Editor’s Note: State Bar of Texas President Randy Sorrels and Executive Director Trey Apffel sent the following message to members on Monday.
As the State Bar of Texas and Texas courts continue to adjust operations to the new realities of the coronavirus pandemic, we are reaching out to share important updates.
MCLE Deadlines Extended
We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is making it difficult for some attorneys to complete their MCLE requirements on time. In response, the State Bar of Texas MCLE Department will grant an automatic 60-day extension to attorneys reaching their compliance deadlines in March, April, or May. Attorneys who missed compliance deadlines in January or February will receive an automatic 60-day extension to prevent the assessment of further fees. Attorneys now subject to suspension for failing to comply with MCLE requirements in November or December will have an additional one-month extension. Please contact the MCLE Department at 800-204-2222, ext. 1806, or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the extensions or MCLE compliance requirements.
Court Orders and Guidelines
The Supreme Court of Texas and Court of Criminal Appeals have issued a series of emergency orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- The first order empowers Texas courts to modify or suspend certain deadlines and procedures, allow parties to participate remotely in proceedings, and take other reasonable steps to avoid exposing court proceedings to the threat of the coronavirus.
- The second order applies to and clarifies possession schedules in Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.
- The third order amended the original order to establish court proceedings that may be conducted away from the court’s usual location with reasonable notice and access to the participants and the public. The change omits reference to the county-venue limitation in the original order.
- The fourth order supplemented the three previous orders, addressing hearings, trials, and deadlines for residential-property evictions.
- The fifth order delays all deadlines related to attorney professional disciplinary and disability proceedings while the order is in effect.
- The sixth order mandates that the 2020 elections for the State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association presidents-elect and directors be conducted solely by electronic vote, with no paper ballots, because of uncertainty regarding the feasibility of handling paper ballots during the pandemic.
- The Office of Court Administration has released updated guidance on court procedures for the coronavirus. You can read the guidance here.
We are facing a time of uncertainty and, increasingly, isolation. Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP) has collected valuable online support options for anyone feeling isolated and struggling with a mental health issue or needing recovery support. You can view those resources at texasbar.com/remote-well-being.
TLAP confidentially helps lawyers, judges, and law students who are concerned for themselves or a colleague with regard to general well-being, mental health, or substance use issues. TLAP can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 800-343-TLAP (8527) or texting TLAP to 555888. Additional resources are available at tlaphelps.org.
Free Webcasts and Educational Resources
TexasBarCLE is offering two free webcasts relevant to practicing law amid the coronavirus pandemic, while the Texas Bar Journal is curating and sharing articles on remote working, technology tools, disaster planning, and other timely matters. You can view a full list of these resources at texasbar.com/coronavirus.
Voting in 2020 Elections Will Be Online Only, Deadline Extended
Voting will be online only for the 2020 State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association elections because of uncertainty regarding the ability of the State Bar’s election vendor to receive and process paper ballots during the pandemic. To ensure our members have ample time to vote, the Nominations and Elections Subcommittee of the State Bar Board agreed to extend the voting period by one month. That means online ballots will be accepted from April 1 until 5 p.m. CDT May 29, instead of April 30. The Supreme Court signed an order to implement this change. Assistance will be available for those who need help voting online. We want all eligible Texas lawyers to exercise their right to vote, so we will do our best to communicate these changes throughout the voting period.
Resources to Help You Stay Informed
We are regularly updating texasbar.com/coronavirus with the latest court orders and resources to help you stay informed of the changes affecting our profession. You can also sign up for the State Bar’s Daily News Briefing at texasbar.com/dailynews to receive the latest legal news updates in your inbox every weekday.
In closing, our State Bar leadership and staff remain fully committed to supporting the administration of the legal system and enabling Texas lawyers to better serve their clients during this pandemic. If there are needs you believe we can address within our statutory purposes, please let us know.
Randy Sorrels, President
Trey Apffel, Executive Director