journal was a case in point. I was constrained by the dimensions of the Journal cover, so my sketch had to have the same proportions. I wanted to be sure that everything on my sketch could be put onto a canvas without running out of room. I wanted to avoid a “whoops” moment in the painting development process.

Walk us through your process.

With respect to the TBJ cover, I had to take into account where certain structural elements would appear, such as the masthead and the block for postage and address information. Once I had the correct outside dimensions for the painting and the location of areas to be avoided, I then measured and marked those areas on the sketch.

TBJ Managing Editor Patricia McConnico explained certain themes she wanted me to portray on the cover. Then I had to figure out how and where to place the various elements. I went through several sketches before I hit on the one I thought would be “it,” which I emailed to Patricia. Once that sketch was approved, I went back and superimposed vertical and horizontal graph lines on the sketch. I chalked similar lines on a black gessoed canvas. It’s much easier and quicker to transfer a sketched image onto the canvas using a graph as a guide. After all that, I began applying the acrylic paint to the canvas until the painting was done.

Have you always been an artist?

I’ve done art and music since I was a kid. My mother encouraged the youngest of 12 kids to do art and music. I’m sure she was artistically and musically inclined, although too busy raising a large family to pursue those things. I do know she could always hear when I hit a wrong note on the piano! She told me! I was a member of the Art Honor Society at El Paso High School. When I started undergraduate studies at Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso), my mom told me I could take as many art and music theory courses as I wanted, just so long as I didn’t major in either. I guess she didn’t want a starving artist or musician for a son. As a result, I majored in business, and after three years in the Army, I got a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. All those years, and including the present, I did and do art and music.

In 2000, while still practicing law full-time, I was asked to do artwork for the website and season brochure of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. I attended a dress rehearsal of the orchestra and took photos and studied a CD of the orchestra’s production of La Bohème. Doing all that background work, I figured I would need seven paintings of the various sections of the orchestra and one of a scene from the opera. Because of a printing deadline, I wound up doing all eight paintings in three weeks. Large paintings weren’t needed, so I was able to use a tabletop easel, which I placed on the island in our kitchen. Every day around 5 a.m., I’d set the minute minder on the oven and paint until 7 a.m. Then I’d put away my paints and brushes and drive to work with my wife, Carol, who was an investigator at the prosecutor’s office. After dinner, I’d paint until the evening news. It is amazing how much work can be accomplished with a disciplined regime. Carol says I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep during that three-week period, however.

You use vibrant color in many of your pieces. How do you make something appealing without the color taking over?

That’s a tough question. Balancing color is a matter of feel and instinct. I paint very fast, and sometimes I get the balance right off the bat. Other times, not so. When I get to those “other times,” I consult with my chief art critic, Carol, who has a master’s in fine arts from Washington University in St. Louis. She’ll tell me what she thinks, and I’ll go back and rework troublesome areas for color and contrast and whatever else needs to be done.

What do you think about when you are painting?

When I’m in my warm-weather studio—a screened-in area on our deck that faces the 12th fairway of Oak Meadow Country Club—I’m enjoying the sights and sounds of nature and an occasional frustrated exclamation of a golfer who’s just ricocheted a ball off one of our trees. In the cold-weather months, I retreat to my second studio in our Rathskeller, where I content myself to listening to classical music and jazz. But in either location, I’m concentrating on my art, first and foremost—this is especially true with portraits, a very painstaking process.

What do you most and least enjoy about painting?

My favorite thing about painting is signing my name on a completed work that I love. The least favorite thing about painting is getting started—just putting that first dab of color on canvas can be daunting. When I was practicing law and had a brief to write, getting started could be equally daunting, so I’d start maybe with just writing my name at the top of the first blank sheet of paper. That would break the ice and things would flow from there. Similarly with starting a painting, I often put paint on a brush and dab it on the canvas, look at the canvas, and say to myself, “OK, that looks pretty good.”

Do you see any similarities between working as an artist and practicing law?

Art, music, and the law are all disciplines that require basic skills, concentration, certain parameters within which to work, and a plan to accomplish the desired goals. Because the disciplines of art and music are different from those involved with the law, I’ve found that as a lawyer, doing art and music can be relaxing.

How do you come up with ideas for artwork?

Generally, the subjects of my art are things or places I’ve seen. Carol and I have traveled extensively throughout the world, and many of my paintings reflect those travels. For example, we’ve been to India twice, and I’ve gotten 45 paintings from those trips. One of those paintings is a portrait of a beautiful Indian bride, regally appointed. Locally, on my daily cross-country walks with our dear Whippet, Moose, I often see a nature subject, take a snapshot with my iPhone, and then come back and do a painting.

What kinds of pieces do you prefer to work on and why?

I do all sorts of subjects. One rule of thumb: I try to avoid doing two portraits in succession. The exactitude in achieving a good likeness in a portrait is very demanding. When I finish a portrait, I breathe a sigh of relief. My next painting is usually a landscape, an action scene, or some other non-portrait.

What is the most challenging thing about painting?

I always try to find something uplifting in all my subjects, something that inspires hope and happiness. That’s sometimes hard to do, but that’s the challenge.


The TBJ October issue

About the cover: Cedric Hustace, who was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1963, worked with acrylic paints on canvas to produce the image on this month's cover. To learn more about the Indiana-based artist and to watch a video of the making of the cover, go to texasbar.com/spookycover. Plus: Creepy cases, the right legal software for your practice, and the truth about family law in Texas. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue. 


Hispanic Issues Section celebrates 35th year

Now in its 35th year, the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas has been active addressing statewide matters, such as helping to create a bar association coalition to address the unaccompanied minors situation. The coalition is at work providing training and CLE seminars to attorneys and other legal professionals who are interested in volunteering their time.

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Tatum speaks at national bar meeting, accepts civics education award

BOSTON — State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa Tatum joined Missouri Bar Past President Lynn Ann Vogel on Aug. 8 to present “Creating Energy in Your Bar,” a presentation highlighting successful bar programs from across the country.

“There’s no point in reinventing the wheel if you can take what you like from these programs and make it your own,” Tatum said during the presentation, which was part of the National Conference of Bar Presidents 2014 Annual Meeting.

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Commission on Judicial Conduct schedules public hearing

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct will meet Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, for a public hearing pursuant to Section 33.0055 of the Texas Government. During the hearing, members of the public may comment on the commission’s mission and operations.

Witnesses may register to speak by completing and submitting an affirmation form, which will be available at the hearing room on the day of the event, or by advance request. Testimonies will be limited to five minutes; written submissions also will be accepted. The hearing will take place at Room E2.028 in the Capitol Extension in Austin at 11:00 a.m., with a sign-in period for those wishing to speak from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.

For additional information, contact Executive Director Seana Willing at (512) 463-5533.


Free CLE course to focus on roles of lawyers, law enforcement in unaccompanied minors cases

A free continuing legal education course Thursday in Houston will focus on the rights of unaccompanied children crossing the Texas border and the duties of federal, state, and local governments in handling the cases.

The Harris County Attorney’s Office is sponsoring the course for legal and law enforcement professionals.

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State Bar of Texas launches webpage for lawyers interested in helping unaccompanied minors

The State Bar of Texas has launched a new webpage to keep attorneys informed of ways they can volunteer to help serve the legal needs of unaccompanied minors who are arriving in our courts system.

Through texasbar.com/volunteer, the State Bar is providing up-to-date information on training and pro bono opportunities, helpful websites, and other useful information for attorneys who want to get involved or learn more. The webpage allows attorneys to submit a volunteer form, which will be reviewed by State Bar staff and directed to the appropriate legal aid provider.

Learn more by visiting the webpage


Three Texas lawyers awarded by Fastcase

Legal publisher Fastcase has announced its 2014 list of “Fastcase 50” winners—and three are from Texas. The award “recognizes 50 of the smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders in the law.”

Legal prose expert Bryan Garner, State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa M. Tatum, and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett were selected as recipients.

The 2014 class will be celebrated during the American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting July 10-16 in San Antonio. For more information, including profiles of all 50 winners, go to fastcase.com/fastcase50-winners-2014.


Texas Bar Foundation welcomes new trustees and officers

The Texas Bar Foundation recently welcomed several new members and officers to its board of trustees and fellows in a ceremony at the 2014 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Austin on June 27, 2014.

Melinda Wycoff with Wycoff Development and Construction took office as a public member of the Texas Bar Foundation Board of Trustees. Wycoff, who has an educational psychology degree from Texas A&M University, was an educator for 15 years, teaching students from kindergarten through college and also serving as a central office administrator. She also is a member of the scholarship committee for Lighthouse Christian Ministries.

Dustin Burrows with McCleskey Harriger Brazill & Graf became a member of the board of trustees. Burrows focuses his law practice on commercial and personal injury litigation and also volunteers for local community and charitable organizations.

Wendy Burgower with Burgower & Rainwater also became a trustee. Burgower is a board certified family law practitioner. She has served as the chair for several organizations, including the State Bar of Texas Family Law Section, Gulf Coast Family Law Specialists, the Burta Rhoads Raborn Family Law American Inn of Court, and the Association of Women Attorneys. She is chair-elect of the Texas chapter for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Buck Files with Bain, Files, Jarrett, Bain & Harrison was elected secretary-treasurer of the board of trustees. Files, a criminal defense lawyer and a former State Bar president, is a charter member and former director of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and has been inducted into the organization’s hall of fame. He is also a long-time member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Timothy W. Mountz, a litigator with Baker Botts, was elected chair of the foundation's board of trustees. Mountz has served as a former director of the State Bar of Texas, chair of the Dallas Bar Association Board of Trustees, and DBA president.

Shannon Dacus with the Dacus Firm was previously on the board of trustees and has become secretary of the Texas Bar Foundation Fellows. Dacus focuses her practice on numerous areas of commercial-business litigation, including patent litigation, contract disputes, and personal injury claims. She also serves as general counsel for several counties and is on the boards of the Tyler Economic Development Council and the Tyler Hispanic Business Alliance, among others. 

Randall O. Sorrels with Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, is now fellows chair of the Texas Bar Foundation Fellows. Sorrels, a personal injury trial lawyer, also serves as president of the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists.

A Texas attorney's perspective on the unaccompanied minor crisis along the South Texas border

Linda A. Brandmiller, chair of the State Bar of Texas Committee on Laws Related to Immigration and Nationality and director of ASI, Asociacion de Servicios Para el Inmigrante, recently answered questions via email from the Texas Bar Journal about the current humanitarian crisis on the Texas-Mexico border. Any opinions featured in this article do not represent the position or an official policy of the State Bar of Texas.


