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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.    

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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.

 

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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.   

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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
 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

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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.
 

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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.

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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.
 

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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.  

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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

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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

 

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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.
 

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Kathryn Keneally talks about taxes and offshore accounts

“We are looking at the whole world—and still looking at Switzerland,” Kathryn Keneally, assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice Tax Division, told a crowded house at a Q&A session Friday, June 21, at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting. Keneally talked about the goings-on offshore and while she couldn’t comment on upcoming specific actions, she did say: “There are going to be things we are going to do next.” She said the division has many tools and will be getting information in non-public ways that it will use. In other words, don’t think your Swiss bank account will go unnoticed. Keneally said the division wants the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure program to work. “It would be foolish not to come forward.”

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Alito explains Supreme Court work in State Bar speech

DALLAS--Justice Samuel Alito offered a glimpse into the inner workings of the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday during the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting.

Alito, speaking during the Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon, offered a "top 10" list of things he believes most people don't know about the court, saying his fellow justices' recent TV talk show appearances inspired the David Letterman-style countdown.

Among them: Most cases don't involve constitutional law; oral arguments--although high profile--are only a small part of the job; and, despite some tartly worded dissents every now and then, the justices basically get along.

Alito, who joined the court in 2006, spoke to a crowd of more than 1,300 people inside the Hilton Anatole on the first full day of the bar's annual meeting. The meeting continues Friday.

For a schedule of remaining events, visit texasbar.com/annualmeeting.

Alito explains Supreme Court work in State Bar speech

 

What Corporate America Really Expects

Dallas-native Walter Sutton, associate general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., moderated a panel discussion on corporations and diverse outside counsel at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting on June 20. Sutton, who received the 2013 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, stressed the importance of diversity in the workplace. According to Sutton, there are 150 lawyers working in the legal department in Bentonville, Ark., and 46 percent of them are women and 30 percent are attorneys of color. He said Wal-Mart wanted to make sure its own workforce was diverse before making it a priority when hiring outside counsel. Wal-Mart spends $200 million a year on outside counsel.

The participating panelists—Toni D. Nguyen, assistant general counsel at Dallas-based Luminex Corporation, Michelle A. Peak, senior labor attorney at American Airlines, and Navin Rao, vice president and assistant general counsel at Dallas-based Michaels Stores, Inc.—agreed, emphasizing the need for outside counsel to be diverse in makeup as well as in thought. “I’m not shy about saying your numbers are low, and I’m going to take my business elsewhere,” said Rao, describing a scenario when an outside firm might not have many minorities. One way to ensure outside counsel makes a concerted effort to be more diverse is for attorneys to attend diversity events and interact with the lawyers in these groups. According to the panelists, attorneys who promote diversity will have a better understanding of what corporations are looking for when hiring outside counsel.
 

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LeadershipSBOT Awards Ceremony

"You have to stick your neck out every once in a while if you believe in what you are doing," Supreme Court of Texas Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson told the graduating class of LeadershipSBOT at an awards ceremony on Thursday, June 20, at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Dallas. Jefferson talked about getting out of your comfort zone as he addressed the crowd.

LeadershipSBOT celebrates its fifth birthday this summer. The brainchild of former State Bar President Harper Estes, the program is a fusion of diversity awareness, idea brainstorming and implementation, executive grooming, and bar immersion. The idea is to get a group of young lawyers together—they meet twice a year—to envision a better State Bar.

Members work together in groups to create service projects, which they presented at the ceremony. The Access to Justice group worked on videos to inspire and educate attorneys about pro bono family law cases. The Diversity group devised a program with a video stressing the importance of diversity throughout the law profession. The Member Service Professionalism group developed a mentor bank that lawyers will be able to access on the State Bar of Texas website soon. The Education and Public Service group devised a lesson plan for students that focuses on civility and public discourse.

Emma Cano received the Pete Serrano Leadership Award for her outstanding contributions throughout the year.

LeadershipSBOT members are nominated via a downloadable form on the State Bar website. The deadline for nominations this year is July 1.  
 

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David O. Stewart on the Two Most Important Trials in American History

Lawyer-turned-historical author David O. Stewart talked about the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson and the treason trial of Aaron Burr to a crowd at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting on June 20, 2013. As Stewart flipped through images of historical people in American politics, he pointed out that the trial of Andrew Johnson was the first presidential impeachment trial--a proceeding that was important because it would overturn how the public voted. The second most important trial, according to Stewart, involved former vice president Aaron Burr, who was on trial for treason. Burr was a controversial figure--he killed his political opponent Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Stewart noted that the trial proved important because it showed that everyone--even people the general public despised--are entited to legal protection and a fair trial. Burr was acquitted.

Stewart is the author of The Summer of 1787, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, and American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America, and he regularly speaks on history and the law. His first novel, The Lincoln Deception, a story about the John Wilkes Booth conspiracy, will be released in August/September 2013. 

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Justice Alito throws first pitch at Texas Rangers game

ARLINGTON--U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, in town for the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday night as the Texas Rangers hosted the division rival Oakland Athletics.

Alito's throw was outside, but he still drew applause from the crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He then took a seat along the first-base line to watch the game with Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson.

Alito, who joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 after being nominated by President George W. Bush, will speak at the State Bar of Texas Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Guest tickets can be purchased for $60 at the State Bar of Texas Registration Center inside the hotel.

For more information about the Annual Meeting, visit texasbar.com/annualmeeting.

 Alito's first pitch

Alito & Jefferson

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Film on race, university admissions now online

We recently blogged about Austin broadcast journalist Lynn Boswell’s new documentary on race and university admissions, which premiered last month on KLRU-TV.

We can now report that the film, “Admissions on Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education,” is online for viewing anytime.

Boswell plans to update the film after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its eagerly anticipated decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which could affect whether UT can consider race in admissions decisions.

Former TYLA leader hopes book serves as leadership guide for women in law

A former Texas Young Lawyers Association leader has written a book to help women apply corporate leadership research and wisdom to the field of law.

Gindi Eckel Vincent, a Houston attorney who was chair of TYLA in 2006-2007, said she wrote “Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in the Law” as a practical guide to leadership for women practicing law today.

The idea grew out of discussions with Mary B. Cranston, a mentor of Vincent’s who leads the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, about a lack of toolkits and research for women seeking promotions and leadership opportunities in the legal field, Vincent said. Cranston is listed as an advisor on the book, which the ABA commission is publishing. 

“The book is essentially broken into three parts,” Vincent, who works as counsel for ExxonMobil, said by email. “The first part highlights background information and statistics, identifies myths and stereotypes that exist, and features the key corporate leadership findings. The second part takes apart the nine essential techniques to lead effectively and tailors them to women practicing law. The third part, and my favorite, features interviews with women leaders that have a law degree as well as preeminent judges in America and closes with Total Leadership Makeover, which applies the techniques to real women practicing law to help them achieve the next step in their career.”

The book will premiere at the ABA Annual Meeting on Aug. 9 in San Francisco and will be available for purchase on the ABA website and, eventually, on Amazon, Vincent said.

