As part of the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans initiative, El Paso Lawyers for Patriots, an arm of the El Paso Bar Association, is holding a two-day CLE aimed at preparing legal professionals to better address the legal needs of the military community. The course will be held May 20-21, 2011, at Fort Bliss in El Paso, with topics ranging from initial military client interview to jurisdiction and service of process and from the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to military retirement issues, family law issues, and more. Featured speakers include Capt. Evan Seamone of the Judge Advocate General's Corps, Prof. Kyndra R. Rotunda of UC Berkeley School of Law and Executive Director of AMVETS Legal Clinic, and LTC George McHugh, Liaison Officer from the Department of Defense to the ABA's Military Pro Bono Project. Click here for more information or here to register.
In an order posted Thursday, the Supreme Court of Texas amended law-practice rules to allow military attorneys stationed in Texas but licensed elsewhere to represent military service members or their dependents in certain civil matters in state courts or tribunals.
The new rule, limited to lower-grade military personnel or their immediate family members, takes effect Friday. It allows military attorneys licensed and in good standing in other states, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territories to register with the Texas Board of Legal Examiners. Military attorneys cannot be paid for these cases and must obtain approval from a supervising military attorney before taking a case under the rule.
"This effort is another step by the Court to help people without financial resources find legal help when they might otherwise go without," said Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson. "The common legal problems these military personnel and their families face are beyond the reach of legal aid organizations, which are facing their own financial struggles."
State Bar President Terry Tottenham said the Supreme Court's military limited-practice rule "will complement the State Bar's initiative, Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, and better enable our service members to receive the necessary legal assistance they deserve and have earned through their sacrifices in defense of our country."
The U.S. Armed Forces protect citizens’ rights, including the right to access to justice. The Houston Bar Association and Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program have found a way to ensure that Houston veterans receive access to justice in return.
Approximately 1/3 of Houston veterans are homeless and many more are living on modest means, unable to afford an attorney. Recognizing the severity of this issue, the Houston Bar Association implemented a program to aid our nation’s heroes. Every Friday from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., volunteers from the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program staff a free legal clinic held at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. Any veteran who attends receives a free legal consultation. Many times, questions are basic and the legal need is fulfilled. If by chance a veteran has an ongoing legal issue, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program determines if the veteran is eligible for free representation and connects qualified veterans with a volunteer attorney.
The attendance at the legal clinics has grown - attorneys are now seeing 30 attorneys a week. As the clinics’ success grew, the Houston Bar has expanded the program to include services at veteran transition homes and other special legal clinics. Houston lawyers agree that the volunteer efforts are very fulfilling and that attorneys are building close bonds with local veterans.
Volunteer attorney Denise Scofield described the relationships, “We know our clients, we receive Christmas cards, announcements about grandchildren, and emails. “
The Houston Bar Association held a training seminar on Friday, November 13 to assist with a statewide initiative. Speakers included volunteer attorneys who have experience siding veterans, Judge Mark Cater who developed the first veterans court in Texas, and executive staff members of the Michael E DeBakey VA Medical Center. The State Bar of Texas will implement a program in June of 2010, Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans.
Above: On November 13, State Bar Director Allan DuBois of San Antonio discusses his experience handling a VA disability case.