State Bar of Texas launches webpage for lawyers interested in helping unaccompanied minors

The State Bar of Texas has launched a new webpage to keep attorneys informed of ways they can volunteer to help serve the legal needs of unaccompanied minors who are arriving in our courts system.

Through texasbar.com/volunteer, the State Bar is providing up-to-date information on training and pro bono opportunities, helpful websites, and other useful information for attorneys who want to get involved or learn more. The webpage allows attorneys to submit a volunteer form, which will be reviewed by State Bar staff and directed to the appropriate legal aid provider.

Learn more by visiting the webpage

 

State Bar welcomes new board directors

The State Bar of Texas recently welcomed new members to its board of directors at the 2014 Annual Meeting held in Austin on June 26-27, 2014. These included 2014-2015 State Bar President-elect Allan Dubois, Texas Young Lawyers Association President-elect Barrett Thomas, 13 new directors, two liaisons, and two section representatives.

 

Above: Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson swears in new members of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors on June 26 during the 2014 Annual Meeting in Austin.

DIRECTORS (terms expiring in 2017)

Allan Dubois, State Bar president-elect, of the Law Office of Allan K. Dubois in San Antonio

Barrett Thomas, TYLA president-elect, of the Thomas Firm in Sweetwater

Barbara R. Bass, public member, of Gollob Morgan Peddy in Tyler

Amy Bryan, District 14 member, of Fraser, Wilson & Bryan in Stephenville

E. Leon Carter, District 6 – Place 4 member, of Carter Scholer Arnett Hamada in Dallas

David Chaumette, District 4 – Place 2 member, of Chaumette in Houston

Jose “Joe” Escobedo Jr., District 12 member, of Escobedo, Tippit & Cardenas in McAllen

Sylvia Borunda Firth, minority director, from El Paso

Joe “Rice” Horkey Jr., public member, from Lubbock

Joseph Indelicato Jr., District 4 – Place 7 member, of Joseph Indelicato Jr. in Houston

John Jansonius, District 6 – Place 3 member, of Jackson Walker in Dallas

Mary Abbott Martin, District 4 – Place 4 member, of Peckham in Houston

Brian Miller, District 11 member, of Royston Rayzor Vickery & Williams in Corpus Christi

Ruben Robles, District 17 member, of Robles, Bracken & Hughes in El Paso

Lance Sharp, District 9 – Place 1 member, of the Sharp Firm in Austin

LIASONS (terms expiring in 2015)

Hon. Ed Kinkeade, federal judiciary liaison, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas

Hon. David Evans, judicial section liaison, of the 48th District Court in Fort Worth

SECTION REPRESENTATIVES (terms expiring in 2017)

Tina Green, section representative to the board (medium-sized), of Capshaw Green in Texarkana

Pat Maher, section representative to the board (large-sized), of Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller in Fort Worth

State Bar of Texas education project wins national award

A State Bar of Texas project educating elementary students on important firsts in U.S. and Texas history has been awarded a National Association of Bar Executives LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award. The award honors outstanding bar public service and law-related education programs.

 

The State Bar of Texas’s I was the First. Vote for Me! project was unanimously selected in the category of state bars with more than 18,000 members and was commended for incorporating history, reading, math, and voting into one program.

I was the First. Vote for Me!, an initiative of 2013-2014 State Bar of Texas President Lisa Tatum of San Antonio, is an interactive program educating elementary students about important figures in U.S. and Texas history included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards.

Through 30-second animations, nearly two dozen historic figures share their significance while their words are displayed “karaoke style” across the bottom of the screen. After viewing the animations, students can vote on their favorite animation and view the results in a graph.

In addition to the web-based materials, a book is available in hard copy and e-reader. Both the website and book are prepared in English and Spanish.

 

Family Eldercare's Larson honored with 2014 Boots on the Ground Award

Austin attorney Christine P. “Chris” Larson is the 2014 recipient of the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award. 

The annual award, which recognizes exemplary pro bono or legal services program attorneys, was presented May 13 in Austin during the 2014 Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans. The Texas Access to Justice Commission hosts the event, which is cosponsored by the State Bar of Texas. 

“I’m obviously honored by this award and grateful that the commission values all that is involved in working with a population that cannot speak for itself,” said Larson, the director of guardianship estate services at Austin’s Family Eldercare, which provides essential services to seniors, adults with disabilities, and caregivers. “I love what I do and the clients I have the opportunity to advocate for. I work with an incredible group of people at Family Eldercare who are just as passionate as I am for the work we do.” 