Dallas attorney to receive CLE award from State Bar

Dallas attorney Peter S. Vogel has been named the recipient of a State Bar of Texas award that honors people who make substantial contributions to continuing legal education.

Vogel, a partner in the firm of Gardere Wynne Sewell, L.L.P., will receive the 2013 Gene Cavin Award for Excellence in Continuing Legal Education at an upcoming TexasBarCLE course.

 

Vogel served on the board of directors of the State Bar of Texas, where he was the founding chair of the Computer and Technology Section. He teaches courses on eDiscovery and the Law of eCommerce as an adjunct professor at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law and is on the founding board of advisors of the SMU Computer Law Review and Technology Journal. He is also known as a frequent and well-regarded CLE speaker.

 

The bar established the Gene Cavin Award in 1989 to honor long-term participation in State Bar CLE seminars and publications. The award carries the name of the professional development program’s founder who, during his service from 1964 to 1987, brought the program to international prominence.

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Documentary focuses on race, university admissions

A documentary on the debate over how universities select their students premiered Thursday night on KLRU-TV in Austin and will be shown again at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

“Admissions on Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education,” directed by Lynn Boswell, examines the history of race and university admissions. It airs as universities await a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which deals with whether the university can consider race in admissions decisions.

Boswell, a broadcast journalist who also has a law degree, said people who live outside Austin will be able to watch the documentary online in coming days. She also plans to update the film after the Fisher decision is announced.

Read more at klru.org.

Legal clinics to aid Dallas County residents

Dallas County residents who meet certain financial guidelines can get free legal advice and consultation at one of nine clinics the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program will host in June.

The schedule appears below:

—East Dallas: 6 p.m. Thursdays, June 6 and 20, at Grace United Methodist Church, 4105 Junius St. at Haskell

—South Dallas: 6 p.m. Tuesdays, June 4, 11, and 25, at Martin Luther King Jr. Center, 2922 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

—West Dallas: 6 p.m. Thursdays, June 13 and 27, at Marillac Social Services Center, 2843 Lapsley St.

—Garland: 6 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at the Salvation Army, 451 W. Avenue D, Garland

—For veterans only: 2 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Dallas VA Medical Center, 4500 S. Lancaster Road

The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program is a joint effort of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. Read the news release here.

 

State Bar to honor Dallas nonprofit for legal work assisting immigrant women

The State Bar of Texas Women and the Law Section has chosen the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas as the 2013 winner of the newly named Louise B. Raggio Award.


The Dallas-based nonprofit organization is receiving the award after its all-female team of attorneys helped nearly 200 immigrant women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area last year through its William O. Holston Volunteer Attorney Program. The bar will present the award June 20 during its annual meeting in Dallas.


“We are privileged here at HRI to have three women attorneys who are fierce advocates for women,” Bill Holston, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. “Chris Mansour, Melissa Weaver and Martha Gonzalez are the consummate professionals. They are compassionate and fearless advocates for our clients. Whether it is a young woman escaping the bonds of domestic violence or a woman from Africa seeking refuge from female genital mutilation, our lawyers are passionate advocates for our clients’ fight to begin a new life in America.”


The bar’s Women and the Law Section established the Raggio award, formerly called the Ma’at Justice Award, in 1995 to recognize attorneys or groups of attorneys who advance justice and address the needs and issues affecting women in the legal profession and in society.

New scam email targeting attorneys

On May 20, the State Bar received a call and an email from an attorney in McKinney about a scam email that he received on May 18. He also reported that there are posts from lawyers in California and Florida stating they have received identical inquiries and attachments.

The full scam email and attachments are below:

Thank you for your prompt response. Am living in Japan and Tomio Walton (ex-husband) lives in McKinney, Texas. Due to the time difference (+13hrs EST) it is a little bit difficult to determine the best time to call you. Following our divorce, we agreed under a negotiated settlement agreement which is incorporated, merged into and made part of the court decree for a onetime cash settlement of $557,000.00 USD for Family support (this includes child support, alimony and medical support). To his credit, he has paid me $208,000.00 USD from a total of $557,000.00 but still owing $349.000.00 USD and the due time for completion of payment is over. Thus, I request your legal counsel and representation to enforce the final judgment thereby compelling him to remit the balance owed to me. He is aware of my intention to seek legal actions. Attached is a copy of the separation agreement, and Final Judgment and I will be pleased to provide further information on this case on request. I desire to retain your law firm, please forward your firm's retainer fee agreement so that we can proceed. Thank you and have a pleasant day.

Regards, 

Rina Walton

Address: Fukuoka Sanwa Bldg. 3F, 3-19-21 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka 810-0001

Attachment 1
Attachment 2
Attachment 3

Attorneys should be extra-vigilant for 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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Panel highlights problem of human trafficking

The audience at the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s “Slavery Out of the Shadows” event applauds as panelists are introduced. Pictured on the front row, from left, are panelists David Boatright of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Dr. Lawrence Feldman of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, anti-human-trafficking attorney Beth Klein, Texas Assistant Attorney General Geoff Barr, and Terry Lord of WebSafety Inc.

Human trafficking is a major problem in Texas and throughout the United States, and fighting it requires people working together to identify victims and get them the help they need, panelists said Friday during an event at the Texas Supreme Court.

The recent case in Cleveland where three women were rescued after years of captivity is a dramatic reminder of the problem—and an example of how people can help, said Beth Klein, a Colorado-based, anti-human-trafficking attorney who appeared on the panel. An Ohio man helped save the women by breaking down a door to the house where they had been held.

“Because he took an action that was a little uncomfortable, we have three women (rescued) now who hadn’t seen the light of day in 10 years,” Klein said. “And that’s what I’m talking about. Every one of you has the opportunity to be a real hero.”

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Fresh off reform vote, Mongolian bar president visits North Texas legal mentors

The president of Mongolia’s top lawyers’ association was in Dallas-Fort Worth on Friday for meetings on how to improve the country’s bar and implement its newly adopted Bar Act.

Batsukh Dorjsuren, president of the Association of Mongolian Advocates, held private meetings with legal mentors including Judge Joe Spurlock II, a Texas Wesleyan University law professor who founded and directs the law school’s Asian Judicial Institute, which focuses on educating former communist nations about the rule of law and judicial independence.

Just weeks ago, Mongolia’s national legislature passed a Bar Act based largely on the 1939 act that created an integrated Texas bar, Spurlock said. The Mongolian bar now must write its bylaws and establish committees to carry out the reforms, and Batsukh came to Texas to see how the institute could help.

“This is a big step,” said Spurlock, who has been working with the country to develop an integrated bar system since the mid-1990s. “Now that they’ve got it, they don’t want to lose their momentum.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Memoriam: Gib Walton of Houston

Gib Walton, past president of the State Bar of Texas and co-leader of Hogan Lovells' global Projects, Engineering, and Construction practice, died suddenly on Feb. 7, 2013.  
 
Walton served as State Bar of Texas president during 2007-2008. His initiatives as president included public education, building diversity in the profession, emphasizing the importance of helping lawyers with depression and mental health issues, and increasing support for legal services to the poor. Walton was an ardent supporter of access to justice issues, having served on the board of directors of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation from 2000 to 2006. He was also a past chair of the Texas Bar Foundation.