The State Bar Committee on Immigration and Nationality Issues visited the South Texas border during this past year and toured some of the immigrant facilities and shelters. How would you describe what you experienced?

We observed the system from both the enforcement perspective (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) as well as the unaccompanied minors perspective (the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project receives indirect federal funding to assist the children caught in the immigration system at the border and without parents). Our visit in the fall of 2013 was at a time when border crossings and apprehensions are lower due to weather conditions and other influencing factors. We witnessed firsthand the extensive technology being utilized by CBP officials, including cameras, night vision goggles, and heat sensors, to locate people in the brush along the border. We also saw the detention facility, including the helera (“ice box,” a nickname stemming from its cold temperatures) where detainees are interviewed and processed. We took a tour of the border fence that weaves in and out along the border with vast spaces separating it and at times a significant distance inland from the actual border with Mexico. Lastly, we visited the La Posada Providencia shelter to witness its humanitarian efforts.

How is the current humanitarian crisis in the Rio Grande Valley different from other cases of undocumented immigration in the U.S.?

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The TBJ July issue

Inside: We examine ethics and the law, from dealing with the intersection of judges and social media to encountering an impaired colleague. Plus: recalling the early days of the State Bar's CLE program, making Texas more competitive in international law, and dealing with managing the income, output, and upkeep of your solo practice or small firm. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.    


Texas resident files suit against CVS

A Harris County resident is taking CVS Pharmacy to court in hopes of receiving monetary relief over $200,000 but not more than $1,000,000.

According to the plaintiff’s original petition, in June 2012, Claudis Alston presented a prescription for eye drops to a CVS store in Houston. Instead of receiving eye drops, the prescription was filled with ear drops. Alston placed the drops in his eyes and ultimately lost vision.

The lawsuit was filed June 17. Alston is represented by Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend.


Photo courtesy of Abraham Watkins.



Morton urges cooperation to preserve new Texas discovery law

Michael Morton—subject of magazine profiles, focus of an acclaimed documentary, author of an upcoming memoir—is by many measures a celebrity.

It’s a label he doesn’t relish, especially in light of the reason so many people know his name, Morton recently told an audience of San Antonio defense lawyers.

Morton, an Austin grocery store manager, was wrongfully convicted of his wife’s 1986 murder and served nearly 25 years in prison before DNA tests exonerated him. His former prosecutor served five days in jail and surrendered his law license after pleading guilty in November to criminal contempt for withholding exculpatory evidence during Morton’s trial.

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Open Government Seminar to focus on 'big data,' online agreements

Experts in law and media will discuss the right to privacy in the age of “big data” and the dangers of not reading online agreements at the State Bar of Texas 2014 Open Government Seminar.

Attorneys and the public are invited to the free seminar, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday, June 27, at the Austin Convention Center Room 17A.

“Our committee worked hard to select timely and relevant topics that affect the daily lives of attorneys and non-attorneys alike,” said Rudy England, chair of the State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee, which annually sponsors the seminar in conjunction with the bar’s Government Law Section. “We are thrilled we could recruit such a distinguished group of media and legal experts to illuminate these important topics.” 

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From the Bookshelf: New works highlight Civil Rights Act history

Editor's note: The following is reprinted from the June 2014 Texas Bar Journal. Click here to read more on the Civil Rights Act from the latest issue. 

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964, he said it was a product of “months of the most careful debate and discussion.” But in reality, as the president knew, the discourse had been raging for much longer.

“We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights,” Johnson had said during his first presidential address to Congress in November 1963, two days after his predecessor’s funeral. “We have talked for a hundred years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law.”

Author Todd S. Purdum recounts the scene in An Idea Whose Time Has Come, one of several new books detailing the history of the landmark civil rights legislation. As the State Bar of Texas celebrates the Civil Rights Act’s 50th anniversary during its 2014 Annual Meeting, consider this reading list to help you learn more about the law and its legacy.


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Soccer Law: Examining the legal issues of the world's current sport of interest

Soccer, though beloved by almost every nation on earth, is far from being the most popular sport in the United States. In fact, two-thirds of U.S. respondents to a recent poll said they would not be watching the 2014 World Cup currently underway in Brazil. But, if ever so slowly, soccer is gaining traction. More U.S. spectators than fans from any other country are in Brazil to attend matches of the World Cup, and an increasing number of Americans are watching this year’s tournament on TV compared with viewership ratings of previous World Cups (partly due to sharing similar time zones with South America). Perhaps more telling is a recent poll showing that soccer is now liked as much as baseball among children aged 12 to 17.

So as soccer creeps hesitantly into American life, perhaps Texas lawyers working in entertainment and sports law should start brushing up on soccer and the law. And for those in other areas of the law, the sport’s complexities and scandals are reason enough to tune in.

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Bob Black to be inducted as Texas Legal Legend

The Litigation Section of the State Bar of Texas has chosen Beaumont attorney Bob Black as its newest Texas Legal Legend. Black, a former State Bar president who practices as the managing shareholder in MehaffyWeber, will be inducted at a ceremony during the bar’s 2014 Annual Meeting in Austin.

Black has tried more than 50 cases to verdict, including some before the Texas Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to a press release from the Litigation Section. He has mediated and arbitrated more than 4,000 cases, including one involving 30,000 asbestos claims, which he handled in just one year. Recently Black was an appeals panelist for 200 appeals concerning the Deepwater Horizon case.

“His thoughtful listening and ability to develop new approaches enable him to lead others toward resolution of strong differences without rancor,” the press release stated.

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Morton among speakers at criminal defense lawyers' seminar in San Antonio

Michael Morton, whose wrongful conviction and exoneration attracted widespread attention and led to criminal justice reforms in the last Texas Legislature, will be among the keynote speakers this week at the 27th Annual Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course in San Antonio.

Morton will speak Saturday at the event, hosted by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Morton, who served nearly 25 years in prison for his wife’s murder before DNA tests exonerated him, has been a vocal advocate for criminal justice reform since his 2011 release from prison. His case inspired the Legislature to pass the 2013 Michael Morton Act, which included new discovery rules to help ensure criminal defendants have access to evidence that could prove their innocence.


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Texas Law Center hosting student teacher institute

The State Bar of Texas is hosting 26 student teachers for the 17th annual Hatton W. Sumners Student Teacher Institute today at the Texas Law Center in Austin.

The invitation-only institute is offered to student teachers who have attended a previous Hatton W. Sumners Institute. Participants include current university students from across the state, recent graduates about to embark on their first year of teaching, and teachers who have already completed one year in the classroom.

The two-day program, which is broken into elementary and secondary tracks, covers topics such as the principles of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, eras of history, levels of government, citizenship, and more. Participants will also have the opportunity to tour both the Texas State Capitol and the Texas Supreme Court.

For more information about the institute or other law-related education programs, visit texaslre.org or call (512) 427-1820.

Austin Bar to offer free veterans legal clinic June 9

Austin-area veterans can receive free legal advice through a clinic offered by the Austin Bar Association.

The association hosts a free legal advice clinic for veterans each month, and the next clinic is 1:30 to 4 p.m. June 9 at the new Austin VA Outpatient Clinic at 7901 Metropolis Drive.

Sign-in will take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. No appointments or reservations are necessary.

Attorney volunteers will provide brief legal advice but will not offer services such as wills or divorce filings at the clinic. If participants need further legal assistance, the association will provide local legal resources.


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New sophisticated scam targets lawyers

A high-level scam involving collection with a fraudulent certified check has affected at least three Texas attorneys in recent years, and one victim is warning that more lawyers might be targeted.

“I was contacted by email by an out-of-state company (OSC), acting through its alleged president, to collect an alleged past-due account from a local business (LB) in Amarillo that the out-of-state company claimed owed it about $200,000,” said the victim. “The OSC supposedly desperately needed the money to pay on an account it owed someone else on the same job. They wanted to ‘soft-pedal’ the claim, though, as they had a standing business relationship with LB that they wanted to try to preserve if possible.”

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The TBJ June issue

Inside: Trey Apffel, who takes office as president of the State Bar of Texas at Annual Meeting, on understanding the daily challenges of an attorney, staying relevant to members, and protecting the rule of law. Plus: what you need to know about collaborative law, highlights from the Civil Rights Summit, winning pieces from the Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest 2014, and how Rebekah Steely Brooker plans to lead TYLA. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.   


State Bar of Texas education project wins national award

A State Bar of Texas project educating elementary students on important firsts in U.S. and Texas history has been awarded a National Association of Bar Executives LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award. The award honors outstanding bar public service and law-related education programs.


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The Texas Bar Journal announces its 2014 Short Story Contest winners

More than 50 authors—55 to be exact—submitted entries to the Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest, proving that a one-year hiatus was long enough. Numerous writers—and readers—evidently have been clamoring for creative prose.

To keep the contest fair and impartial, author names were removed from each entry and replaced with numbers. Two panels of judges faced the challenging task of selecting the winners, and for each round, the same evaluation form was used for consistency. Eleven entries advanced to the final round, which was judged by Mike Farris of Dallas, DeDe Church of Austin, and John G. Browning of Dallas. The winner, “Final Descent,” by Stephanie S. Tillman, earned the highest number of points.

Please congratulate these attorney-authors for making it through the competitive first round of judging to the finals.

“Final Descent,” by Stephanie S. Tillman, 1st place
“Closing Argument,” by Kimberly Simpson, 2nd place
“My Generation,” by Jason Steed, 3rd place
“The Bottom Drawer,” by Gerald G. Francisco
“Lilac Surprise,” by Marvin E. Sprouse III
“The Duel,” by Drew Crownover
“Paying His Bar Dues,” by Tim Sralla
“Crowley’s New Client,” by Gregg Mayer
“Viable,” by Charles R. McBeth
“Driving Through,” by Kevin M. Faulkner
“The Swamp,” by Gene L. Jameson

Here’s an excerpt from “Final Descent”:

When Grammy winners give speeches, or footballers score touchdowns, they point upward, as if paying homage to someone or someplace holy. But if they knew what I know about upward, they’d know that heaven couldn’t be in that direction . . .

The entire story, along with the second and third place winning entries, will be published in the June issue of the Texas Bar Journal




Family Eldercare's Larson honored with 2014 Boots on the Ground Award

Austin attorney Christine P. “Chris” Larson is the 2014 recipient of the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award. 

