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.
  • On May 1, HBA President David Chaumette, Harris County Administrative Judge Robert Schaffer, and District Clerk Chris Daniel will pass out pocket-size copies of the Constitution to all citizens who report for jury duty at the Harris County Jury Assembly Room.
  • Also on May 1, the HBA and the Harris County judges will present the annual Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards for outstanding pro bono legal services to law firms, a corporation, and an individual in a noon ceremony at the Civil Courthouse.
  • Attorney/judge teams will hold interactive “Dialogues” on the importance of voting in a number of high school classes in late April through mid-May.
  • Law Day posters created by elementary and middle school students will be on display in several office buildings and courthouses in downtown Houston from April 28 to May 9.

 

Crash course on jury duty for high school seniors

Many people dread jury duty, which is associated with detouring from our all-too-comfortable daily routines. High school seniors are no different, and with a multitude of enticing alternate options for how to spend their time, they likely are more susceptible to developing jury duty apathy.

On Nov. 7, a program of the Houston Bar Association will bring together 10 Harris County judges to teach Houston high school seniors about the importance of jury duty, as well as how juries are selected. Each judge works on humanizing the jury process for the students and dispelling common jury duty myths. The judge leads its class through mock questioning, treating the students as if they were potential jurors, and then selects a jury panel and discusses what made those students appropriate choices.

HBA created the Voir Dire Program in 2000 during a period of low juror turnout in Harris County. It seeks to increase the number of people who show up for jury duty in order to create a large, diverse jury pool for efficient administration of justice.

“Jury duty is not only a civic duty but a privilege,” said Judge Paula Goodhart of the Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 1. “And the less intimidating and more informative we can make it for young adults, the more likely they will respond when called to duty.”