Video coverage of 2014 Annual Meeting now on Texas Bar TV

The State Bar of Texas has captured some of the highlights from the 2014 Annual Meeting in Austin and posted videos from the event to its Texas Bar TV YouTube channel.

Watch Bench Bar Breakfast keynote speakers Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Austin lawyer Larry Temple, who served as special counsel to LBJ, discuss Johnson’s role in passing the Civil Rights Act, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and see Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon keynote speaker Bobby R. Inman, former director of the National Security Agency, discuss security threats around the world. 

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Justice Guzman appointed new Texas Supreme Court liaison to Texas Access to Justice Commission, Foundation

Justice Eva M. Guzman has been appointed liaison to the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the foundation that supports the commission’s work to provide civil legal services to the poor. Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, who had been liaison to the commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation since 2010, announced Justice Guzman’s new assignment. Her appointment took effect July 1.

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Texas commission set to begin operations in September

The Supreme Court of Texas has appointed nine members to serve staggered terms on the newly created Judicial Branch Certification Commission.

Beginning Sept. 1, 2014, certification, registration, licensing, and compliance functions for court reporters and court reporting firms, professional guardians, process servers, and licensed court interpreters will be combined, fitting into the JBCC. The Court Reporters Certification Board, Guardianship Certification Board, and Process Server Review Board will cease to exist, and the Licensed Court Interpreter program at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation will be transferred to the JBCC. Each profession will continue to have advisory boards.

 

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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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Editorial: Community Effort Needed to Bring our Men and Women in Uniform all the Way Home

Nathan Hecht
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas

More than 1.6 million veterans call our great state of Texas home. On this Veteran's Day we honor each and every one of our men and women in uniform for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our safety and freedom. All Texans share in the important responsibility of assisting our veterans in transitioning from military to everyday life. It’s a community wide effort and we need to be doing more. Our veterans deserve more. 

Many veterans come home empowered by their time in the military, able to adjust with little to no assistance. For others, overcoming demons arising from their experiences in combat takes time and support.

Justice for Vets, a national organization committed to the expansion of veterans treatment programs reports that, out of the more than 2.4 million men and women who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 460,000 suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression, and 345,000 suffer from an alcohol or drug addiction. If treatment isn’t received, the consequences can be dire: unemployment, homelessness, criminal convictions and even suicide. 

A downward spiral from war to jail should not be our veterans' narrative. Texas’ Judicial Branch is stepping up its efforts to ensure that our veterans' futures are on a positive path. The state’s first Veterans Court started in Harris County in 2009. Since then 11 additional courts have opened their doors with three more scheduled to come online next year in Williamson, Webb and Cameron counties. These courts’ specialized dockets are solely dedicated to veterans in an effort to keep them out of our criminal justice system.

They operate first by identifying qualifying veterans following an arrest. The most common offenses are DWI, assault, theft and domestic violence. The courts, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and a team of prosecutors, defense attorneys and others then work together to create an intense treatment program that provides structure, support and accountability.

Veterans are often required to come to court before their judge every one or two weeks for a progress report in addition to their inpatient and outpatient treatment regimen. If a veteran successfully completes the nine month to two year program, the charge is cleared from their record.

Veterans report that the programs restore their dignity, build their self confidence and give them hope. The recidivism rate is evidence that Veterans Courts need to continue and expand. Travis County has graduated 40 Veterans from its program since it began in November of 2010.  As of today, only one graduate has been re-arrested.

Texas needs to continue to provide support and funding for these programs. Our communities would be well served by having more Veterans Courts. The programs play a vital role, and I am proud the Texas Judiciary is playing a critical role in bringing our men and women in uniform all the way home. 

Nathan Hecht is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. He is the longest-serving appellate justice in Texas history. Prior to his judicial service he was a lieutenant in the US Navy Reserve Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAGC). Follow him on Twitter: @NathanLHecht or contact him at Nathan.Hecht@txcourts.gov

Gov. Perry Appoints Brown to Supreme Court of Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation announce possible remedies for the legal aid funding shortfall creating risks for low-income Texans and the state

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation hosted a news conference yesterday at the Texas State Capitol to emphasize the ongoing funding crisis in the Texas legal aid system. At the conference, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison to access to justice issues, announced a comprehensive legislative plan to address the funding crisis. In addition, a new economic impact study by The Perryman Group was announced.

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Boyd Sworn in as Texas Supreme Court Justice

Jeffrey S. Boyd took the oath of office Monday to become the newest member of the Texas Supreme Court. Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson administered the oath, and Boyd’s wife, Jackie, held the Bible.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Boyd to fill the position vacated by Justice Dale Wainwright, who resigned to practice law in the private sector. Boyd is Perry’s former chief of staff and also has served as general counsel for the Governor’s Office.

He is a former senior partner in the Austin office of Thompson and Knight, L.L.P., and served as deputy attorney general for civil litigation. Boyd, a past member of the State Bar of Texas Taskforce on Court Administration, is a graduate of Round Rock High School, Abilene Christian University and the Pepperdine University School of Law.