Larson oversees the organization’s estate services program, which provides legal protections to indigent, severely disabled, ill, or cognitively impaired individuals who are not able to meet their own financial, medical, and legal affairs and do not have family or friends to take on that role. Under her leadership, the program has grown substantially, added staff, and is able to serve dozens of additional low-income clients.

Larson began her career as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Central Texas, where she worked primarily on family law, domestic violence, and custody cases representing low-income families and senior citizens. Being in private practice for more than 20 years allowed her to specialize in estate planning, probate, guardianship, elder law, and family law, and she also served as an attorney ad litem in legal aid cases.

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and its co-sponsor, the State Bar of Texas, honored veterans throughout the state at the gala, which raised $348,450. Proceeds will be distributed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and dedicated to the provision of civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans. These services assist in addressing legal issues related to marital problems, difficulties in getting medical or disability benefits, wrongful foreclosures, and other situations that may arise due to a veteran’s absence during military service. 

State Bar holds Texas Citizen Bee Finals in Austin

Austin recently played host to the Texas Citizen Bee Finals, a statewide civics education competition funded by the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation.

The event, organized by the State Bar of Texas, offers teachers and high school students an exciting way to study America’s heritage. Students use an online study guide program created by the Bill of Rights Institute that covers the U.S. Constitution and other important documents, people, issues, civic values, and skills. The study guide can be found here.

The winning student from each regional competition competes in the state competition, which was held April 26 at the Texas Law Center and Texas State Capitol. News anchor John McCaa of WFAA-TV in Dallas served as moderator. 

 

All contestants take a timed, multiple choice written examination, which counts as 65 percent of the final score. Students then compete in an oral round, making up 35 percent of the score, in which they answer one question from each of the categories.

The top four students are listed below.

1st Place
Thomas Cobb, Beaumont
Prize: $1,000 scholarship

2nd Place & Civic Conversation
Ayesha Rahman, Richardson
Prize: $1,250 scholarship

3rd Place
Angelo Ganno, McAllen
Prize: $500 Scholarship

4th Place
DaVonté Wilson, Tyler
Prize: $250 Scholarship

75th anniversary timeline highlights State Bar of Texas history

On April 19, 1939, Texas Gov. Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel signed the State Bar Act, which created the State Bar of Texas.

To help mark the occasion of our 75th anniversary, we’ve created an interactive timeline at texasbar.com/75.

From the formation of the first bar association in Texas in April 1868 to the State Bar of Texas’s move to a Prime Partner bank in November 2013, the timeline features a variety of facts from State Bar history.

The State Bar Act of 1939 created a unified State Bar, governed its operations and responsibilities, and mandated that all attorneys licensed to practice law in Texas be members. For a quick refresher on the act, you can read this story in the April Texas Bar Journal

State Bar educational initiative launched in classrooms

As students across the state returned to the classrooms to kick off a new school year this August, the opportunity for attorneys to host a session of the State Bar of Texas project “I was the first. Vote for Me!” also began.

In Williamson County, Lisa Richardson joined forces with Wendi Lester-Boyd and Stacey Mathews, both fellow Williamson County attorneys, and Mya Mercer, principal of Old Town Elementary, to bring the program—and the importance of Celebrate Freedom Week and Constitution Day—to more than 400 first through fifth grade students. Pictured from left to right: Lisa Richardson, Richardson & Cechura, PLLC in Round Rock; Mya Mercer, Principal of Old Town Elementary, Round Rock ISD; Wendi Lester-Boyd, Wendi Lester and Associates, PC  

“I would love to be able to get this [project] into all the Williamson County schools,” said Richardson. “It’s an educational project that’s well-thought-out.”

Launched in July and inspired by Lisa Tatum’s election as the first African-American State Bar of Texas president, “I was the first. Vote for Me!” is a multimedia project that works to inform students about a series of historic leaders who were firsts, from Susan B. Anthony and Sam Houston to Cesar Chavez and Barack Obama. After students are introduced to each character by way of a colorful animation, they cast a vote for the “first” they believe a fictional school should be named for. The project incorporates lessons in reading, math, citizenship, and voting and aligns with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for elementary students.

While leading her session, Richardson observed that the project’s way of delivering information about the Constitution and its founders was both educational and enjoyable, and students appeared to agree. 

“It was fun to have these fifth graders really start talking about all of these people,” said Richardson. “It seemed to start making sense as to who some of these people were and why this document was written. So it was hands-on for them.”

And that’s exactly why the program was developed. Jan Miller, director of State Bar of Texas Law Related Education, said that “I was the first. Vote for Me!” was designed to get students engaged and interested in the history and the importance of the figures. 