The annual award, which recognizes exemplary pro bono or legal services program attorneys, was presented May 13 in Austin during the 2014 Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans. The Texas Access to Justice Commission hosts the event, which is cosponsored by the State Bar of Texas. 

“I’m obviously honored by this award and grateful that the commission values all that is involved in working with a population that cannot speak for itself,” said Larson, the director of guardianship estate services at Austin’s Family Eldercare, which provides essential services to seniors, adults with disabilities, and caregivers. “I love what I do and the clients I have the opportunity to advocate for. I work with an incredible group of people at Family Eldercare who are just as passionate as I am for the work we do.” 

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Free veterans legal clinic May 31 in Tomball

Veterans who need legal advice or assistance can visit a free legal clinic from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 31 at the VA Outpatient Clinic, 1200 W. Main St., in Tomball.

No appointment is necessary. Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, can receive advice and counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate, and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case.

The clinic is a public service of the Northwest Harris County Bar Association, in conjunction with the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of local bar associations that provide pro bono legal services to U.S. veterans in 17 Texas counties.

For more information on the clinic, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at 713-759-1133. 

Houston lawyers raise $90,000 for cancer research

The Houston-based Allied Advocates Foundation raised more than $90,000 for cancer research May 2 through its Second Annual Clays on the Brazos sporting clay tournament at the Rio Brazos Hunting Preserve in Simonton, west of Houston.

Net proceeds will benefit Peach Outreach, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about uterine cancer and other gynecological cancers.

The Allied Advocates Foundation is a charity organization created by five Texas attorneys who wanted to give back to the communities that supported their legal practices. The foundation’s primary purpose is to raise funds for local charities.

Last year’s inaugural Clays on the Brazos tournament raised more than $50,000 for Returning Heroes Home, an organization that supports wounded veterans and their families at Fort Sam Houston and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

To learn more about the foundation, visit www.alliedadvocates.com.

Pictured: Brant Stogner, Chelsie King Garza, and Daniel Horowitz, from left, participate in the Clays on the Brazos tournament. They are attorneys at the law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, a sponsor of the event. Horowitz, firm partner, is a founding member of the Allied Advocates Foundation.

Local bars offering free veterans legal clinic Saturday in Lake Jackson

Veterans who need legal advice or assistance can visit a free legal clinic on Saturday, May 17 in Lake Jackson in conjunction with the Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of local bar associations providing pro bono legal services to U.S. veterans in 17 Texas counties.

The clinic will be held at the Lake Jackson VA Outpatient Clinic, 208 Oak Drive South, Suite 700, from 9 a.m. to noon. No appointment is necessary.

The Brazoria County Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative are co-sponsoring the clinic. 

Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, can receive advice and counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid will be assigned a pro bono attorney through Houston Volunteer Lawyers to handle their case.

The Houston Bar Foundation also sponsors weekly Friday clinics at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center from 2 to 5 p.m. on the first floor. More information on the clinics is available at www.hba.org

TYLA human trafficking project wins Telly award

A Texas Young Lawyers Association film project highlighting the problem of human trafficking has been named a Silver winner, the highest honor, in the 35th Annual Telly Awards.

The project, Slavery Out of the Shadows: Spotlight on Human Trafficking, seeks to raise awareness of human trafficking at home and abroad through a combination of expert analysis and inspiring personal tales of human trafficking survivors. The project includes educational pamphlets designed to help the general public, lawyers, and medical professionals identify and appropriately respond to human trafficking cases.

“In creating this project, TYLA’s mission is to shed light on this horrific crime so that we, as a society, can take action to eradicate it,” said C.E. Rhodes, immediate past president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. “Receiving such a prestigious honor and award helps further our mission. TYLA thanks the [Silver Telly] Council for recognizing our work and sharing our vision for a slavery-free world. ”

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Michael Morton film, 'a great human story,' now available on DVD

By now, the basic narrative of the Michael Morton story is well known. A Texas man serves nearly 25 years in prison for his wife’s murder, only to be set free after DNA tests exonerate him. 

But to know the facts is different from feeling their emotional weight. In An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story, now available on DVD, director Al Reinert takes viewers on a gut-wrenching journey through the case, from the 1986 crime scene to courtrooms and prison cells and, finally, to the moment in 2011 when Morton exited the Williamson County Courthouse a free man. Along the way, we hear from Morton what it felt like to be labeled a monster, to lose his freedom and his son, and to find no relief in the justice system for years until a team of dedicated attorneys came to his aid.

Although the story ends in punishment for the district attorney who tried Morton’s case, the focus here is not revenge. Morton’s pursuit of justice is tempered with mercy, as shown when he urges a judge to “be gentle” with Ken Anderson, the former prosecutor who served five days in jail and surrendered his law license after pleading guilty in November to criminal contempt for withholding exculpatory evidence during Morton’s 1987 trial. Grace, as the Austin American-Statesman noted in its review, is the film’s guiding energy.


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State Bar holds Texas Citizen Bee Finals in Austin

Austin recently played host to the Texas Citizen Bee Finals, a statewide civics education competition funded by the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation.

The event, organized by the State Bar of Texas, offers teachers and high school students an exciting way to study America’s heritage. Students use an online study guide program created by the Bill of Rights Institute that covers the U.S. Constitution and other important documents, people, issues, civic values, and skills. The study guide can be found here.

The winning student from each regional competition competes in the state competition, which was held April 26 at the Texas Law Center and Texas State Capitol. News anchor John McCaa of WFAA-TV in Dallas served as moderator. 


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Group honors Houston attorney Agosto for civic involvement

An organization that works to strengthen Latino communities has recognized Houston personal injury attorney Benny Agosto Jr. for his civic engagement.

Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) recently honored Agosto, a partner with Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, for his leadership and philanthropic efforts in the Hispanic community, his law firm announced. Agosto was one of 30 people profiled in the March issue of Hispanic Executive magazine as “HIPGivers,” described by the editors as people whose stories “are a small sample of the generosity, kindness, and entrepreneurial spirit that binds together our families, our communities, and the Americas.”

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Dallas attorney to receive professionalism award

Dallas attorney John G. Browning has been named the winner of the 2013 Jim Bowmer Professionalism Award, presented by the College of the State Bar of Texas, his firm announced.

The announcement came just days after Browning, a member of the Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors, learned he would receive a 2014 Burton Award for Distinguished Achievement in Legal Writing

Browning will receive the Bowmer award this summer, and the College will make a $1,000 contribution in his name to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.


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Houston Bar to celebrate Law Day with extended LegalLine hours, community service programs

The Houston Bar Association announced Wednesday it will offer extended hours for its free legal advice program, LegalLine, and sponsor public education programs in honor of Law Day, a national holiday recognizing the rule of law. 

The extended LegalLine program will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 7. The public can call the Houston Bar Association at 713-759-1133, where volunteer attorneys will answer simple legal questions, give brief legal advice, or refer the caller to the appropriate social service or legal aid agency for further assistance.

This year’s Law Day theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. The association’s other Law Day-related programs are listed below.

  • From late April through early May, attorneys and judges will read the book Amelia Bedelia’s First Vote to elementary students in 100 classrooms throughout school districts and private schools in Harris County. For participating schools, contact Tara Shockley at 713-759-1133 or taras@hba.org.
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Dallas Bar to honor local judiciary at Law Day Luncheon

Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will speak to nearly 250 Dallas-area judges and lawyers as the Dallas Bar Association celebrates Law Day, the association announced Tuesday. 

The keynote address will be part of the association’s annual Law Day Luncheon at noon May 2 at the Pavilion at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave., in downtown Dallas. Also during the luncheon, students from the Dallas Independent School District who won Law Day essay and art contests will receive their awards.

The luncheon is open to the public, but RSVPs and advance payment are required. Tickets are $40 per person, or $400 per table, and can be purchased online at www.dallasbar.org or by contacting Mary Ellen Johnson at mjohnson@dallasbar.org or 214-220-7474.


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Texarkana YLA to distribute legal handbooks to students on Law Day

The Texarkana Young Lawyers Association will celebrate Law Day on May 1 by going into schools and providing copies of “The Legal Handbook for Young Texans” to high school senior classes.

The association developed the free, comprehensive guide to address legal issues commonly faced by young adults. You can download the guide by following this link

President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day in 1958 to challenge Americans to understand how the rule of law impacts their lives and to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in a democracy.

Click here to learn about 2014 Law Day contests in Texas.

Commentary: Battling substance abuse for everyone

By Kristy Blanchard

Editor's note: This column originally appeared in The McAllen Monitor. Read the original version here

As a family law attorney, my work too often involves cases in which people’s lives are disrupted and even destroyed by substance abuse. As the president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, an arm of the State Bar of Texas, I want to do all I can to avert young people from this preventable fate. 

This month, TYLA launched a new multimedia project that we believe will make a difference by educating young people about the dangers and real-life consequences of substance abuse. Through BSAFE: Battling Substance Abuse For Everyone, we hope to provide resources to people struggling with addiction while educating the public about substance abuse and the benefits of drug courts that rehabilitate offenders.

Sadly, statistics show the need for this project. Four out of five juvenile arrestees are either under the influence of drugs or alcohol while committing their crimes, test positive for drugs, are arrested for committing an alcohol or drug offense, admit to having substance abuse problems, or share some combination of these characteristics, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.


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Dallas lawyer, TBJ board member wins legal writing award

Dallas attorney John G. Browning has received a 2014 Burton Award for Distinguished Achievement in Legal Writing, his law firm announced. 

Browning, a partner in Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, received the award for “Keep Your ‘Friends’ Close and Your Enemies Closer: Walking the Ethical Tightrope in the Use of Social Media,” published in the St. Mary’s Journal of Legal Malpractice & Ethics in 2013. The article was one of five law review pieces Browning published last year.

This is the fourth Burton Award for Browning, who is a member of the Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors.

“I’m pleased that the judging panel chose to recognize a cutting-edge topic like the ethical concerns lawyers must be mindful of when using newer technologies like social media,” he said. “And I’m just amazed and humbled at the thought of receiving this wonderful accolade for the fourth time.”


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Deadline extended for attorney income, hourly rates survey

The deadline to take the 2013 Texas Attorney Survey has been extended to 5 p.m. Friday, April 18.

By participating, Texas attorneys can help ensure they have the most current economic information available. Also, participants will be entered in a drawing to win one of two new iPad Airs.