State Bar President Buck Files, the State Bar staff, and its volunteer leadership extend their thoughts and condolences to Gib’s wife, Martha, his family, and his many friends. 

Obituary: Houston Chronicle

Read Walton's June 2007 Texas Bar Journal profile [PDF].

Lawyers needed to judge competition during ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas

The ABA Law Student Division needs 40 more lawyers and judges to participate as competition judges for the 2012-13 Negotiation Competition National Finals during the ABA Midyear Meeting February 8-9, 2013 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, TX. Specific times for the rounds are as follows:

Friday, February 8
Round 1: 8:30 am to 12:30 pm (30 judges needed)
Round 2: 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm (30 judges needed)

Saturday, February 9
Semifinal Round: 8:30 am to12:30 pm (20 judges needed)
Championship Round: 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm (5 judges needed)

Judges may earn CLE credit if their state CLE Board provides for credit via judging competitions. Texas lawyers may earn self study credit for judging this competition. Texas lawyers may report on their My Bar Page or annual verification report (the 9-digit code is not needed).

Lawyers interested in objectively evaluating the negotiation skills of the top 24 (out of 228) law student teams from across the country and giving them useful feedback are asked to select their round and supply their contact information on the form located at https://abanet.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_8BPPZQ7Js8Lm4pD.

In this competition, two teams of student lawyers negotiate an agreement or settle a dispute between their clients. Competition judges evaluate the teams on how well they serve their clients’ needs.

This year’s topic is Small Business Ventures. Volunteers do not need previous competition judging experience, nor expertise in the subject matter.

Please direct questions to Peggy Pissarreck at 312-988-5621 or peggy.pissarreck@americanbar.org.

New reporting procedure for expunctions

The Texas Data Exchange (TDEx) Bureau, which was created to administer the TDEx system and all related matters, is no longer managed by the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management. Attorneys who represent clients with records due to be expunged should send all correspondence for TDEx, including expunction information, to the Texas Department of Public Safety via mail, e-mail, or fax to the contact information provided below:

Mail
TXDPS
PO Box 4143
Attn: TDEx
Austin 78765-4143

E-mail
tdex@dps.texas.gov

Fax
512.424.5599

Visit the Texas Department of Public Safety website for more information.

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TYLA hosts night out for battered women

The Texas Young Lawyers Association hosted “Ladies Night Out” for the Bastrop battered women’s shelter on Monday evening. Women were treated to dinner and pampered by hair and make-up consultants. The women viewed TYLA’s Healing the Wounds video, which discusses what victims of domestic violence can expect when utilizing the courts. TYLA President C.E. Rhodes, President-elect Kristy Piazza Blanchard, and directors Dustin Howell and Sally Pretorius (pictured right) gave legal advice and answered questions on obtaining a protective order and filing a temporary restraining order. The goal of the program is to educate victims of family violence about their legal rights. For more information on TYLA or to view the video, visit tyla.org.

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Justice Wainwright to leave Court at end of the month

Texas Supreme Court advisory

Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney/public information
512.463.1441 or click for email

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Texas Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright announced his resignation from the Court Wednesday, effective September 30. He will join Bracewell & Giuliani LLP’s Austin office.

Justice Wainwright joined the Court in January 2003. He is the third longest-serving justice on the Court.

“We are losing a great friend,” Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson said. “Dale’s scholarship, his attention to the administration of justice and his dedication to the Court are all part of a legacy that will long outlive his years of service.”
 

Before his election to the Court in November 2002, Wainwright served almost four years as a Harris County district court judge. He came to the bench after private practice with the Haynes and Boone and Andrews Kurth law firms in their Houston offices. He also practiced law in Nashville before moving to Houston.

“My service on the Court has been profoundly satisfying,” Wainwright said. “Over the last decade, I have worked with outstanding jurists at the Court in the development of the law and have made and solidified life-long friendships. I greatly enjoyed private practice, and it is time to return to it.”

Justice Wainwright is a graduate of the University of Chicago School of Law and earned his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in economics from Howard University. While at Howard he studied for a semester at the London School of Economics.

He serves as trustee of the Center for American and International Law board and as an elected member of the American Law Institute.

Justice Wainwright and his wife, Debbie, live in Austin with their 15-year-old son. Their adult sons live in California and Austin.

Wainwright’s term on the Court ends in 2014. An appointment to replace him will be subject to Senate confirmation.

Be aware of revisions to credit card transactions reporting law

There have been important revisions to the credit card transactions reporting law that could negatively impact Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA). Credit card processing companies are required to verify an EXACT match of merchants’ federal tax identification number and their legal name with those on file with the IRS. Lawyers who accept credit cards are considered merchants. If there is not an exact match, beginning January 2013, the IRS will impose a 28% withholding penalty on credit card transactions, including those that lawyers direct to their IOLTA account. Ethical issues could be raised if client funds in the IOLTA are withheld due to the lawyer’s failure to act. Get more information here.

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ABA seeks comment on new drafts of ethics rules on conflicts, choice of law

The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 today released two new drafts of proposed changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The commission seeks comment on the drafts by Oct. 19, 2012.

The first draft proposal addresses consistencies among jurisdictions regarding conflict of interest rules. The second concerns the division of fees between lawyers in two firms where the firms are in jurisdictions with differing rules on nonlawyer ownership of law firms.

To read the drafts and to comment, see the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 website.

 

Comments sought on revised drafts relating to inbound foreign lawyers

The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 is pleased to release for comment, along with a Cover Memo from Co-Chairs Jamie S. Gorelick and Michael Traynor, revised drafts relating to inbound foreign lawyers.

The first two revised drafts describe possible amendments to ABA Model Rule 5.5 and to the ABA Model Rule for Registration of In-House Counsel. The third relates to the ABA Model Rule on Pro Hac Vice Admission.  

Your comments will assist the Commission in its consideration of these issues.

We look forward to hearing from you. Please e-mail your responses by October 12, 2012, to Senior Research Paralegal Natalia Vera at Natalia.Vera@americanbar.org. Comments and submissions may be posted to the Commission’s website. 

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Congrats to our ABA award winners!

The American Bar Association (ABA) has chosen its annual Award of Achievement winners. The awards honor ABA Young Lawyer Divisions that have done exceptional work in implementing public service and bar service projects in local communities. Several Texas affiliates are taking home awards, including Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) for the alcohol poisoning awareness initiative The Unconscious Truth: Physical and Legal Effects of Underage Binge Drinking. Please join us in congratulating our young lawyers and their winning projects:

Texas Young Lawyers Association, Attorneys Without Borders

Houston Young Lawyers Association, The HYLA Minority Report

Texas Young Lawyers Association, Breaking the Silence: A Path to Finding Mental Health

Lubbock County Young Lawyers Association, LCYLA 50th Anniversary Gala

Texas Young Lawyers Association, The Unconscious Truth: Physical and Legal Effects of Underage Binge Drinking

Austin Young Lawyers Association, Permanency Project

Smith County Young Lawyers Association, Smith County National Adoption Day Celebration

Texas Young Lawyers Association, TYLA eNews

Texas Young Lawyers Association, Comprehensive Award of Achievement, 1A Division

Austin Young Lawyers Association, Comprehensive Award of Achievement, 2B Division

Smith County Young Lawyers Association, Comprehensive Award of Achievement, 2C Division

Texas Young Lawyers Association, Most Outstanding Single Project, The Unconscious Truth: Physical and Legal Effects of Underage Binge Drinking

For more information on the ABA Awards of Achievement program and a complete list of winners, please click here.

