Scholarship luncheon to benefit Hispanic law students

The Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation will meet on Wednesday, Aug. 20, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Houston for its annual scholarship luncheon, which provides financial support to six law students who best exemplify leadership, commitment, justice, and equality. Each Houston-based law school selects two scholarship recipients.

“It is important that we encourage a new generation of lawyers to not only be great lawyers but to also give back to the legal community,” said attorney Benny Agosto Jr., founder of the MABATx Foundation and partner in Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend in Houston.

Now in its ninth year, the luncheon will honor community pioneers who demonstrate the ideals of the foundation, including Michael and David Cordúa of Cordúa Restaurants (Outstanding Service as Entrepreneurs); Daniel Velasco, marketing manager of the Houston Texans (Outstanding Service in the Media); Harris County Sheriff Deputies (Outstanding Service as Public Servants); and Judge Elsa Alcala of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (Outstanding Service to the State of Texas).

Judge Denise Collins of the 208th Criminal Court will deliver a keynote address.

Established in 2006, the MABTx Foundation is a nonprofit organization that encourages justice and leadership within the Hispanic community. Since its beginning, the foundation has hosted the annual scholarship luncheon as its principal fundraising effort for the year. To date, the group has raised over $150,000 to benefit law students and further the organization’s purpose.

For more information on the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation, contact Benny Agosto Jr. at bagosto@abrahamwatkins.com, (713) 222-7211, or by letter at 800 Commerce St., Houston 77002.

High school students prepare for state mock trial championship in March

On March 7 and 8, teams from 24 Texas high schools will compete at the 35th Annual Texas High School Mock Trial Competition in Dallas. These teams have made it to the final championship after winning regional contests among approximately 60 high schools during January and February, and are vying for the opportunity to represent the state at the national tournament in Madison, Wis. in May.

 

 

While the participating teenagers love the excitement of portraying prosecutors, defense attorneys, and witnesses during a hypothetical civil case before a jury and judge, the competition’s organizers hope the event also will teach students about the inner workings of our justice system and provide them with an arena to think on their feet while presenting their arguments and/or testimonies.

The Dallas Bar Association has sponsored the statewide competition for more than three decades and awarded approximately $300,000 in scholarships. Dallas area attorneys and judges help with the program by serving as “jurors,” judges, mock trial clinic instructors, and advisers. They also write the mock case that is presented at the state competition each year. More information is available at dallasbar.org/mocktrial.

Federal judge's book comforts kids with jailed parents

U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. GilmoreIn 2008, U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (pictured) asked a classroom of 50 girls in Houston whether any of them had a parent in prison. Every one raised her hand.

“70 percent of children who have incarcerated parents are later incarcerated themselves, says Gilmore. “They see that as their path.” As a judge, she had seen first-hand how incarceration and its collateral damage tears families apart.

Judge Gilmore and her friend, psychiatrist Dr. Janice M. Beal, realized there was not a tool to help these children through their feelings of isolation, anger, fear, sadness, and guilt. These children are often under the burden of keeping a family secret, when in fact they should be talking about their feelings. So Gilmore and Beal self-published a coloring book, “A Boy Named Rocky,” as a therapeutic resource for schools and counselors to help realize they’re not alone or to blame for their situation.

The book tells the story of Rocky, whose mother is in jail, how this affects him, and how he finds help. The last page of the book is a form letter than kids can fill out and send to parents in jail to express their feelings. Parents are asked to write back and accept responsibility for their actions.

Gilmore and Beal have distributed more than 7,500 copies of the book, which are used by every Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Texas and many schools, churches, and prisons.

For children, just talking about their situation is a huge relief. “When they hear the story, a lot of kids say, ‘This is my story! This is my story! Nobody’s ever told my story before,’” says Gilmore. “They’re happy to know they’re not the only ones dealing with an issue like this.”

Judge Gilmore related the story of a respected deacon at her church who came up to her, crying, after a reading of the coloring book. “He told me the book dredged up feelings he hadn’t had in 50 years,” she said. “His father was in prison when he was a child and it was only his mother’s grit and determination that kept him out of trouble himself."

In addition to a sequel to “A Boy Named Rocky,” Judge Gilmore is working on three books about adoption, inspired by her own adoption of a son.

For more on the book, visit www.4theloveofkids.com

Editor’s note: We learned about this story in Texas Bar Circle, our exclusive network of Texas lawyers. Join today and share your story at www.TexasBarCircle.com