Reports generated from the survey provide statewide and regional information on current economic trends. The reports feature detailed breakdowns of income and hourly rates by firm size, years of experience, practice area, occupation, race/ethnicity, sex, and metropolitan area.

The survey also includes questions regarding pro bono. This data will be used to highlight how Texas attorneys are doing their part to help low-income residents.

The survey is anonymous, and the process is secure. Email addresses will be used for the iPad Air drawing and will then be deleted and not associated with attorneys’ responses.


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Civil Rights Summit: A roundup of Texas Bar Blog coverage

Pictured: Attorneys David Boies, center, and Theodore Olson, right, discuss their joint effort in arguing against California's Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court during "Gay Marriage: A Civil Right?", a panel moderated by John Avlon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, at the Civil Rights Summit on Tuesday. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly, courtesy of LBJ Foundation)

The LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit wrapped up Thursday after three days of panel discussions and speeches about the history and future of civil rights.

The Texas Bar Blog covered many of the activities, and you can find links to the stories below.

The event was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In June, the State Bar of Texas 2014 Annual Meeting will also commemorate the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with speeches from Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the legislation, and LBJ Presidential Library director Mark Updegrove, among others.

Visit texasbar.com/annualmeeting for more information.

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Education: 'The Ultimate Civil Right'

A conversation on education wrapped up the panel sessions Thursday during the LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit in Austin.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Margaret Spellings, former U.S. education secretary and president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, answered questions on the state and potential future of the American education system from CBS News reporter Bob Schieffer.

A clip of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, once a Texas teacher, discussing his views on education opened the conversation, much of which focused on policies related to education reform. Both Miller and Spellings assisted with the national implementation of No Child Left Behind, a reauthorization and revision of Johnson’s 1965 Elementary and Secondary Act, under the George W. Bush administration.


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Computer & Technology Section warns of Internet security threat

The State Bar of Texas Computer & Technology Section sent an alert to members Thursday warning about a threat to online security. The alert is posted below along with some helpful links to learn more.

The Computer & Technology Section has learned of a serious threat to security on the Internet.

What’s the problem?
The threat stems from a bug in a low-level software program used on servers. The nickname for this bug is “heartbleed.” The heartbleed bug is in a program known as “openssl” and affects thousands of servers on the Internet that conduct encrypted communications with devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. This problem is independent of operating systems, and affects users of Windows, Apple OS X, Linux, Android, and iOS (to name a few). At this point, most IT administrators are likely fixing the bug on their servers. Even after the bug is fixed, it is still possible that the cryptographic keys that your smartphone/tablet/PC were using with an affected server are compromised and will need replacement. New keys on the server will have to be generated and certified, and that may take several days.


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New TYLA project battles substance abuse in youth

A new multimedia project from the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) will educate young people about the dangers and real-life consequences of substance abuse.

Through BSAFE: Battling Substance Abuse For Everyone, TYLA aims to provide resources to those struggling with substance abuse and inform the public about the use and benefits of drug courts. The project includes a three-part DVD and written materials targeted at middle and high school students, their parents, and educators.

For more information, read the news release and the feature in the April Texas Bar Journal

BSAFE: Battling Substance Abuse For Everyone is available at www.tyla.org.

Clinton praises 'political genius,' 'martyrs' who made civil rights laws a reality

Former President Bill Clinton took the stage Wednesday during the second evening of the LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit in Austin, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Following a series of inspiring readings on civil rights presented in part by the families of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson, Clinton reflected on the accomplishments of civil rights leaders in the 1960s and how the nation should work to honor and continue their efforts.

“These laws were bargained for shrewdly by a political genius,” Clinton said in reference to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. “They were championed with great purpose by distinguished citizens. But they were also paid for with the blood of martyrs.”

Citizens owe it to them to continue to move forward together, Clinton said, noting that there are “no final victories in politics” and that “thank you is not good enough.”

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Bastrop County Bar to present 1883 murder trial

In December 1883, Lee County’s deputy sheriff was killed in McDade in a shooting believed to have ignited the city’s infamous Christmas Eve lynchings.

A year after the shooting, a man was indicted for the murder, but questions about his guilt remained.

The Bastrop County Bar Association will revisit the case next month as part of “The State of Texas v. Jeff Fitzpatrick: An 1883 Murder Trial in Three Historically Accurate Acts.”

Members of the local bar association will serve as prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in the presentation, which is scheduled for May 3-4 at Bastrop Opera House, 711 Spring St., in Bastrop.


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Former President Jimmy Carter discusses civil rights at summit

Former President Jimmy Carter talked about racial disparities, the Camp David peace negotiations, and our country’s inability to act during a conversation last night with LBJ Presidential Library director Mark K. Updegrove, wrapping up the first day of the Civil Rights Summit in Austin, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The 89-year-old Carter, who took the stage after a musical performance by Graham Nash and an introduction by former LBJ Presidential Library director Harry Middleton, said that “too many people are at ease with the still-existing disparity” between black and white Americans, citing high unemployment rates for African-Americans and some schools in the South that are still segregated. “We’re pretty much dormant now,” Carter said.

In a poignant discussion about the Camp David peace accords, Carter said that the last day was the turning point. “We thought we had failed,” he said. But after delivering signed photos of himself with Prime Minister Begin, in which he addressed each of Begin’s eight grandchildren by name, Carter said that Begin responded by saying, “Why don’t we try one more time.”

Carter also discussed wage gaps between men and women, modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and his support of gay marriage. When asked what he thinks is the greatest concern facing the country right now, Carter said, “The government’s inability to act.”

The Civil Rights Summit is a three-day event celebrating the landmark legislation that was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson and helped establish equality among all Americans. Carter was the first out of four living presidents scheduled to speak at the event, which will conclude on Thursday night with a conversation with former President George W. Bush. President Obama will give the keynote address at 11:30 a.m. CST tomorrow. Go to www.civilrightssummit.org for more information.



LBJ, MLK, and the push for civil rights

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared a deep, personal, and practical relationship that helped in passing 1960s civil rights legislation, panelists said Wednesday as part of the LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit.

“I think it was very warm and personal,” said former Rep. Andrew Young, a close King aide, describing the relationship between King and Johnson. “Whenever I was with them there was never an argument or tension; there was gentlemen’s disagreement. Dr. King saw himself as having to keep the pressure on.”

Pressure created by the March on Washington and nonviolent civil rights demonstrations in the South—and authorities’ often brutal crackdowns on them—began to open the door to major civil rights legislation in 1963, but it took leadership from Johnson and congressional leaders to push it through the following year, speakers said.

That legislation, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, is the focus of the three-day summit, which is bringing four of the five living U.S. presidents and numerous other leaders to Austin to discuss past and current civil rights issues.

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Travis County Women Lawyers' Association, Foundation to hold Grants and Awards Luncheon

The Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association and Foundation will host their annual Grants and Awards Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 22 at the Four Seasons Hotel.

The annual event is held to honor leading women lawyers in Travis County through the attorney awards and to distribute grants to local nonprofits that help solve legal issues affecting women, children, and families.

This year’s keynote speaker is Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, a Purple Heart honoree and a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the military’s policy of excluding women from many combat positions.

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Boies & Olson: Gay marriage latest fight in civil rights movement

The fight for same-sex marriage is part of a continuum of the civil rights movement and one that has only one valid legal outcome, attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson said Tuesday in Austin during the LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The two high-profile attorneys, who successfully represented the plaintiffs challenging California’s gay marriage ban in 2013, opened the three-day summit with an hourlong discussion that touched on their work on the landmark Supreme Court case, their views on the public’s shifting attitudes toward gay rights, and their relationship as a legal “odd couple” who put aside partisanship to work together. (The attorneys hold different political philosophies and argued opposing sides of Bush v. Gore in 2000.)

“I thought it was extremely important that we present this not as a left-or-right issue but as a constitutional issue,” said Olson, who is currently working with Boies in challenging Virginia’s gay marriage ban.

The attorneys acknowledged that some people hold religious objections to same-sex marriage. But as a legal matter, there should be no question about what is right, Boies said.


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Free legal clinic for veterans April 12 in Conroe

Veterans who need legal advice can visit a free legal clinic Saturday, April 12 in Conroe.

The clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic, 800 Riverwood Court.

No appointment is necessary.

The Montgomery County Bar Association, the Woodlands Bar Association, and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative are co-sponsoring the clinic.

Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, can receive advice and counsel at the clinic from a volunteer attorney in any area of law, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits.

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LBJ Civil Rights Summit starts today in Austin

President Barack Obama and three former presidents will be among the speakers in Austin starting today as part of the LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Texas Bar Journal will be there to cover the three-day event and will post updates on Twitter and the Texas Bar Blog. Also, look for a recap in the June issue of the magazine.

Event organizers are offering live streaming of the events at http://www.civilrightssummit.org. Find the full schedule and speakers list here.


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Austin Bar to offer free veterans legal clinic April 14

Austin-area veterans can receive free legal advice through a clinic offered by the Austin Bar Association.

The association hosts a free legal advice clinic for veterans each month, and the next clinic is 1-4 p.m. April 14 at the new Austin VA Outpatient Clinic at 7901 Metropolis Drive.

Sign-in will take place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. No appointments or reservations are necessary.

Attorney volunteers will provide brief legal advice but will not offer services such as wills or divorce filings at the clinic. If participants need further legal assistance, the association will provide local legal resources.


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Dallas Bar Association to host mock voir dire for high school students

Dallas trial lawyers and judges will demonstrate how a jury is selected for nearly 400 area high school students April 11 as part of a Dallas Bar Association event.

The event, sponsored by the DBA Law Day Committee, shows the importance of selecting a fair and impartial jury using a panel of Dallas Independent School District high school students for a hypothetical civil or criminal trial. The students can ask questions of the lawyers and judges after the demonstration.

The event will also include a moderated panel discussion with Dallas County Commissioner Theresa Daniel, Dallas County Republican Party Chair Wade Emmert, Texas Sen. Royce West, Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis, and 68th Civil District Court Judge Martin Hoffman, who will moderate.

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State Bar President Lisa Tatum to receive civics award

State Bar of Texas President Lisa Tatum will be honored for her work in promoting civics during the seventh annual Women That Soar awards ceremony, event organizers announced. 

Tatum, the owner of LM Tatum PLLC in San Antonio, will receive the 2014 Civic Award from Women That Soar, a media and content development company that produces inspiring information and events for women. The awards honor extraordinary women in the fields of entertainment, sports, business, fashion, arts, philanthropy, media, and civics.