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Sens. Hutchison, Cornyn Announce Application Process for U.S. District Judge Vacancies in the Eastern, Southern and Western Districts of Texas Invite Qualified Attorneys to Seek Appointment

 WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today announced that they were accepting applications for three judicial vacancies in Texas. A vacancy for U.S. District Judge is open for nomination in the Eastern District of Texas in Texarkana. A second vacancy for U.S. District Judge is open for nomination in the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi and a third is open for nomination in the Western District of Texas in San Antonio.

Sens. Hutchison and Cornyn have established a bipartisan panel of leading attorneys in Texas to help identify the most qualified candidates to fill these vacancies. This panel, known as the Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, will review applications, interview candidates, and make recommendations to the Senators.

“Texas has a long history of being served by accomplished judges,” said Sen. Hutchison. “Serving on the federal bench is one of our most important judicial positions. I look forward to working with interested candidates and making a recommendation to the President.”

“Texans deserve the finest legal minds and ablest professionals to serve as U.S. District Judges throughout our state’s four federal judicial districts. Public service is a great calling, and, as a former judge, I encourage everyone who is interested in serving in these important positions to apply,” said Sen. Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sens. Hutchison and Cornyn invite qualified attorneys to seek appointment to these critical positions by submitting their resumes and completed questionnaires to both lawmakers’ offices.

Completed application packets must be received at the following email addresses no later than June 1, 2012. Email is strongly recommended because of delays due to the enhanced security procedures involving Congressional mail.

The comprehensive questionnaire is available at www.hutchison.senate.gov and www.cornyn.senate.gov. Submitted questionnaires will be reviewed by the Federal Judiciary Evaluation Committee, and selected candidates will be interviewed.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the executive and legislative branches of government share responsibility regarding the appointment of federal judges and U.S. attorneys. The President nominates individuals and the Senate provides its advice and consent on the appointments.

Lisa M. Tatum named President-elect of State Bar of Texas; Kristy Sims Piazza named President-elect of Texas Young Lawyers Association

State Bar of Texas officials last tonight announced that Lisa M. Tatum of San Antonio was elected by the state's lawyers to serve as president-elect of the organization. Kristy Sims Piazza of Plano was elected president-elect of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA). Read the election results. Also announced were those elected to the State Bar of Texas Board Board and TYLA directors. Read the full press release.

Keeping them safe is not enough: foster youth deserve an education lifeline

Contact: Teri Moran
Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families

3 p.m. news conference, May 3, Texas Supreme Court Courtroom

Placing children in foster care might remove them from abuse or neglect, but keeping them in foster care often means a life filled with failures, especially educational failures, partly because they often move from home to home.

That’s the conclusion of a report to be released May 3 that offers a blueprint identifying dozens of ways schools, courts and social workers can help foster kids perform better in school, keep them there until they graduate from high school and prepare them to go on to college.

The report is the conclusion of a select committee of judges and Texas leaders in education and Child Protective Services appointed in 2010 by the Supreme Court of Texas. The report was for the Court’s Permanent Judicial Commission for Children Youth and Families, chaired by Justice Eva Guzman.

The report will be released at a 3 p.m. news conference in the Supreme Court Courtroom in Austin and is the culmination of almost two years of work.

“While there are often more challenges than opportunities in how we meet the needs of our children and youth in care,” Justice Guzman said, “we must strive to provide for these kids as we would our own.”

Justice Guzman praised the efforts of District Judge Patricia Macias from El Paso, who chaired the 14- member Education Committee, its members and the Children’s Commission Assistant Director, Tiffany Roper, for developing concrete strategies to change the system. 

Studies show children in foster care score lower on standardized tests, are more likely to repeat a grade, be truant, suspended or expelled and, finally, give up and drop out of school. Those who grow up in foster care have an increased risk as adults of homelessness and unemployment, chemical dependency, physical- and mental-health problems, and winding up in jail.

"We can no longer allow their education to fall through the cracks," District Judge Patricia Macias said. 

Foster kids fall behind because changing schools means their coursework changes, credits don't always transfer, and school records don't keep up with them, causing enrollment delays. Education Committee members worked for one and a half  years identifying numerous barriers in their respective organizations – courts, Child Protective Services and schools – and proposing practical ways to remove or overcome them.   

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An evening with the Texas Supreme Court

The Appellate Sections of the State Bar of Texas and the Austin Bar Association are sponsoring a program entitled “An Evening with the Texas Supreme Court” on Thursday, April 26, 2012, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel here in Austin. CLE credit (1.5 hours, .50 ethics) has been approved.

The event will feature a panel discussion with Chief Justice Jefferson and Justices Hecht, Medina, Green, Guzman, Johnson, Willett, and Lehrmann. A cocktail reception with the justices will follow.

Register by mailing a $25 check payable to “Civil Appellate Section" to Matthew Ploeger at Vinson & Elkins LLP, 2801 Via Fortuna, Suite 100, Austin, Texas 78746, no later than April 20, 2012. You may also reserve a space by emailing mploeger@velaw.com and paying $30 at the door.

If you have topics you would like to see addressed or specific questions for the justices, please email them to todd@appealsplus.com.

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Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is hosting its 23rd Annual Convention June 1 - 3

by Bree Buchanan

Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (TLCL), a volunteer organization associated with the State Bar of Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP), helps those in the legal profession who are experiencing difficulties because of alcohol and/or substance abuse, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. As part of this effort, TLCL is hosting its 23rd Annual Convention on June 1 – 3, 2012, at the Crowne Plaza Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio.

Opportunities for socializing will be plentiful! The event starts on Friday evening with a speaker and ice cream social. Saturday will begin with a welcome from State Bar President, Bob Black, followed by presentations (CLE credit for up to eight hours is pending) and an evening banquet and keynote speaker. A highlight of the dinner is the presentation of the Ralph Mock Award to a TLCL member who exemplifies the mission of the TLCL program. The weekend’s events will conclude with a brunch. Registration is $220 and early bird room rates are $109 per night.  Scholarships are available to those who cannot pay the registration fee and hotel cost.

Registration forms can be found at www.texasbar.com/tlap. For more information, please contact TLAP staff, Cameron Vann or Bree Buchanan, at 1-800-343-8527.

Texas Bar Foundation announces the Gregory S. Coleman Outstanding Appellate Lawyer Award

By Holly Priestner

The Texas Bar Foundation is pleased to announce a new addition to their annual awards program, the Gregory S. Coleman Outstanding Appellate Lawyer Award. Established by Yetter Coleman LLP in honor and memory of its name partner, Gregory S. Coleman,  the award celebrates the high ideals and standards that Greg demonstrated in his appellate practice and personal life. 

