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.

“The goal is to have fun. It’s educational in a fun sense,” said Lee, adding that students also received a lesson on constitutional rights from Bexar County District Court Judge Michael Mery on Wednesday.

The trial is set for 9 a.m. Saturday at the John H. Wood Jr. U.S. Courthouse before Judge Edward C. Prado. Members of Boy Scout Troop 285 will make up both the prosecution and the defense teams, and fourth-graders from James Bonham Academy will serve as the jury.

A Christmas party will occur after the trial … assuming Santa is acquitted. The prosecution has yet to secure a conviction in the program’s history (it’s based on “Miracle on 34th Street”), but Lee said the lead prosecutor is feeling confident this time.

“He said Santa Claus is going down."

For more information about the program, call Lee at 210-886-9500.

San Antonio lawyer, law student honored at luncheon

State Bar of Texas President Roland Johnson and President-elect Terry Tottenham visited the San Antonio Bar Association (SABA) luncheon today. SABA lawyers are actively involved in mentoring young lawyers, providing legal services to the poor, and helping local military personnel.

In addition to a CLE presentation by United States Circuit Judge Edward C. Prado, two special awards were given during today's luncheon.

Every year, the San Antonio Bar President recognizes one bar member who has gone above and beyond in service to the bar with the President's Award. This year's recipient is Carl Werner. Werner used his expertise on probate, wills, and estates to incorporate a wills clinic into the bar's Community Justice Program. His energy extended to recruiting and mentoring volunteers to the extent that in 2011, a wills clinic will be offered monthly.

For the first time, AT&T presented the First Annual AT&T Excellence in Pro Bono Award. AT&T has played an instrumental role in supporting the pro bono efforts in San Antonio. As the Community Justice Program continues to grow and the number of volunteers increases, the administrative workload becomes mountainous. The new award established AT&T will offer a St. Mary's law student a scholarship in return for working five hours a week for the Community Justice Program.

The first recipient of the AT&T Excellence in Pro Bono Award is Kimbell Ward. Ward, a 2L law student, was chosen because of her high class ranking, a highly complimentary letter from a mentor, and her passionate essay about the importance of pro bono efforts. In addition to her volunteer efforts at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and Catholic Charities Call-a-Lawyer, Ward has served as president of the St. Mary's Criminal Defense Law Bar. It would be remiss not to mention that Ward is also a mother of two. Texas lawyers can expect great work from future lawyer Kimbell Ward.