A televised awards ceremony will take place Nov. 8 in Dallas.

Tatum is receiving the Civic Award for her many professional and personal contributions, event organizers said.

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The TBJ April Issue

Inside: We examine the TYLA’s new initiative BSAFE, a program designed to battle substance abuse; learn about drug courts in Texas; and hear a first-person account of the struggles of addiction. Plus: the importance of the International Court of Justice, a simple business plan for the long haul, and State Bar president-elect candidates Allan K. DuBois and Beverly Bell Godbey on the most important issues facing the legal profession. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.  


State Bar conducting attorney income, hourly rates survey

Starting today through April 14, the State Bar of Texas is conducting the 2013 Texas Attorney Survey to provide attorneys with information on the economics of the practice of law.

By participating, Texas attorneys can help ensure they have the most current economic information available. Also, participants will be entered in a drawing to win one of two new iPad Airs.

Reports generated from the survey provide statewide and regional information on current economic trends. The reports feature detailed breakdowns of income and hourly rates by firm size, years of experience, practice area, occupation, race/ethnicity, sex, and metropolitan area. 

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SXSW 2014 legal film roundup

A man who robbed a Houston bank as a teen seeks redemption for his past. A pair of same-sex couples takes their case for legal recognition to the nation’s highest court with help from two eminent attorneys. An East Texas landowner and a group of activists try to defy the odds and stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

These and other real-life stories found a home on screen as part of the 2014 South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival, which took place March 7-15 in Austin.

Tucked among the festival’s 133 feature films were a number of law-related documentaries, including several with Texas ties.

Below, we highlight six films whose stories touched on legal themes.


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SXSW legal film spotlight: The Case Against 8

Telling the story of landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases often means poring through personal diaries and legal filings and—if you’re not too late—jogging the memories of those who lived it.

For Ben Cotner and Ryan White, directors of the new documentary The Case Against 8, it meant turning on a camera and watching events unfold.

“I felt like a fly on the wall of history,” White said after a recent screening at South by Southwest in Austin, where the film played after premiering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Filmed over five years, The Case Against 8 offers an inside look at the legal and personal stories behind the effort to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban, known as Proposition 8.

Most viewers will probably know how the case ends, but the filmmakers still manage to build tension as the story moves through the courts toward its resolution, the June 2013 Supreme Court decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, which had the effect of allowing same-sex unions to resume in California.


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SXSW legal film spotlight: Evolution of a Criminal


Darius Clark Monroe stood inside a New York bank feeling panicked, overcome with an irrational fear he would be robbed. The NYU film student was in no physical danger, but inside he felt crushed by the weight of his past.

Years earlier, a 16-year-old Monroe and two friends—one of them armed with a shotgun—had burst into a Houston-area bank and demanded money from terrified clerks and patrons. Monroe was certified as an adult, pleaded guilty, and served several years in prison before being released and entering film school. Now years later, in a bank more than a thousand miles from Texas, Monroe was thinking about karma.

“I realized I had never made amends,” Monroe, 33, said at South by Southwest after the world premiere of his documentary Evolution of a Criminal, explaining the impetus for the film. He knew if he was ever going to heal, he had to find the people inside the bank that day and apologize, no matter how painful it might be and regardless of whether they would accept it.

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Deadline nearing to apply for 2014 health insurance coverage

Only a few days remain to sign up for health coverage during the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange 2014 open enrollment period. The deadline to enroll or make changes to your plan is March 31. 

Read the latest update from Member Benefits and visit texasbar.memberbenefits.com to enroll or learn more.

Houston Bar event offers free wills, medical directives to low-income seniors

Elderly citizens who meet income guidelines can receive simple wills and basic medical directives at a free event sponsored by the Houston Bar Association’s Elder Law Committee.

To apply for assistance through the committee’s Will-A-Thon, senior citizens must call 713-228-0735 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. by April 4 to complete a screening application over the phone, according to the Houston Bar. To qualify, applicants must be Harris County residents 60 years of age or older and meet the Houston Volunteer Lawyers’ low-income guidelines.


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SXSW CLE Wrap-up Part 3: Ethical pitfalls in entertainment law

Ethical dilemmas can arise in all areas of law, but the entertainment field can be fraught with them.

If they’re not careful, attorneys can run afoul of rules governing the attorney-client relationship, conflicts of interest, attorney compensation, and simultaneous representation, among others, speakers said Friday during a South by Southwest continuing legal education session.

That’s especially true if an attorney is wearing a second hat—agent, manager, even band member, said Austin entertainment and media lawyer Lawrence Waks, a partner with Jackson Walker LLP.

“I know a lot of folks in Austin, generally solos, that are both lawyers and agents, or lawyers and managers, or lawyers and musicians,” Waks said. “What hat are they wearing at any particular time? … It’s very difficult to discern that kind of thing.”

Speakers sounded notes of caution throughout the hourlong session, which focused on ethical issues in entertainment law. Along with Waks, the panel featured former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Austin trial lawyer Steve McConnico.


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SXSW CLE Wrap-up: Panelists say it's time to revise Copyright Act

The major law governing copyright in the U.S. will turn 38 this year. An update meant to modernize the law for the digital age took effect during the Clinton administration.

Technology hasn’t stopped evolving since then, of course, and many—including officials at the U.S. Copyright Office—say a comprehensive revision is due.

“The Copyright Office thinks it’s time to engage in a broader review of the copyright laws as opposed to little piecemeal changes,” said Jacqueline Charlesworth, general counsel and associate register of copyrights, during a South by Southwest panel discussion Friday at the Austin Convention Center.

The panel, which also featured entertainment attorneys Rachel Stilwell and Peter Strand, was part of this year’s continuing legal education sessions.


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Houston Bar Foundation honors attorneys for pro bono, volunteer service, legal writing

The Houston Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Houston Bar Association, recently announced its annual awards for pro bono service, volunteerism, and legal writing.

S. Jack Balagia Jr., the vice president and general counsel of Exxon Mobil Corp., was named the fifth recipient of the James B. Sales Pro Bono Leadership Award.

The foundation also named the recipients of awards for outstanding contributions to Houston Volunteer Lawyers, which provides pro bono legal services to low-income residents; for volunteer service to the Dispute Resolution Center, providing free alternatives to formal litigation; and for legal writing in the HBA’s professional journal.

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New Voices of Recovery interview focuses on lawyer's depression

The latest episode of the Voices of Recovery podcast explores one Texas lawyer’s struggles with clinical depression.

The episode, Depression’s Black Hole, is available now from the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program.

The monthly podcast, launched in February, features Texas attorneys’ personal stories of fighting and overcoming problems with substance abuse and mental health issues.

The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, part of the State Bar of Texas, created the Voices of Recovery podcast as a way to let bar members know that help is available and recovery is possible.


Texas Bar Journal to cover SXSW law events

South by Southwest started as a music festival, but attorneys know the event, which has morphed into much more and includes film and interactive tracks, is also a great place to network and learn more about emerging legal issues.

The 2014 festival schedule is filled with continuing legal education (CLE) and other law-related sessions, and the Texas Bar Journal will be there to cover them.

The TBJ team received press credentials to report on the event, which runs from March 7 to March 16 in Austin. You can follow the coverage on Twitter (hashtag: #sxsbot), Facebook, InstagramStorify, and the Texas Bar Blog for recommended panels, updates, and photos.

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The TBJ March Issue

Inside: We explore changes facing the legal profession in Texas, from spotlighting two law schools, one with a new name and one seeking ABA accreditation, that discuss how they plan to help reshape the way future generations of lawyers learn and practice; to hearing from a third-year law student struggling to find work. We examine a new State Bar of Texas program focused on alternative careers and learn from a legal recruiter about how to adapt in a changing environment. Plus: A short list to motivate clients to maintain estate plans, SBOT and TYLA election coverage, and a lawyer's guide to SXSW 2014. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.  


Ms. JD guides women lawyers to create their dream careers

With the theme Passion Forward, the sixth annual Ms. JD Conference on Women in Law aimed to empower women attorneys to pursue their ideal careers. The event, which was held in Austin from Feb. 21 to Feb. 22 and cosponsored by the Center for Women in the Law at the University of Texas School of Law, featured several interactive sessions on relevant and important topics for legal professionals. A California-based nonprofit, Ms. JD was founded in 2006 by law students at several of the nation’s top schools, including UT law school, to strengthen the presence and role of women lawyers. It organizes events around the United States several times a year, conducts original research, and provides an online library of articles and blog posts.

Above: Attendees at the Ms. JD Conference on Women in Law, held in Austin on Feb. 21, participate in a networking and icebreaker game.

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New video explains rights of people with disabilities

A new informational video from the State Bar of Texas explains Texas House Bill 489, “Bootz’s Law,” relating to the rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities, including the use of service animals.

The video, “Veterans and Bootz’s Law: Service Animals and Persons with Disabilities in Texas,” is a 19-minute panel discussion produced by the State Bar of Texas Disability Issues Committee and Disability Rights Texas. An interpreter was on hand to sign for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Panel participants included Brian East, Disability Rights Texas; Michelle Pelletier, service dog coordinator/trainer, Wag That; Denette Vaughn, Disability Rights Texas; Adan Gallegos, Army veteran; and Bootz, the service dog.

Watch the video on Texas Bar TV.

San Antonio Young Lawyers planning free legal clinic Feb. 27

Attorneys will be on hand Feb. 27 in San Antonio to answer legal questions at a free clinic presented by the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association and St. Mary’s University School of Law.

The clinic will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the law school’s Center for Legal and Social Justice, 2507 N.W. 36th St.

Attorneys will answer questions on a variety of issues, including divorce and custody, child support, bankruptcy, consumer matters, wills and estate planning, landlord-tenant problems, probate and guardianship, foreclosure, and Social Security.

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Attorneys to share stories of recovery on new podcast

A new monthly podcast will feature Texas attorneys’ personal stories of fighting and overcoming problems with substance abuse and mental health issues.

The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, part of the State Bar of Texas, created the Voices of Recovery podcast as a way to let bar members know that help is available and recovery is possible, said Bree Buchanan, TLAP director.

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State Bar of Texas judicial poll results announced

More than 12,000 attorneys voted in the State Bar of Texas 2014 Judicial Poll, and you can see the results here.

In all, 12,294 Texas lawyers cast a ballot by the 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday, representing nearly 13 percent of the 94,783 eligible voters.

The State Bar has conducted the poll since 1952, allowing lawyers to vote on candidates in races for Texas Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, and intermediate appeals courts.