The recipient should exhibit an outstanding appellate practice while maintaining a strong commitment to providing legal services for the underserved. Dedication to mentoring young attorneys should be evident as well as a strong moral compass to guide both professional and personal pursuits.

Applications are now being accepted. Submissions will be accepted in the Texas Bar Foundation office until January 13 at 5:00 p.m. For more information and an application, visit the Texas Bar Foundation website

Award categories include:

  • Dan Rugeley Price Award
  • Lola Wright Foundation Award
  • Outstanding 50 Year Lawyer Award
  • Ronald D. Secrest Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award
  • Samuel Pessarra Outstanding Jurist Award
  • Gregory S. Coleman Outstanding Appellate Lawyer Award – NEW for 2012!

Holly Priestner is the development director for the Texas Bar Foundation.

Wildfire survivors have more time to register for federal assistance

Texas homeowners, renters and business owners who suffered losses caused by the wildfires on or after Aug. 30 have more time to apply for federal disaster recovery assistance. At the request of the state, FEMA is extending the registration deadline to January 6. More details are available on the FEMA website.

“We hope this additional time will ensure that every Texan affected by the wildfires has an opportunity to register for state and federal assistance,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin L. Hannes of FEMA. “We want to be sure to reach all wildfire survivors who still need help."

ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20

At its October 2011 meeting in Denver, Colorado, the Commission decided to bifurcate its presentation of proposals to the ABA House of Delegates to help facilitate that entity's considered action on a significant number of complex and diverse subjects. The Commission will present its first group of proposals in August 2012, and the second set in February 2013. The Commission currently plans to present its proposals relating to mobility issues, outsourcing, and technology in August 2012. The Commission will circulate one more time for comment the drafts of those proposals before it files them with the House of Delegates for consideration in August 2012.  It will do so after discussing at its February 2 - 3, 2012 meeting the recent comments and suggestions received, and after making any necessary revisions to the proposals based upon those comments. The Commission will hold a public hearing in at its February meeting. Details are forthcoming.

The remaining proposals, including those relating to Model Rule 1.7, inbound foreign lawyers, and, if the Commission decides to do so, any proposals relating to alternative law practice structures, will be presented in February 2013. 

On Dec. 2, consistent with the Commission's promise to provide opportunities for input, it published for comment a Cover Memo and Discussion Draft relating to alternative law practice structures. The Commission already has ruled out certain forms of nonlawyer ownership that currently exist in other countries. In particular, the Commission rejected: (a) publicly traded law firms, (b) outside nonlawyer investment or ownership in law firms, and (c) multidisciplinary practices (law firms that offer both legal and non-legal services separately in a single entity). This Discussion Draft relates to a very limited form of nonlawyer ownership in a law firm akin to, but more restrictive than, that which has been permitted for 21 years in the District of Columbia. Before deciding how to proceed, the Commission wants to receive your comments and review any supporting materials you may wish to offer.

The Commission also posted for comment a Cover Memo and Initial Draft Proposal relating to choice of law and alternative law practice structures. Choice of law issues will exist whether or not the Commission ultimately decides to propose any modification to the current prohibition in Model Rule 5.4 on any form of alternative law practice structure. The Commission has heard that lawyers and law firms would benefit from additional guidance in this regard, particularly given the proliferation of domestic and international cross-border practice and the fact that more countries where U.S. lawyers and law firms do business now permit alternative law practice structures (as does the District of Columbia).

The Commission encourages responses to the Discussion Draft and the Initial Draft Proposal by late January 2012, so that they can be discussed at the Commission's February 2-3, 2012 meeting, and further asks that those requiring additional time submit their comments by February 29, 2012.

The documents can be downloaded here [website].

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Reduced State Bar of Texas merchandise, just in time for the holidays

By Kayla Markert

The State Bar of Texas offers a great selection of merchandise, including business card holders, leather coasters, legal pads, computer bags, baseball caps and apparel. Prices for select State Bar of Texas merchandise items have been reduced, just in time for the holidays! 

If you are looking for something to add a special touch to your Christmas tree decorations, look no further. The official State Bar of Texas ornament is a great addition to your collection, and can be yours for only $10.00. The ornament makes a great stocking stuffer, too.

The men’s pullover fleece is perfect for the Texas winter, and has been reduced to just $38.00. Another great item is the men’s button down, which has been discounted to $40.00. With the purchase of either the pullover or button down, we will also send you the State Bar of Texas ornament at no additional charge.

Visit the Shop With Us link on the State Bar of Texas website to see these items as well as other great State Bar of Texas merchandise.

Historic Texas documents to be unveiled at Austin reception

Twenty historic documents that provide significant information about Texas history and many of the characters -- both famous and infamous who contributed to the Lone Star State's colorful past -- will be unveiled for the first time at a reception at the State Bar of Texas Building, 1414 Colorado Street in Austin, on Monday, September 26, 2011, starting at 4 p.m.

The reception will include remarks from former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III -- whose great-grandfather's circuit court "minute" book from Galveston County during the 1860s will be among the documents unveiled -- and State Bar of Texas President Bob Black. The State Bar and Baker Botts L.L.P. are co-hosting the event.

The reception - as well as a hearing in Texas Supreme Court Chambers earlier in the day - will showcase the work of The Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force that for the past year has worked to uncover forgotten and, in many cases, decaying records stored in courthouses across the state.

The Texas Supreme Court created the 19-member Task Force last November and charged its members with preparing a report on the condition of state historical records. Bill Kroger, a partner at Baker Botts L.L.P., and Mark Lambert, Deputy Commissioner of Archives and Records for the Texas General Land Office, co-chaired the Task Force and will attend the reception.

About the Historical Texas Court Records Reception

What: Unveiling for the first time 20 key Texas historical documents
When: 4 p.m. on Monday, September 26, 2011
Where: State Bar of Texas Building, 1414 Colorado Street in Austin
Speakers: James A. Baker, III, former U.S. Secretary of State and senior partner at Baker Botts L.L.P. Bob Black, President of the State Bar of Texas
 

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Texas Lawyers Auxiliary holding awards dinner October 2

The Texas Lawyers Auxiliary is holding an awards dinner on Sunday, October 2 to honor Teacher of the Year Patience LeBlanc and Lifetime Achievement Recipient Judy Abright Troy. The dinner will be at Carmelo's Italian Restaurant in Austin. The Texas Lawyers Auxiliary will hold their board meeting the following day on Monday, October 3 at the Texas Law Center in Austin. For information on how to RSVP for the dinner and to learn more about the Texas Lawyers Auxiliary, you may visit http://www.texasbar.com/tla.

Austin Bar Wildfire Response Team offers attorney volunteer training

The Austin Bar Association is offering a free CLE training for attorney volunteers responding to legal questions and providing assistance to all those affected by the wildfires. The training will be Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at the Austin Bar Association, 816 Congress Ave., Suite 700, Austin.

The cost is free to Austin Bar Association and Austin Young Lawyers Association members. The CLE credit for this training is 2.0 hours MCLE ethics credit.

This training will cover:

  •  Ethics & Pro Bono Service
  •  FEMA & Public Benefits
  •  Home Ownership Issues (title/mortgage, tax & fencing, barn, pens)
  •  Landlord-Tenant Concerns
  •  Insurance and Consumer Law Issues
  •  Pet and Animal Welfare Law

Read the full agenda.

Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas is providing malpractice coverage to lawyers volunteering through the Austin Bar.

To RSVP for this training, please contact Marissa Lara-Arebalo at 512-472-0279, x100 or at Marissa@austinbar.org.

Thank you to all the volunteer attorneys and donors for your support in helping evacuees affected by the Bastrop wildfires.

President declares disaster For Texas

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal aid has been made available to the State of Texas to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by wildfires beginning on August 30, 2011, and continuing. Read the FEMA news release for more details.

Registration is open for the Texas Advanced Paralegal Seminar (TAPS)

The Paralegal Division is sponsoring the Texas Advanced Paralegal Seminar (TAPS) at the Marriott Hotel & Golf Resort in Fort Worth on October 5 - 7, 2011. Online registration for 2011 TAPS is open, and the early registration deadline date is August 26, 2011.

TAPS is a three day multi-track CLE seminar for paralegals. The theme of the seminar is Pearls of Wisdom - Celebrating 30 Years of Excellence. Download the 2011 Texas Advanced Paralegal Seminar Brochure

Paralegal Division members may apply for the TAPS Scholarship. There is also a social sponsorship and an exhibit booth available for the seminar. Interested exhibitors may email TAPSVendors@txpd.org for booth selection.

For more details on the seminar and to register online, you may visit www.txpd.org/taps.
 

Chief Justice Greenhill tribute service today

The late Chief Justice Joe R. Greenhill will be honored in a memorial service at 2 p.m. today in the Texas Supreme Court Courtroom.

Chief Justice Greenhill was the longest-serving justice in the Court’s history.

Tributes will be given by Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas M. Reavley of Houston and U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Brownsville. Reavley was Greenhill’s colleague on the Court when Reavley served from 1968 into 1977. Hanen was a briefing attorney for Greenhill in 1978-79.

Joe R. Greenhill Jr. of Austin will respond for the Greenhill family. Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson will respond for the Court.

The Rev. David A. Boyd, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, where Greenhill was a member, will lead the invocation and benediction.

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May 2011 New Lawyers Induction Ceremony

The May 2011 New Lawyers Induction Ceremony will be held on Monday, May 23, at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. The swearing-in ceremony will be for February 2011 examinees.

All information regarding the swearing-in ceremony is included with the results of those who passed the exam and are eligible to participate in the ceremony. Inductees should arrive early; doors open at 8:30 a.m.

The ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m. and will last approximately 45 minutes. New attorneys will be sworn in en masse toward the end of the ceremony following guest speakers. After the conclusion of the ceremony, attorneys may go to the concourse for refreshments. Information tables will also be set up and staff will be available to answer questions or provide assistance regarding membership requirements and other information about the State Bar.

The Frank C. Erwin Center is located at 15th Street & I-35. Parking is available at 13th & San Jacinto between 12th & 13th Streets (2 hours free), 1815 Trinity & MLK ($10.00), and 15th & Red River ($10.00).

For more information on the induction ceremony, you may visit the Texas Board of Law Examiners FAQs Page.

Texas Minority Attorney Program in Houston May 6

The 2011 Texas Minority Attorney Program (TMAP) will be in Houston tomorrow, May 6.

TMAP is a one-day live CLE seminar and networking event geared towards minority and women solo and small firm practitioners.

Participants have the opportunity to learn more about the issues facing solo and small firms, discuss various client development strategies, and network with area judges and other legal professionals.

TMAP in Houston will be at South Texas College of Law, Garrett-Townes Hall, 1303 San Jacinto Street, 77002.

To register, please visit http://www.texasbarcle.com/CLE/AABuy0.asp?lID=10400&sProductType=EV.

For more information on TMAP 2011, please visit www.texasbar.com/tmap.

Texas Veterans Commission grant to help veterans

The Texas Veterans Commission awarded a $95,000 grant to the Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) to expand its Veterans Legal Hotline for Texas veterans who do not have access to civil legal services. The grant will allow TLSC to increase hotline hours and hire additional staff. Legal services provided to veterans primarily address issues relating to family, employment, housing, consumer, probate, and access to health care and benefits.

For details on State Bar efforts to provide legal help to Texas veterans, please visit our Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans page at www.texasbar.com/tltv.

 

Texas attorneys can now request admission as solicitors in the UK

Texas attorneys can now request admission as solicitors in the United Kingdom. The Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA), which administers lawyer admission to the UK, recently amended its system of recognition for foreign lawyers. The change to the SRA admission requirements required the State Bar of Texas to seek approval for lawyers wanting to apply for admission to the UK. 

The new SRA system required a re-evaluation of the State of Texas as an eligible jurisdiction. A questionnaire was completed and submitted to the SRA for review. The questionnaire covered  admission, discipline, and membership requirements. The survey required a coordinated response from the Texas Board of Law Examiners, Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas, and State Bar Membership Department. 

If you have questions about this change, please call the State Bar of Texas Membership Department at (512)427-1383.

Free clinics to help service members obtain stop loss pay

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Electronic-filing effective today

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

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

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

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

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

National Trial Competition: judges and witnesses needed

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

Call for nominations for 2011 Chief Justice Jack Pope Awards

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

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

Fraud Alert: Con artists targeting lawyers with sophisticated scams

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

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

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

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

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

Sens. Hutchison, Cornyn announce application process for U.S. district judges in the eastern, southern and western districts of Texas

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today announced that they were accepting applications for three judicial vacancies in Texas. A vacancy for U.S. District Judge is open for nomination in the Eastern District of Texas in Sherman. A second vacancy for U.S. District Judge is open for nomination in the Southern District of Texas in Galveston, and third is open for nomination in the Western District of Texas in El Paso. All who applied in 2008 for the Sherman and El Paso vacancies—and remain interested—are encouraged to reapply.

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Guy D. Choate and F.R. "Buck" Files Jr. vie for president-elect spot

The State Bar of Texas has announced that attorneys Guy D. Choate of San Angelo and F.R. “Buck” Files Jr. of Tyler will face off in an election of the state’s lawyers this spring to become president-elect of the State Bar of Texas.

Guy Choate is a partner at Webb Stokes & Sparks, L.L.P. in San Angelo. He is board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Buck Files is a shareholder and founding member of Bain, Files, Jarrett, Bain & Harrison, PC in Tyler, where he practices criminal defense law. He is board certified in criminal law by TBLS, and in criminal trial advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

Click here to read the news release.

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Red Flags Rule does not apply to lawyers

UPDATE 2: On Dec. 20, 2010, President Obama signed this provision into law.

UPDATE: On Dec. 7, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives also approved this legislation.

On Nov. 30, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Red Flag Program Clarification Act of 2010, which clarifies that the Federal Trade Commission's Red Flags Rule does not apply to lawyers, doctors, accountants, and certain other service providers. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.

The Red Flags Rule requires financial organizations and "creditors" to develop programs to prevent identity theft.

The Senate action comes after efforts by bar associations and other organizations to exempt professionals who maintain accounts for clients that generally do not carry risks of identity theft.

For background on this issue, see the American Bar Association website.