While Richardson’s group used the Celebrate Freedom Week materials, “I was the first. Vote for Me!” can be adapted for a variety of celebrations and recognitions, including Veterans Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Law Day.

Richardson added that having attorneys lead the sessions was also great exposure to the field of law and an opportunity for students to ask about the profession.

If you are open to leading a classroom session, or know of students who would benefit from a presentation in their class, go to texasbar.com/iwasthefirst to learn more.

State Bar President-elect Nominee Process Under Way

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors is soliciting candidates for the 2014 president-elect race.

The board will consider potential nominees’ involvement in State Bar committee work, knowledge of State Bar operations, participation in local and specialty bar associations, and other activities demonstrating leadership ability. Although prior membership on the State Bar Board of Directors is not a prerequisite for nomination, it is important in determining whether a lawyer is a qualified nominee.

Nominees should submit a résumé and a statement of views of the key issues facing the bar, the role they would play in dealing with those issues, and what they would seek to accomplish during their tenure as president, all within the State Bar’s overall strategic plan.

Over a period of years, the office of State Bar president should include men and women, ethnic and racial minorities, lawyers from large and small firms and sole practitioners, and those from urban and rural areas of the state. The board is working toward that end in the selection process.

The board’s Nominations and Elections Subcommittee is accepting names and background information of potential candidates. Please write the subcommittee to recommend potential candidates.

c/o Buck Files and Frank Stevenson,
Nominations and Elections Subcommittee co-chairs
P.O. Box 12487
Austin, TX 78711-2487


Anyone submitting a name for consideration should first obtain that person’s consent to have his or her name submitted.

State Bar rules stipulate that the 2014 president-elect nominees shall come from any county of the state. The Board of Directors policy manual describes the criteria for selecting nominees.

Ballots will be distributed April 1.

Texas educators selected for Teachers' Law School

Nearly 30 Texas educators have been selected to attend the Fifth Annual Teachers’ Law School, a three-day legal education program July 18-20 at the Texas Law Center in Austin.

Social studies and government teachers from across Texas applied to the program, which brings together more than a dozen of the state’s leading judges and lawyers who give presentations on aspects of civil and criminal legal systems at the state and federal levels.

 Participating educators are: 

Carol Anderson of El Paso, a 17-year teacher at Silva Health Magnet High School
Roger Azevedo of Plano, an 11-year teacher at Prestonwood Christian Academy
Andre Berry of Houston, a 12-year teacher at Alief Elsik High School
Randy Bilyeu of McKinney, a 14-year teacher at McKinney Boyd High School
Michael Buck of Arlington, a 17-year teacher at North Crowley High School in Fort Worth
Angela Buentello of Cedar Park, a 10-year teacher at Canyon Vista Middle School in Austin
Britine Burton of Arlington, a 15-year teacher at South Grand Prairie High School
Pepper Cruson of Hickory Creek, a 27-year teacher at Hebron High School in Carrollton 
Michael J. Gortz of Lewisville, an 18-year teacher at Shadow Ridge Middle School in Flower Mound
Luana Hanley of Corinth, a 15-year teacher at Marcus High School in Flower Mound
Jenny Hutchinson-Gonzalez of San Antonio, a 26-year teacher at Burbank High School
Margaret Irwin of San Antonio, a 23-year teacher at John Paul Stevens High School
Christina Johnson of San Antonio, a six-year teacher at Tom C. Clark High School
Lisa Lopez of Houston, a 17-year teacher at Alief Elsik High School 
Beverly Mathis of Helotes, a 29-year teacher at William H. Taft High School 
Kevin McCune of Richmond, a 23-year teacher at Lamar CISD
Kristin Pershey of Garland, a seven-year teacher at Austin Academy for Excellence
Andrea Pirtle of Conroe, a 14-year teacher at Oak Ridge High School
Craig Rabalais of Mansfield, a 16-year teacher at Mansfield Legacy High School
Jessica Rader of North Richland Hills, a first-year teacher at Trinity High School in Euless
Roger Rodgers of Coppell, a 13-year teacher at Trinity High School in Euless
Rebecca Rowland of Claude, a 13-year teacher at Claude High School
Cissy Smith of Corpus Christi, a 12-year teacher at Baker Middle School
Mary Stimson of Friendswood, a 23-year teacher at Alvin High School
Kristin Tamayo of Cedar Park, a 12-year teacher at Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville
Samantha Trimble of Arlington, an eight-year teacher at Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield
Pamela Tutt of Denton, a 10-year teacher at Lowery Freshman Center in Allen
Margaret Watson of Colleyville, a 32-year teacher at Trinity High School in Euless 
Demetria Westmoreland of Houston, a seven-year teacher at Shotwell Academy

Also known as TLS-Y5, the Teachers’ Law School-Year Five was piloted in Austin in 2009 and has become a national model for similar programs across the United States. TLS-Y5 faculty includes U.S. Appeals Court Judge Edward Prado, Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, and nationally recognized defense attorney Gerald Goldstein. Past presenters include Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, and legendary criminal defense attorney Richard “Racehorse” Haynes.