The results are not an endorsement by the State Bar of Texas, its officers, directors, or staff. 

Foundation grant to help prosecutors attend Conference on Crimes Against Women

About 20 Texas prosecutors and legal professionals will attend an upcoming conference on combating violence against women because of funding from the Texas Bar Foundation.

The foundation provided $10,000 in scholarship funding for the Ninth Annual Conference on Crimes Against Women, which is happening March 31 through April 2 in Dallas.

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Texas Forum to look at past, future of legal profession

Attorneys and paralegals from across the state will meet in Dallas on Feb. 28 to discuss the past and future of the legal profession at the 32nd Annual Texas Forum.

The forum—an annual conclave of attorneys, educators, administrators, paralegals, and other professionals—will take place from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Cityplace Conference Center, 2711 N. Haskell. The keynote presentation, “The Past and Future of the Legal Profession,” will feature a panel of professionals from the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the National Association of Legal Assistants, and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.


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The TBJ February issue

Inside: We celebrate firsts, including 20 trailblazers—Lisa M. Tatum, the first African-American State Bar president; Tom C. Clark, the first Texan to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court; Jimmie F. Y. Lee, the first person of Chinese descent to be admitted to the Texas Bar; and Raúl A. González Jr., the first Hispanic to serve on the Texas Supreme Court, to name just a few—from the past 75 years of the State Bar of Texas. Plus: What you thought you knew about arbitration, 10 tried-and-true rules for new lawyers, and John Browning on how the Force is all around us—even in the courtroom. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.  

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Attorney and civil rights activist Adelfa Callejo dies

Adelfa Callejo—the first Latina to graduate from Southern Methodist University School of Law—died Saturday morning from brain cancer. She was 90 years old.

One of the first Latinas nationwide to receive a law degree, Callejo represented the disadvantaged as an acclaimed civil rights lawyer. At the law firm of Callejo and Callejo, where she practiced for about 40 years, she advocated for immigrant rights and access to quality education for Dallas children. Callejo’s determination and strength shined as she fought through three previous bouts with cancer. 

Among her numerous accomplishments, Callejo served as regional president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, a director of the State Bar of Texas, and co-founder and past president of the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas. She lived to experience the naming of a school in her honor, the Adelfa Botello Callejo Elementary School in southeastern Dallas, which opened in the fall of 2012.

Memorial arrangements are pending. 

Attorneys must include email addresses on e-filed documents

With the continued implementation of the Texas Supreme Court’s e-filing mandate, attorneys are reminded to include their email addresses on all e-filed documents, including petitions, pleadings, and motions. Documents uploaded to third-party Electronic Filing Service Providers should already have the email address(es) noted. 

According to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21 (f)(2), “The email address of an attorney or unrepresented party who electronically files a document must be included on the document.” Additionally, TRCP 57 states, “Every pleading of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed by at least one attorney of record in his individual name, with his State Bar of Texas identification number, address, telephone number, email address, and if available, fax number.”

When this information is omitted from e-filed documents, clerks can have a difficult time serving attorneys electronically and communicating other important messages. 

Vehicle used as deadly weapon in animal cruelty case; jury sentences defendant to five-year prison term

Fifteen months after being dragged behind an SUV and left on the roadside bloody and injured, the donkey named Susie Q has fully recovered. Her abuser, on the other hand, was just sentenced by a Montgomery County jury to five years in prison—one of the longest prison sentences ever given to a defendant in an animal cruelty case in Texas.

Prosecutor Rob Freyer argued that defendant Marc Richard Saunders, 30, of the southeastern Texas town of Splendora, used his vehicle as a deadly weapon against Susie Q. On Jan. 15, the jury agreed—elevating the crime to a third-degree felony and increasing the maximum possible prison time from two years to up to 10 years.

“In this case, since the deadly weapon definition does not limit death or injury to a person, there is no restriction by which it could not be used to enhance any criminal offense,” said Donald Feare, a civil litigator in Arlington and council member of the State Bar of Texas Animal Law Section. “By opening up a much greater range of punishment, that deterrence becomes even greater and sends a message that the people of the State of Texas are no longer looking at such [animal] cruelty as something less than an important crime to be stopped.”

Feare noted that he believes this is the first time a vehicle has been used as a deadly weapon in an animal cruelty case in Texas. Though uncommon in Texas, other objects have been ruled as deadly weapons in animal cruelty cases. Knives and box cutters were ruled as deadly weapons in the killing of several kittens and, in a separate case, a hammer was ruled as a deadly weapon against a cat. In August 2013, a judge found that fire was used as a deadly weapon against a dog; one of the abusers received five years in prison—possibly the only animal cruelty case other than the Saunders case to receive such a long sentence.

“This [deadly weapon] enhancement is a direct example of how seriously such cruelty will be treated,” said Feare. “It does not add to the elements of the crime, only the punishment. It has been so with assaults on humans and is now being applied to cruelty as well.”  

Saunders has not indicated if he will appeal. Law enforcement officials revealed to local media outlets that he tested positive for methamphetamines the day after the crime. 

UT historian to speak on Civil Rights Act at SBOT Annual Meeting

University of Texas historian Jeremi Suri will discuss the worldwide effects of the Civil Rights Act at the 2014 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Austin.

Suri will present “How the Civil Rights Act Has Impacted the World” from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. June 27 as part of the meeting’s continuing legal education programming.

The meeting, set for June 26-27 at the Hilton Austin and Austin Convention Center, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with a variety of activities, including a keynote speech by Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the act, and LBJ Presidential Library director Mark Updegrove.

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Dallas civil rights activist to speak at TYLA Diversity Dinner

The Rev. Peter Johnson, a prominent Dallas civil rights activist, will offer insights from his lifelong work of promoting non-violence and civil rights at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16 at the Texas Young Lawyers Association Diversity Dinner in Fort Worth.

Johnson, the founder and CEO of the Peter Johnson Institute of Non-Violence, will speak at the Fort Worth Club, 306 W. Seventh St., as part of the free TYLA event. A 6 p.m. reception will precede the dinner.

Participating attorneys will receive 1.5 hours of CLE ethics credit. RSVP by email to mpalacios@texasbar.com by Monday, Jan. 13.

Free parking will be available in the Fort Worth Club garage.

LBJ daughter, library director to speak at SBOT Annual Meeting

The State Bar of Texas today is pleased to announce additional keynote speakers for its 2014 Annual Meeting in Austin, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughter of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the act, and LBJ Presidential Library director Mark Updegrove will speak at the Bench Bar Breakfast on Friday, June 27.

Later that day, National Constitution Center President & CEO Jeffrey Rosen will speak at the meeting’s General Session Luncheon.

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Houston attorney first user to e-file in 2014

By Megan LaVoie
Texas Office of Court Administration

Houston attorney Bob Gilbert likely wasn’t the only lawyer working as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, but he was the only one using efiletexas.gov. Gilbert was the first attorney to e-file on the new system as the mandate went into effect on Jan. 1.

He e-filed a suggestion of bankruptcy case for his client at 12:39 a.m. in a Dallas court from the comfort of his Houston home.

“I didn’t mean to run over midnight, I had several cases to file that night, how embarrassing that I was the first one,” he said with a laugh. “The kids had gone out, my wife was asleep, so I thought I would take advantage of the time I had to do some work.”

Gilbert, a solo practitioner who specializes in consumer law, said the ability to e-file has changed his business.

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Personal injury award of $281 million for South Texas family of man killed by tractor-trailer driveshaft

In May of 2012, a driveshaft fell off a tractor-trailer traveling down FM 133 in Dimmit County, flew through the windshield of an oncoming vehicle, and struck the passenger of that vehicle—Carlos Aguilar—in the face. Aguilar died at the hospital the same day. The tractor-trailer was owned by Heckmann Water Resources, which transports wastewater from Eagle Ford Shale operations.  

On Dec. 7, 2013, a jury found that Heckmann was negligent in Aguilar’s wrongful death. The jury awarded Aguilar’s surviving wife, five children, and parents $281 million. One hundred million dollars of this was for punitive damages. “The verdict is the largest ever to my knowledge in auto accidents with oil trucks in the Eagle Ford Shale area,” said the family’s counsel, Ronald Rodriguez, of the Law Office of Ronald Rodriguez in Laredo.

Commercial interest in the Eagle Ford Shale site—which produces a great deal of natural gas and oil—has benefited the South Texas economy; but as the number of semitrailers on the road has increased, so too has the number of traffic-related deaths.

Heckmann’s parent company, Nuverra Environmental Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., has indicated that it will appeal the decision. 

State Bar seeks entries for 2014 Texas Gavel journalism awards

The State Bar of Texas is now accepting entries for the 2014 Texas Gavel Awards, which recognize excellence in legal reporting during the 2013 calendar year.

Entries will be accepted until 5 p.m. April 1 in the print, broadcast, and online categories. There is no entry fee.

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

Read the news release here.

Download the entry form here.


Free legal clinic for veterans set for Jan. 18 in Conroe

A free legal advice clinic for veterans will take place Saturday, Jan. 18 in Conroe, the Houston Bar Association announced Thursday.

The clinic will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic at 800 Riverwood Court, Suite 100. No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will provide an opportunity for any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran to receive counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law—including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate, and tax law—as well as disability and veterans benefits.

Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid will be assigned a pro bono attorney through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers.


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The TBJ January issue

Inside: A look at the significant legal developments in 2013, from U.S. Supreme Court opinions on antitrust cases to legislative changes to the Texas Tax Code. Plus: UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon's case; the e-filing mandate; 75 people, places, and things about the State Bar of Texas and the law; a letter from an old lawyer to the yutes; and an update on the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.  


Houston Bar Association's Law Day program earns national honor

The Houston Bar Association announced Tuesday it is one of three organizations the American Bar Association will honor for its 2013 Law Day activities.

The HBA will join the Connecticut Judicial Branch and the Law Day 2013 Dream Team, a partnership of 12 Georgia organizations, in receiving the Law Day 2013 Outstanding Activity Award, according to the ABA.

The ABA will present the awards Feb. 7 at its 2014 Midyear Meeting in Chicago.


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Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange: An update on key deadlines

The January Texas Bar Journal features an update on important deadlines for the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange, and we’ve released the story early here.

Health insurance companies are accepting enrollments through the private exchange for a six-month period, ending March 31, 2014, for coverage effective dates starting in 2014. For a desired coverage effective date of Jan. 1, the application completion deadline is Dec. 19.

The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed exclusively for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Read the TBJ story and visit the Member Benefits website for more information.  

Texas Supreme Court approves final e-filing rules

The Supreme Court of Texas announced Friday that it has issued final rules for electronically filed civil court documents, effective Jan. 1.

A Texas Court of Criminal Appeals order also includes changes to appellate rules governing criminal cases. The rules supersede all other local civil rules governing electronic document filing in Texas courts, according to the court. Under the rules, court filings by attorneys in Texas civil cases will be mandatory.

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Santa Claus on trial, again

For the 20th-straight year, Santa Claus is facing “trial” as part of a community service project of the San Antonio Bar Association.

San Antonio police arrested Santa on Thursday as he was handing out gifts at James Bonham Academy. He is accused of violating a fictitious statute concerning the separation of church and state, said Ted Lee, a San Antonio attorney who helps organize the annual mock trial through the San Antonio Bar Association U.S. District Courts Committee.

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The Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest 2014 is underway

Lawyers know how to craft motions, briefs, and summary judgments, but do they have the “write” stuff to pen a short story? The Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest is back. Interested applicants should submit a previously unpublished short story dealing with the law or lawyers. The June 2014 issue of the Texas Bar Journal will feature the top three stories, as selected by an independent panel of judges. Manuscripts should not exceed 2,000 words and submissions are due by 5 p.m. CST Monday, March 3, 2014. For more information and an entry form, go to texasbar.com/tbj.


Three law firms in Harlingen receive the Texas Treasure Business Award

Adams & Graham associates gather around a historic photo of the firm’s founders, John Quincy Adams and Marshall W. Graham. From left, Jim Denison, William L. Pope, Scott Clark, Leslie Lockhart Moody, Roger Hughes, Will Hughes, Gene Graham (Marshall Graham’s widow), and Ferriel C. “Kent” Hamby Jr.

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) recently presented three Harlingen law firms with the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Treasure Business Award, which recognizes businesses that have contributed to the state’s economic growth for 50 years or more.

During a ceremony at the historic Reese Plaza, Harlingen mayor Chris Boswell was also on hand to honor the recipients, which included Kent Hamby and Jim Denison of Adams & Graham, Curtis Bonner on behalf of Bonner & Bonner, and Graham and Gene McCullough of McCullough & McCullough.

“It is important that we celebrate the staying power of our longstanding businesses and honor the legacy of those whose skills as entrepreneurs and leaders long have provided jobs and economic prosperity for our community,” said Boswell.

McCullough & McCullough was founded by Gene F. McCullough in 1946. His son Graham joined the firm in 1960, and four years later, State Representative Menton Joseph Murray Sr. joined as well. Over the years, the name changed as partners passed away and new ones took over the reigns. The partners have always been civic minded and have supported the community through various organizations. In July 1999, Graham’s son Arthur “Gene” E. McCullough joined the firm.

In 1957 attorneys Eddie Verneal “Neal” Bonner and Gene Goodenough hung out a shingle as Goodenough and Bonner in a rented downtown office space in Harlingen, at the time a booming town because of the local Air Force base. People have come and gone, but the law firm has always been business-oriented. The Bonners have been involved with the Harlingen community for years.

Adams & Graham was founded in 1958 by John Quincy Adams and Marshall W. Graham. Marshall’s brother James S. Graham Jr. was an associate. As new partners joined the firm, the name changed. And over the years, the firm moved locations and grew. Today Adams & Graham is a full-service law firm that represents clients in business litigation, commercial defense, employment law, and more. The firm’s attorneys have always been committed to service and have acted as school board trustees, city commissioners, and university regents.


Public Notice of the Changes to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP) and Fifth Circuit Rules Effective December 1, 2013

Effective December 1, 2013, the following rules have been amended:

  • Appellate Rules 13, 14, 24, 28 and 28.1 and Form 4 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure
  • Fifth Circuit Rules 28.2.2 and 28.3 (g) (h) (i) (j) (k) (l) and (m) and Fifth Circuit Form 7

View the full set of changes here.

Former NSA director to speak at 2014 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Bobby R. Inman, a former National Security Agency director, has accepted an invitation to speak at the 2014 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Austin.

Inman, who also is a former deputy director of Central Intelligence, will speak on national security Thursday, June 26 at the annual Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon. The luncheon is part of the State Bar’s Annual Meeting, set for June 26-27, 2014, at the Hilton Austin and Austin Convention Center.

Click here for more information about the State Bar’s Annual Meeting or to reserve a hotel room at the group rate. Follow the State Bar of Texas on Facebook and Twitter for more updates as the meeting approaches.

New lawyers inducted at Austin ceremony

The Supreme Court of Texas held an induction ceremony for new members of the State Bar of Texas on Monday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

Tom Owens, the high scorer on the July 2013 bar exam, addressed the crowd before Chief Justice Nathan Hecht led licensees in the lawyer's oath. State Bar of Texas President Lisa M. Tatum and Texas Young Lawyers Association President Kristy Blanchard welcomed the new lawyers to the profession.

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A letter to the new attorneys of Texas

David Ray Olivas of Flower Mound passed the bar exam in October but will not be able to attend the new lawyer induction ceremony at the Frank Erwin Center on Nov. 18, 2013. He is living in Mazar-e-Sharif, in the Balkh province of northern Afghanistan. Olivas has been stationed there a while, where he generally works 10 to 12 hours a day seven days a week. He knew he had to carve out time to study for the bar exam—and he did, although it wasn’t easy. He began with 20 to 30 questions a night, about two to three hours on top of his long shifts providing intelligence. He was determined to stick with his grueling schedule, though (allowing a night off here and there for video games and FB correspondence). And he finally felt ready. He used his R&R time to fly home, see his wife and seven-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, and take the exam. 
Below is what he would like to say to his fellow inductees if he were at the special session:

Failure creates better success stories. We’ve heard the axioms like: “You got to lose to know how to win.” Disney makes a killing off of these stories. We will struggle in our new career; these struggles will define us as attorneys. Will we fold? Will we take the easy way out? Will we stand there and face the fire? Will we succeed? Those answers and more as our lives continue.

I am excited to join the ranks of Texas attorneys.


Hecht, Brown take oaths at Texas Supreme Court ceremony

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and Justice Jeff Brown were sworn in Monday during a formal investiture ceremony at the Texas Capitol.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was on hand to administer the ceremonial oaths of office inside a crowded House Chamber. Scalia, who is responsible for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, has sworn in each of the past three Texas chief justices, including Hecht, Wallace Jefferson and Thomas Phillips.

Hecht, a longtime state Supreme Court justice, took office as chief justice Oct. 1 after Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to replace Jefferson, who left the court to return to private practice. Perry then appointed Brown, a justice on the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, to fill Hecht’s seat.

For photos of the event, and from the State Bar of Texas reception that followed, visit the State Bar’s Facebook and Flickr pages.

Retired Chief Justice Pope donates law library to UNT Dallas College of Law

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht joined former chief justices, state political leaders, and UNT Dallas College of Law faculty on Monday to celebrate retired Chief Justice Jack Pope’s gift of more than 300 books to the school.

Pope, who turned 100 this year, donated his personal law library to the new law school, which will seat its first class in fall 2014.

The collection includes signed copies of his personal set of South Western Reporters covering 1950 to 1985, when he served on the San Antonio Court of Civil Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court, the college announced at a luncheon in Austin.

“I was proud of my library before I started giving it away,” Pope told the assembled group, which included retired Chief Justices Wallace B. Jefferson and Thomas Phillips and UNT Dallas College of Law Founding Dean Royal Furgeson.


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Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange opening soon

The latest update from Member Benefits Inc. on the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is now available. Click here to read the update, which includes a list of things to consider as the Nov. 1 opening of the private exchange approaches.

Member Benefits Inc. is committed to providing updates to those who have requested information. You can sign up here to receive updates directly.

For general information about the exchange, click here.

Proclamations help kick off National Pro Bono Celebration in Texas

Proclamations from Gov. Rick Perry and the Supreme Court of Texas helped the State Bar of Texas kick off its weeklong observance of the National Pro Bono Celebration on Monday.

Perry and the state Supreme Court signed proclamations encouraging Texans to observe the celebration, which is designed to focus attention on the need for pro bono legal services and commend attorneys who perform the work. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service started the celebration in 2009, after the recession intensified the need for pro bono legal services.

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Justice Scalia to administer oaths at Texas Supreme Court ceremony

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will administer the ceremonial oaths of office to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht and Justice Jeff Brown during a public investiture at 11 a.m. Nov. 11.

The ceremony will take place in the Texas Capitol House Chamber, and parking will be available at the Capitol visitors lot at 1201 San Jacinto Blvd. in Austin.

Hecht, a longtime Texas Supreme Court justice, was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to fulfill the term of former Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, who recently left the court to return to private practice. Perry then appointed Brown, formerly a justice of the 14th Court of Appeals, to fill the seat Hecht vacated.

Update: Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange

The latest update from Member Benefits Inc. on the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is now available. Click here to read the update, which includes information on how to register for the private exchange starting Nov. 1.

Member Benefits Inc. is committed to providing updates to those who have requested information. You can sign up here to receive updates directly.

Dallas Bar Association to host Affordable Care Act forum

The Dallas Bar Association will host a free public forum at noon Tuesday, Oct. 22 on the Affordable Care Act in an effort to improve understanding of the health care law.

The hourlong discussion, “Understanding the Affordable Care Act,” will feature perspectives from Den Bishop, president of Holmes, Murphy & Associates, Insurance Brokerage Firm; Stephen Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council; John McWhorter, president of Baylor University Medical Center; and Cheryl Camin Murray, shareholder at Winstead P.C., moderator.

The forum will take place at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave., in downtown Dallas (garage parking available; enter from Olive Street). Lunch will be available for $12.76.

To ensure adequate seating is available, those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to sevans@dallasbar.org or 214-220-7440.

The TBJ October 2013 issue

Inside: A look at how mental illness and addiction to a controlled substance can lead an attorney down the road to ruin—and how TLAP can provide hope and help to those in need. Plus: Apps to download now to make your life easier, an innovative teaching guide that brings the Supreme Court of Texas to the classroom, and the new Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange that offers health care choices to members. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.  


Austin Firm to Argue Before U.S. Supreme Court

William R. Allensworth, senior partner with the Austin-based construction firm Allensworth & Porter, is scheduled to argue before the United States Supreme Court in the case of In re Atl. Marine Const. Co., Inc., 701 F.3d 736 (5th Cir. 2012) cert. granted, 12-929, 2013 WL 1285318 (U.S. Apr. 1, 2013). The hearing takes place on Oct. 9.

The case, which Allensworth believes could have a profound impact on the use and effect of forum-selection clauses throughout the construction industry, stems from a dispute between J-Crew Management Inc. and a subcontractor working on a project at Fort Hood in Killeen. 

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Hecht takes oath as Texas Supreme Court chief justice

Nathan L. Hecht of Austin took the oath of office as the 27th chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas on Tuesday, replacing Wallace B. Jefferson, who retired.

“This is a great day,” Jefferson told a crowd of justices, clerks, family members, and other spectators inside the Supreme Court before administering the oath to Hecht. “This is a wonderful day because the governor has made an inspired choice.”

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Hecht to serve the remainder of Jefferson’s term, which expires in 2014. A formal investiture ceremony will be schedule later this fall, Hecht said.

“We wanted to have this [swearing in] for the court family this afternoon,” he said.

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Texas Tech School of Law to Host Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

On Wednesday morning, Texas Tech University School of Law will welcome the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to campus. The presiding judge, along with eight judges, will hear oral arguments in two cases in front of students and the public.

"This visit from the Court of Criminal Appeals is an excellent opportunity for our law students to witness consequential deliberation firsthand," said Kari Abitbol, assistant director of communications for Texas Tech Law. "We're grateful to the court for paying a visit and showcasing the caliber of Texas Tech Law to the greater community."

The hearings will take place in the Donald M. Hunt Courtroom, School of Law, 1802 Harford Ave., beginning at 9 a.m.

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.”

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


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.

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.


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.  


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). www.bp.com ............................................................ 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 www.mabatxfoundation.com.

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.

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 karen.precella@haynesboone.com. 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 dbalawjam.org

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 Changes@ca5.uscourts.gov.


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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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Supreme Court Amends Order Requiring E-Filing

On June 24, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an amended order requiring electronic filing by attorneys in the appellate courts, district courts, statutory county courts, constitutional county courts and statutory probate courts. The amended order clarifies that juvenile cases are not subject to the statewide mandate at the district court, statutory county court, and constitutional county court. Juvenile cases on appeal at the appellate courts are still subject to the statewide mandate.

To read the full order, visit http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/miscdocket/13/13909200.pdf.


Texas educators selected for Teachers' Law School

Nearly 30 Texas educators have been selected to attend the Fifth Annual Teachers’ Law School, a three-day legal education program July 18-20 at the Texas Law Center in Austin.

Social studies and government teachers from across Texas applied to the program, which brings together more than a dozen of the state’s leading judges and lawyers who give presentations on aspects of civil and criminal legal systems at the state and federal levels.

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Current, future civics teachers stage mock arguments at Texas Supreme Court

Current and future civics teachers from across the state got a chance to hold mock oral arguments Wednesday at the Texas Supreme Court.

About 30 teachers and education students from various Texas universities participated in the arguments as part of the Hatton W. Sumners Student Teacher Institute, part of the Institutes on the Founding Documents

In the past, the training program has included a visit with state Supreme Court justices, but this was the first year participants staged mock oral arguments, said Jan Miller, who directs the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department. The program is designed to inspire social studies and government teachers to use hands-on teaching methods, rather than just rely on textbooks, Miller said.

Supreme Court clerks organized the oral arguments section of the two-day program. The mock case involved a lawsuit over whether an eatery could open inside a shopping mall if another restaurant already held a contract as the mall’s exclusive sandwich shop.

“The project came from me watching students go through this room and have no idea what’s going on,” court clerk Andrew Wynans said, referring to the school classes and other groups that regularly tour the court.

Even many adults don’t understand that Texas has two high courts—the Supreme Court, which handles civil cases, and the Court of Criminal Appeals, which handles criminal cases, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson told the educators.

Jefferson said he agrees with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who cites a lack of civics education among the country’s biggest problems. 

“I think we should be doing everything we can to make sure our students know what America is really all about and how it works and how it came to be and what the deficiencies are as well,” Jefferson said. “And I think your interest in this subject matter will help educate them better than they would have been without this project.”

Pictured above: Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson addresses a group of about 30 current and future civics teachers from across the state Wednesday in Austin. Below: Educators participate in mock oral arguments organized by Texas Supreme Court clerks.


The TBJ July Issue

Inside: To celebrate our 75th anniversary, we take you through the pages of the Texas Bar Journal by decade, from the ’40s and World War II and the ’70s and Watergate to the ’80s and AIDS and the 2000s and immigration. Plus: Tips on interviewing a witness, remarks by the February 2013 Bar Exam high scorer, ways Big Data can make your workload easier, and rocks that can transform lives. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue.  


State Bar seeking LeadershipSBOT nominations by July 1

The deadline is approaching to nominate attorneys for the 2013-2014 class of LeadershipSBOT, a diversity initiative of the State Bar of Texas.

The State Bar and Texas Young Lawyers Association are looking for 20 Texas lawyers to take part in the program, which prepares participants for leadership positions in the legal community and the State Bar. Participants are chosen to reflect the state’s cultural, ethnic, geographic, and practice-area diversity.

Created in 2008, the yearlong program consists of two training sessions and ends with the presentation of group projects during the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting.

Visit the LeadershipSBOT section of texasbar.com for more information, including nomination forms and lists of past LeadershipSBOT classes.

Pictured above: The LeadershipSBOT Class of 2012-2013.


New SBOT, TYLA leaders take office


The State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting saw a changing of the guard in the leadership of the State Bar and Texas Young Lawyers Association.

San Antonio attorney Lisa M. Tatum took the oath as State Bar president, replacing 2012-2013 President Buck Files of Tyler. Galveston County personal injury lawyer Trey Apffel, who won a runoff election in May, succeeded Tatum as president-elect. Also, Granbury attorney Cindy V. Tisdale replaced Frank E. Stevenson II of Dallas as chair of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors.

During the meeting, Tatum previewed her initiatives for the year, including the Care Campaign for low-income Texans, which is designed to connect lawyers and clients, increase pro bono efforts, and encourage service providers and programs to coordinate to meet needs. The program will include a Care Kit, providing materials for attorney groups to hold legal services clinics, she said.

Tatum, the first African American lawyer to serve as State Bar president, also is spearheading the web-based civics project Vote for Me, I was the First!, which highlights important “firsts” in U.S. and Texas history included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills social studies standards for elementary school students. The project will feature 22 animated historic figures explaining their accomplishments in 30-second vignettes.

Plano family law attorney Kristy Blanchard took office as president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, replacing 2012-2013 President C.E. Rhodes of Houston. Flower Mound attorney Cameron J. Cox replaced Alyssa J. Long of San Antonio as TYLA chair.

The meeting took place June 20-21 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

Above: Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, left, swears in Lisa M. Tatum of San Antonio as the 2013-2014 State Bar president. Below, at top: Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson, left, swears in Trey Apffel of League City as the 2013-2014 State Bar president-elect. At bottom: Cindy V. Tisdale, a Granbury attorney, speaks after being sworn in as the 2013-2014 chair of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors. 



Oswald mock trial to air as special TV broadcast Saturday in DFW










One of the highlights of last week’s State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Dallas was the mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald for the 1963 killing of President John F. Kennedy.

The mock trial, which ended in a hung jury, will be the subject of an hour-long TV special at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 29, on WFAA in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Until then, you can catch up on highlights of the trial at the links below.

Dallas Morning News story

WFAA story

CBS/DFW story

Bush library director speaks at SBOT meeting


President George W. Bush stood atop the ruins of the World Trade Center on Sept. 14, 2001, and addressed the rescue workers through a bullhorn.

“I can hear you!” he said, in what later would be known as a defining moment of his presidency. “The rest of the world hears you! And the people—and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

That bullhorn is among the items on exhibit at the new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, which has welcomed more than 80,000 visitors since opening to the public May 1 on the Southern Methodist University campus. The library director, Alan Lowe, offered an overview of the items Friday during a keynote speech at the Bench Bar Breakfast, part of the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

Other objects on display include Florida ballots with “hanging chads” from the disputed 2000 presidential election and steel beams from the remains of New York’s Twin Towers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks—a jarring and emotional sight for many visitors, Lowe said.

Texas now has three presidential libraries, including the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station. That’s more than any other U.S. state.

“I’ve lived here long enough to know you wouldn’t have it any other way,” Lowe said.

Visit the official website for more information on the Bush library.

Above: Lowe speaks during the Bench Bar Breakfast on Friday in Dallas.

TYLA Awards

TYLA started off an evening to remember with a reception on Friday, June 21, at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting. 2012-2013 President C.E. Rhodes spoke from the heart when he touched upon all of the people who have supported him along the way. 2012-2013 President Kristy Blanchard graciously accepted the challenge of leading the group for the next year.  Awards were given to the following:

Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas Award--Brittany K. Byrd

Liberty Bell Award--Donna Kay McKinney

Outstanding Mentor Award--The Honorable Harlin D. "Cooter" Hale

Joseph M. Pritchard Inn Outstanding Director Award--Sam Houston

Texas Young Lawyers Association President's Award--Priscilla D. Camacho

Texas Young Lawyers Association Keith L. Krueger Leadership Award--Dustin M. Howell

Texas Young Lawyers Association Outstanding First Year Director Award--Sally Pretorius and Amanda N. Torrres



Bryan Garner on writing about the law

Author Brian A. Garner, who has spent a lifetime examining and interpreting the written word, talked about his recent book co-authored with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to a packed room on Friday, July 21, at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting.

Garner, the editor-in-chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, said he worked for 200 hours side by side over three years with Justice Scalia to produce Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, which is their second collaboration. Writing a book with a U.S. Supreme Court justice was an organic process. Garner was working on a project and trying to secure interviews with all of the U.S. Supreme Court justices when he first wrote to Scalia, who declined to be interviewed but asked to meet Garner at another time. They met, shared ideas, and then Garner jumped on plane home. Once onboard, Garner got a great idea—to ask Scalia to write a book with him. He drafted the letter during the flight and then promptly sent it off upon arrival. Garner’s father thought he was crazy, but a few days later, Scalia accepted his offer. They later published their first book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.

Garner, who attended the University of Texas and received his J.D. degree in 1984, has written numerous books, including Garner’s Modern American Usage. He is the founder and president of LawProse Inc.