Native American Law Conference welcomes home original founders of section

Friday was a special homecoming celebration at the annual Native American Law Conference as members welcomed back leaders who founded the Native American Law Section of the State Bar of Texas almost 21 years ago. The conference took place at the Texas Law Center in Austin on Jan. 30.


Above, from top: Original founders and leaders of the Native American Law Section of the State Bar. The Chickasaw Nation Stomp Dance Troupe performs a traditional dance during the section's honoring ceremony. Photographs courtesy of Jim Sipowicz, Shell Media Inc., Canopy Studios.

Lawyers from several tribes, including the Chickasaw, Comanche, Alabama-Coushatta, and more, came to discuss important national matters, such as Native American spirituality and the law, the planned Keystone Pipeline’s possible disturbance of sacred sites, legal cases involving issues like untaxed gasoline, and the Indian Child Welfare Act. State Bar Immediate Past-President Lisa M. Tatum, who has Chickasaw and Cherokee heritage, presented on various bar programs. After playing an animated video of the Native American Code Talkers explaining their importance during World War II, a clip from her I was the first. Vote for Me! project, Tatum reflected on her years of presidential service, which will come to an end this June.

Before lunch, section members and State Bar employees filled the Texas Law Center lobby for the section’s honoring ceremony, which included traditional dancing, singing, and drumming by the Chickasaw Nation Stomp Dance Troupe followed by the Eagle Point Singers. Attendees were also delighted to spend time with Bill Voelker and Troy, co-directors of Sia, the Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative, who brought two spiritual birds with them, a golden eagle and a White Medicine Bird (a rare white red-tailed hawk revered by the Comanche and other tribes).

For more information on the Native American Law Section of the State Bar, go to

Above, from top: Troy of SIA, the Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative, and male golden eagle Nuepi (which means “Tornado” in Comanche). A member of the Eagle Point Singers performs a traditional fancy shawl dance during the section's honoring ceremony. Photographs courtesy of Jim Sipowicz, Shell Media Inc., Canopy Studios.


Hispanic Issues Section celebrates 35th year

Now in its 35th year, the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas has been active addressing statewide matters, such as helping to create a bar association coalition to address the unaccompanied minors situation. The coalition is at work providing training and CLE seminars to attorneys and other legal professionals who are interested in volunteering their time.

Members of the coalition currently include:

  • Dallas Hispanic Bar Association
  • Hidalgo County Bar Association
  • Hispanic Bar Association of Austin
  • Hispanic Bar Association of Houston
  • Mexican American Bar Association of Houston
  • Mexican American Bar Association of San Antonio
  • Laredo-Webb County Bar Association
  • Mexican American Bar Association of Texas
  • Mexican American Bar of Texas Foundation
  • Hispanic National Bar Association

The Dallas Hispanic Bar Association—at the request of the Dallas Bar Association—was the first coalition member to organize a CLE on unaccompanied minors and relevant immigration law. This was followed by Houston-area bar associations, which sponsored a CLE on July 31, 2014, that attracted 500 attendees—including State Bar of Texas President Trey Apffel—and spurred a thank you letter from the Harris County Attorney’s Office. Soon after, the Mexican American Bar Association of San Antonio and the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston followed suit and held CLEs for attorneys in their areas. The Hidalgo County Bar Association has scheduled a CLE for September 9, 2014. For a more comprehensive listing of all coalition events, go to

"All coalition members are working in tandem with different legal organizations, law schools, and nonprofit groups,” said Angelica Hernandez, a director of the Hispanic Issues Section Council, in the group’s recent report. “We still have more work in front of us, but what pride to see the leadership of the legal profession. We support and salute one another. We congratulate all those who are volunteering their time and efforts to address both the humanitarian and legal needs of our community.”

In other section news, Chair Benny Agosto Jr. recently was appointed to the State Bar of Texas Diversity Consortium and also was presented with the 2014 Trailblazer Outside Counsel of the Year Award by the State Bar of Texas Office of Minority Affairs and the Texas Minority Counsel Program. For more information or to join the Hispanic Issues Section, go to

Update: Pro Bono Challenge brings out competitive spirit

In October, the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division issued a Pro Bono Challenge to the sections of the State Bar. The idea was to recognize the sections for their pro bono participation and add to the competitive spirit among them.

It appears to be working.

Since the challenge began, members have assigned approximately 9,505 pro bono hours to their respective sections! Below are the current leaders.

Top 7 Sections by Number of Hours Reported:
1. Family Law - 2,579
2. Immigration and Nationality Law - 1,168
3. Litigation - 871
4. Criminal Justice - 761
5. Real Estate, Probate, and Trust Law - 705
6. Appellate - 652
7. General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm - 617

Top 7 Sections by Percentage Participation:
1. Immigration and Nationality Law
2. Family Law
3. Criminal Justice
4. Alternative Dispute Resolution
5. Appellate
6. Individual Rights and Responsibilities
7. Bankruptcy Law

The challenge will run through the end of the bar year (May 31, 2014), so it is not too late to take a pro bono case and report the hours. If you have any questions about finding a pro bono opportunity or reporting, please contact the Legal Access Division at 800-204-2222, ext. 1837, or

Instructions for Pro Bono Challenge:
To log pro bono hours, attorneys simply log in to their My Bar Page and click on the Add Pro Bono Hours page. Now members can also assign their hours to a section or combination of sections by making multiple entries through the “add hours” tab. (Members may only count their pro bono hours once, though.) Winners of the Pro Bono Challenge will be selected in two categories: (1) the highest number of hours reported by a section; and (2) the highest percentage of section members reporting pro bono hours. Winners will be recognized at a special reception at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, in the Texas Bar Journal, and in other media.

Native American Law Section Holds CLE Conference

On Jan. 17, the Native American Law Section of the State Bar of Texas held its annual CLE conference at the Texas Law Center in Austin. A highlight of this annual event, treasurer and section council member Jay Hurst presented State Bar President Lisa M. Tatum with a Martial Eagle feather as a sign of honor. Tatum, who has some Chickasaw and Cherokee heritage, said she was surprised and truly honored to receive the special gift. (The feather was from a non-native eagle species and had been certified as not falling under the jurisdiction of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or Bald Eagle Act.)

Tatum then led a CLE session on her presidential initiatives, such as the educational program I was the first! Vote for me and the Care Kit, which provides resources for attorneys hosting pro bono clinics. Another highlight of the conference was the session on sovereignty led by Gregory A. Smith, partner in Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker in Washington, D.C., as well as a ceremony of traditional Native American singing, drumming, and dancing by the Eagle Point Singers. One song honored Tatum and two award winners, Shannon Speed, who received the section’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and Jo Ann Battise, who received the Tom Diamond Award of Excellence. 

A variety of additional CLE sessions were offered, including “Adoption of Native American Children,” “An Overview of Important Federal Indian Law Cases in 2013 and a Look Toward 2014,” “Legal Issues Specific to Native American and Indigenous Women,” and “Gaming.”

Asian Pacific Interest Section seeks nominations for 2010 Justice David Wellington Chew Award

The Asian Pacific Interest Section of the State Bar of Texas (APIS) is seeking nominations for the 2010 Justice David Wellington Chew Award, which honors individuals whose contributions benefit the Asian-Pacific American legal community in Texas. The award was named after Justice Chew, one of the first Asian-Pacific Americans in the Texas judiciary, who currently presides as Chief Justice of the Eighth Court of Appeals.

The deadline for receipt of nominations is Friday, March 26, 2010, at 5:00 p.m. The award will be presented on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at the Fourteenth Annual APIS Conference and Retreat to be held in Austin, Texas . More details can be found at