October 23 is Texas Paralegal Day

Last year, the Texas State Senate adopted Proclamation No. 1144, recognizing October 23 as Texas Paralegal Day, to honor the paralegal community and the contributions it has made. The State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division encourages everyone to honor paralegals by celebrating Texas Paralegal Day. 

District 8 of the Paralegal Division will be sponsoring a celebration on October 22 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Cassidy’s Irish Pub, 601 N. Water St., Corpus Christi, 78401. 

South Texas Organization of Paralegals, Inc. will be sponsoring "A Salute to Service - 7th Annual San Antonio Paralegal Day Celebration" on October 22 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Bright Shawl, 819 Augusta, San Antonio, 78215. 

And District 3 of the Paralegal Division will be sponsoring the Texas Paralegal/Career Day Celebration on October 26 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Family Law Center, 200 E Weatherford Street, 2nd Floor Auditorium, Fort Worth, 76196.

The State Bar of Texas created The Paralegal Division of The State Bar of Texas on October 23, 1981, becoming the first U.S. bar association to create a separate division for paralegals. For more information about the Paralegal Division and for more details on the above listed celebrations, please visit the Paralegal Division website at www.txpd.org.

Hearings on rules changes continued today in El Paso

The second of nine public education hearings on the proposed rules changes took place today in El Paso. The crowd of 26 was predominantly lawyers. The hearing was again moderated by Roland Johnson, immediate past president, with a presentation by Tom Watkins, chair of the Supreme Court Task Force that studied the issue in depth. Steve James, section representative to the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, was also on hand to listen to local comments. Click here to listen to the recording of today’s hearing

Excerpts of comments and concerns raised today:

  • An attorney from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid raised a question regarding proposed Rule 3.05, having to do with maintaining impartiality of a tribunal, namely, ensuring that the public knows about decisions being made that directly affect them. “We must have transparency to have justice; it is essential that the public have access to information. The proposed rule limits administrative attorneys’ ability to serve their clients.” Her suggestion was to leave the rules language as is concerning ex parte communications.
     
  • A lawyer from the Office of the City Attorney commented on arbitration agreements between attorneys and prospective clients, and how enforcement of the proposed new rule would work with respect to agreements already standing. His question was in regard to whether past agreements would have to be redone to comply with new rules if adopted. While no decisions have been made in that regard, Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson indicated the Court would probably make the rules effective going forward from any date of adoption.
     
  • Mark Osborn, an El Paso attorney who serves on the Professional Ethics Committee, addressed what he deemed a problematic issue with changes to Rule 3.05 pertaining to “pending matters.” “The rules already provide that you can’t unduly influence decision makers, and the proposed change is a green light for rich people to buy boards,” he worried.

In response to a question as to whether the rules would be offered as a package or voted on singly in a forthcoming referendum, Johnson responded that no decision had been made on whether the Bar would make a recommendation about a proposed ballot in its report to the Court.

Watkins added in response to a comment that the rules should not be changed for the sake of change, that the changes had been considered over many years and that all the changes had to be considered within the parameter of first protecting the public, then serving lawyers, and then providing uniformity over multiple jurisdictions. With increasing interstate practice and rapid-fire challenges presented by technology, careful consideration has gone into the drafting of each proposed rule change.

Johnson reminded the crowd that there is still time for the board to recommend changes for the Court to consider, and that the Court is open to input from lawyers and the public, as demonstrated by the presence of Supreme Court justices at the hearings. Today’s hearing was attended by Justice Dale Wainwright. Justice Phil Johnson attended the hearing in Lubbock.

The hearing Wednesday will take place in Houston. Participating lawyers will earn 0.5 hours ethics credit for attending the hearings. Public protection is an important core function of the Bar and citizens are encouraged to offer input, too. Click here to post a comment and click here for details on the proposed rules changes

The State Bar Board of Directors will take up the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the Texas Supreme Court by Oct. 6.

Public education hearings on proposed disciplinary rules changes kick off in Lubbock

More than 40 attorneys and members of the public turned out Monday in Lubbock to learn about proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct at the first of nine public education hearings to be held around the state this week and next.

Roland Johnson, State Bar of Texas immediate past president, provided background information on the issue and served as moderator during a Q&A session. Tom Watkins, chair of the Texas Supreme Court Task Force convened to study the issue, answered questions from those in attendance. Members of the State Bar Board of Directors Becky Baskin Ferguson of Midland and Kyle Lewis of Dumas participated, as well. Click here to listen to the transcript.

A sampling of comments and questions:

  • A lawyer who served on the State Bar committee charged with studying the proposed rules changes remarked that “some of the best legal minds in ethics and professional responsibility have spent thousands of hours of work…on the arduous process, trying to get it [the rules] as close to perfect as possible.”
  • Another attorney voiced a concern regarding whether “confidential” was defined too broadly. Many concerns raised had to do with definitions and interpretations.
  • A representative of a newly formed group, Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability, stressed the importance that the public interest be heard. She posed questions related to confidentiality, informed consent, and issues related to arbitration.
  • A question was posed about “prior contact with client or prospective client” as it relates to clients asking questions on lawyers’ websites, raising the issue of posting rules language to attorneys’ websites.
  • A number of questions were raised around the issue of prohibited sexual relations, including a request to define “sexual relations” and addressing expenses in addition to fees in proposed rule 1.13. Said Watkins in response to one such question, “We’re not trying to regulate sexual conduct with this rule; we’re trying to ensure adequate representation and protection for the client.”

Watkins and Kennon Peterson, Supreme Court rules attorney, responded to a wide range of questions, provided clarification, and offered insight on the process and task at hand.

Rule 3.05 concerning “ex parte communications” drew questions surrounding “pending” and “anticipated” matters, and the intent of state agency decision makers.

Tuesday’s hearing will take place in El Paso. Want to know more or voice your opinion? Click here to see the schedule (pdf) for the remaining hearings. Participating lawyers will earn 0.5 hours ethics credit for attending the hearings. The bar is deeply committed to protecting the public and wants to hear from citizens, too. Click here to post a comment.

The State Bar Board of Directors will take up the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the Texas Supreme Court by Oct. 6.

Click here for MP3 audio of the Lubbock hearing

 

TexasBarCLE to offer free webcast on proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct

TexasBarCLE will be offering a free webcast on the proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The webcast will include a group of panelists and will focus mainly on discussing the proposed amendments, the process by which the proposed amendments were developed, and reasons the changes are needed.

Immediate past president of the State Bar of Texas, Roland Johnson, will serve as moderator for the webcast. Panelists will include Patricia Chamblin, chairwoman of the State Bar Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee; Linda Eads, a past chairwoman of the State Bar’s disciplinary rules committee; Tom Watkins, chairman of the Texas Supreme Court task force on the disciplinary rules; and Kennon Peterson, the Texas Supreme Court’s rules attorney.

The live webcast is free and will be on Wednesday, August 18, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The webcast is worth two hours of MCLE credit, including two hours of ethics credit. Register for the webcast for free on TexasBarCLE.com. To find out more about the proposed amendments, visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.

