The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors voted January 26 to approve Lisa Blue of Dallas and Randy Sorrels of Houston as candidates for president-elect in the 2018 election. There are currently no additional president-elect candidates, although members have until March 1 to run as a petition candidate by submitting a petition signed by at least 5 percent of the State Bar membership.
Voting will take place April 2 to May 1 by paper and online ballot. The winner will serve as president-elect from June 2018 to June 2019 and as president from June 2019 to June 2020. Additional information on the election, including a Q&A with the candidates, will appear in the April issue of the Texas Bar Journal.
The board also updated procedures for president-elect and district director races. Candidates’ petition signatures will now have a 180-day expiration date—a provision that matches the law governing petitions in other state elections. The board also decided to move its approval of board-nominated candidates from January to September in future elections, which means the board will vote on the 2019 president-elect candidates in September 2018.
President Tom Vick said the changes, taken together, would promote fairness by ensuring the campaign periods are roughly equal for president-elect candidates, regardless of whether they are nominated by the board or certified through petition.
The 180-day expiration date on petition signatures passed, 32-9. President-elect Joe K. Longley, who last year became the first petition candidate elected State Bar president-elect, opposed the change as “candidate suppression.” Longley said that Steve Fischer, a petition candidate for president-elect in 2013, spent more than a year collecting the required signatures, while Longley himself spent “slightly” more than six months.
“This [expiration date] will grossly discourage petition candidates in favor of nominee candidates,” Longley said.
Immediate Past President Frank Stevenson, co-chair of the board’s Nominations & Elections Subcommittee, disagreed, saying the changes would only create a more level playing field.
Stevenson explained the need for a change, saying his committee met last fall and identified 31 potential president-elect nominees for the 2018 election. With the exception of Blue and Sorrels—who both were gathering petition signatures at the time—all declined to run, Stevenson said.
“Individuals seeking candidacy by petition begin campaigning in late August, five months before the State Bar board chooses its two candidates,” Stevenson told the board before the vote. “The individuals we contacted [as potential nominees] felt this asymmetry was so profound and such a disadvantage, it simply could not be overcome.”
The board also updated its policy manual to relax or remove various campaign restrictions. Vick said the changes would help ensure that president-elect and director candidates could freely present their visions for the bar.
Internal records policy. The board is considering a policy that would establish a process for fulfilling requests from State Bar officers and directors for internal records that are not subject to the Texas Public Information Act. The Policy Manual Subcommittee informed the board it was delaying action on the policy to allow for more study.
Finance and budget. The State Bar received an unmodified, or “clean,” opinion for its 2016-2017 fiscal year financial audit. The board approved the proposed 2018-2019 budget for publication in the March issue of the Texas Bar Journal. Also, a member of Longley’s financial task force reported that procedural changes made by State Bar staff immediately after a 2012 embezzlement case were “adequate and proper” and should be enough to prevent another such theft (click here for a full report).
Day of Civility. The board adopted a resolution recognizing the Texas Day of Civility in the Law on April 20, 2018. In coordination with the State Bar Professionalism Committee, the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals designated the day as a time for Texas lawyers to participate in local bar association programs that focus on the Texas Lawyer’s Creed.
Attorneys honored. Meeting in San Antonio, the board presented resolutions to area attorneys Tom Caldwell and Sarah Dingivan for outstanding service to the legal profession and the greater San Antonio community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the fatal shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Caldwell, county attorney for Wilson County, was instrumental in pulling the local legal community together to help victims of the shooting. Dingivan, managing attorney for the San Antonio Bar Association’s Community Justice Program, went above and beyond her regular duties to serve Community Justice Program clients during both crises.
Board chair election. The board heard comments from three candidates for 2018-2019 chair of the board: Christy Amuny of Beaumont, Laura Gibson of Houston, and Rudolph Metayer of Austin. Board members will elect the chair during their April 27 meeting in Fort Worth.
New at-large director. San Antonio attorney James C. Woo was sworn in as an at-large director after the board approved his appointment to a term expiring in June 2020. Woo is a shareholder at the firm of Davidson Troilo Ream & Garza and is board certified in estate planning and probate law.
New section. The board approved the formation and bylaws of the new State Bar of Texas Child Protection Law Section, which will provide education and resources to Texas attorneys who practice child welfare law. (Click here for an update from the inaugural section chair, Justice Debra H. Lehrmann.) The board also approved a request to change the name of the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section to the Civil Liberties & Civil Rights Section.
Staff Excellence Award. Executive Director Trey Apffel presented the quarterly Staff Excellence Award to Karen Peck, accounts payable manager.