The program comes at no cost to the teachers. Food, lodging and travel are funded through scholarship donations from the American Board of Trial Advocates-Texas (TEX-ABOTA) and its Texas affiliates and the ABOTA Foundation.

“Texas is proud to be the birthplace for the Teachers’ Law School,” said Mary Dietz, president of TEX-ABOTA. “TLS has become one of ABOTA’s leading civics education programs and is now a model for our chapters around the country.”

The program is presented in collaboration with the State Bar of Texas and the State Bar’s Law Related Education Department.

Texas Legal Protection Plan turns 40

The Texas Legal Protection Plan (TLPP) is celebrating its 40th anniversary at the Bob Bullock Museum in Austin on Friday, November 30th. Forty years ago, the State Bar created the Texas Legal Protection Plan in order to provide the citizens of Texas with access to affordable legal representation. For four decades, the organization has assisted thousands of Texans with their legal needs ranging from simple advice and document preparation to family law matters, estate planning, consumer protection matters, and more. 

The event will pay special tribute to a select group of individuals who have contributed to the success of TLPP as well as organizations that have faithfully served the legal community and beyond. Some of the honorees include the American Bar Association (ABA), the State Bar of Texas, Texas Young Lawyers Association, and the Texas Veterans Commission. Additionally, the event will recognize a few of our long standing provider attorneys from around the state who have worked tirelessly to ensure that Texans get their legal needs met. TLPP will also honor the Honorable Joel Bennett, who has committed his entire life to serving. Finally, the event will recognize the “Founding Father” of the Texas Legal Protection Plan, Franklin Jones, Jr.  

The event will feature remarks from the ABA President-elect, Mr. Jim Silkenat. For more information about this event, please visit http://www.tlpp.org/.

New Scam Uses Texas Lawyer's Identity for Fake Website

The State Bar of Texas has learned that an apparent scam artist has assumed the identity of a Texas attorney who has not practiced in several years, and set up a fake law firm website using the attorney's maiden name, former office address, and portions of her professional biography.

The attorney was alerted to the scam after a legal finance firm contacted her at home with concerns about the  impersonator. Because the case is under investigation by the FBI and local law enforcement, we are withholding details on the matter. At this time we do not know how the scam artist is using or intends to use the fake website.

In recent years scams have targeted Texas attorneys with fraudulent checks and wire transfers in fake debt collection matters, and scammers have impersonated law firms and called members of the public attempting to collect debts.  This is the first time the State Bar of Texas has seen a fake website established in an attorney's name, and attorneys and the public should be vigilant about this new tactic.

If you have questions about the identity of a Texas lawyer, please search our official Find a Lawyer member directory or contact our Membership Department at (800)204-2222, Ext. 1383. If you are an attorney who believes your identity has been stolen, contact the nearest FBI office and local law enforcement.

Frank E. Stevenson II of Dallas Elected 2012-13 Chair of the State Bar Board

Frank E. Stevenson II, a partner in the Dallas office of Locke Lord, L.L.P., has been elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas. He will take office during the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting to be held June 14-15 in Houston and will serve as chair until June 2013.

Stevenson has practiced administrative, transportation, real estate, and finance law for more than 30 years. He has served on the board of directors of the State Bar of Texas since 2010 and on the board of the Dallas Bar Association since 1999, serving as president in 2008. He has served on the Dallas Bar Foundation’s board of directors since 2007, and was chair of the Dallas Bar/Legal Aid of Northwest Texas Equal Access to Justice Campaign in 2003.

Stevenson is an associate member of the Dallas Citizens Council and serves on the executive committee of the Sammons Center for the Arts. He has been on the board of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce since 2007 and has served Amherst College in numerous capacities, including as a member and then chair of the executive committee of the Alumni Council. The college awarded Stevenson its Medal for Eminent Service in 2009.

He is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a sustaining life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and the Dallas Bar Foundation, and a life fellow of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Foundation.

He graduated with a B.A. magna cum laude from Amherst College and earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.