Bob Black named president-elect; Natalie Cobb Koehler president-elect of TYLA

State Bar of Texas officials announced April 30 that Bob Black of Beaumont was elected by the state's lawyers to serve as president-elect of the organization. Natalie Cobb Koehler of Meridian was elected president-elect of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA).

Bob Black is the managing shareholder at MehaffyWeber, where his practice is concentrated in mediation, arbitration, and civil litigation.

Natalie Cobb Koehler is the Bosque County attorney and a sole practitioner in Meridian.

Black and Koehler will be sworn in as presidents-elect during the State Bar's Annual Meeting June 10-11, 2010 in Fort Worth, and will serve as president of the State Bar and TYLA respectively from June 2011 until June 2012.

Also elected to the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors are Roy Dayton Brantley of College Station, Greg M. Dykeman of Beaumont, Michael W. McDonald of Hillsboro, Christina Melton Crain of Dallas, Jo Ann Merica of Austin, Victor H. Negron, Jr. of San Antonio, Barrett H. Reasoner of Houston, R.W. "Ricky" Richards of Jacksonville, Stephen J. Schechter of Boerne, and Frank E. Stevenson II of Dallas.

Visit www.texasbar.com for additional election information. Click here to read the news release.

 

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Asian Pacific Interest Section seeks nominations for 2010 Justice David Wellington Chew Award

The Asian Pacific Interest Section of the State Bar of Texas (APIS) is seeking nominations for the 2010 Justice David Wellington Chew Award, which honors individuals whose contributions benefit the Asian-Pacific American legal community in Texas. The award was named after Justice Chew, one of the first Asian-Pacific Americans in the Texas judiciary, who currently presides as Chief Justice of the Eighth Court of Appeals.

The deadline for receipt of nominations is Friday, March 26, 2010, at 5:00 p.m. The award will be presented on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at the Fourteenth Annual APIS Conference and Retreat to be held in Austin, Texas . More details can be found at http://texasapis.org/award.php.
 

TYLA helps keep kids safe with new video, "R U Safe? Protecting Yourself in Cyberspace"


“R U Safe? Protecting Yourself in Cyberspace” is designed to educate children and their parents about online dangers and give them the tools needed to be safe while online. The DVD was created by the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) and is available for viewing and downloading at www.tyla.org/rusafe or may be requested by calling 512.427.1529.

The video covers such topics as cyber bullying, social networking sites, chat rooms, sexting, and online predators. Each part of the four-part DVD is 15-20 minutes in length and geared toward a specific age group, helping kids and parents learn how to report suspicious activity and understand the legal ramifications of certain online behavior.

The project is made possible by a generous grant from the Texas Bar Foundation, the largest charitably-funded bar foundation in the country. Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has distributed over $10 million in grants.

Members of the TYLA Cyber Awareness Committee include Brett Busby, Houston, Adrienne Clements, Fort Worth, Kirsten Cohoon, Houston, Alyssa Long, Houston, Erin O’Driscoll, Houston, Jobe Rodgers, Lubbock, and David Anderson, Dallas. 
 

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This month in the Texas Bar Journal

most links below point to PDF files

Transition to Practice — Read about the State Bar's new mentoring initiative for local bar associations. Also included is best practice advice from Texas lawyers for changing times.

Transition from Transitive — Robert Fugate advises translating Latin phrases as part of an article on defining terms of art in legal writing.

Seizing Life — Plano lawyer Jeff Bray recounts his battle with cancer and the life lessons he's learned in "Don't Assume You Have Tomorrow to Get the Big Things Done."

Profiles — Texas lawyers take their passions seriously, as you'll see from stories about Hans Heppe, who has helped create a German-immersion school in Dallas, and Roberta Shaffer, who has been appointed Law Librarian of Congress.

Public hearing on certification standards slated for Sept. 30

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) will hold a hearing in Austin on Sept. 30, 2009, to gather public comment on proposed changes to certification standards covering personal injury trial law, civil trial law, and labor and employment law.

TBLS certifies attorneys and paralegals through a voluntary program which requires that they meet certain standards regarding length of practice, experience, and knowledge in their chosen practice areas. Those who meet the criteria are designated "board certified" by TBLS.

In the areas of personal injury trial law and civil trial law, proposed changes cover the definition of a "trial" in the standards and adjustments to the amount of trial experience an attorney must have to be certified. The labor and employment changes require that an applicant maintain a certain amount of his or her practice in Texas.

TBLS director Gary McNeil related that initial feedback regarding proposed changes to the trial standards involves concerns that trial experience is harder to obtain because fewer and fewer cases are tried before juries. After public input is received, the Texas Board of Legal Specialization is expected to submit final proposed changes to the Supreme Court of Texas late this fall.

Click here to read the proposed changes, and visit TBLS.org for more information about specialty certification.

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This month in the Texas Bar Journal

most links below point to PDF files

Legislative Update — Royce Poinsett provides an overview of the 81st Texas Legislature and how it may affect Texas lawyers, from the revised franchise tax to the fate of the "Pork Chopper Bill." For updates on specific areas of practice, from Criminal Law to Insurance Law, click here.

Lawyers, Laptops, and the Border — Odean Volker discusses electronic searches and seizures and their implications on attorney-client privilege. Learn what you should say if a customs official seeks to inspect electronically stored privileged documents.

Annual Meeting CoverageRead how State Bar President Harper Estes nearly stole the show from musician Charlie Robison, Justice Antonin Scalia's linguistic pet peeves, and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's awkward picnic with her former boss, LBJ.

Profiles — Texas lawyers are really into their hobbies, as you'll see from stories about Kent Durham, part of a three-generation trick-roping family, and Rick Evans, a telecommuting steamship captain.

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ABA sues FTC over the Red Flags Rule

Yesterday the American Bar Association announced it had filed suit seeking to bar the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from applying the Red Flags Rule to lawyers. The Red Flags Rule requires "creditors" and "financial institutions" with covered accounts to implement programs to identify, detect, and respond to warning signs of identity theft. There has been some confusion regarding which businesses the rule does and does not apply to.

In late July, the FTC delayed enforcement of the rule until Nov. 1, 2009, and indicated in a press release that it would soon provide additional guidance regarding how to determine whether the rule applies to a particular business.

The ABA claims that:

"the FTC has failed 'to articulate, among other things: a rational connection between the practice of law and identity theft; an explanation of how the manner in which lawyers bill their clients can be considered an extension of credit under the FACTA; or any legally supportable basis for application of the Red Flags Rule to lawyers engaged in the practice of law.'"

For more on the suit, see the ABA's press release and this report by the National Law Journal.

For details on the Red Flags Rule, see the FTC's How-To Guide for Business.

Scumbag Billionaire: Dallas legal pros entertain, for a cause

"Scumbag Billionaire" is the title of the 24th Bar None variety show, where Dallas-area attorneys, judges, paralegals, and other legal professionals prove each year that the legal profession has plenty of humor and creative talent.

This year's show runs June 17-20 at the Greer Garson Theatre on the SMU campus. All proceeds benefit Sarah T. Hughes Diversity Scholarships at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, for which Bar None has raised more than $1.1 million over the years.

For tickets, visit BarNoneShow.com

Check out these videos of past Bar None performances: