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Updated: 3 days 8 hours ago

Houston Bar Association names new executive director

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 14:00

The Houston Bar Association named Mindy G. Davidson as its new executive director. She succeeds longtime executive director Kay Sim, who retired March 1.

“I am inspired by the commitment of the HBA staff to serving the needs of the Houston-area lawyers and our community,” Davidson said in a news release. “It is an honor and I look forward to working with the board of directors and the HBA staff to build on this strong foundation as we approach the HBA’s 150th anniversary.”

Mindy G. Davidson

Davidson has spent the past three decades advising clients on the design, implementation, and administration of broad-based and executive compensation and benefits strategies. She most recently served as senior director of Alvarez & Marsal. Davidson has also served as lead counsel for compensation and benefits to LyondellBasell.

“We are excited to have Mindy join us as executive director, building on Kay Sim’s enormous contributions to HBA,” said HBA President Warren Harris in a news release. “Mindy’s legal background will be a great asset as she leads us in this time of change. I look forward to the new energy and insight she will bring to the HBA.”

Davidson is certified with distinction in nonprofit leadership and nonprofit finance by the Rice University Center for Philanthropic & Nonprofit Leadership and holds a senior certified professional certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. Davidson is a Houston Bar Foundation Life Fellow and a Texas Bar Foundation Fellow. She also serves on the Houston Area Women’s Center Board of Directors and is a leader in the Center for Women in Law.

For more information about the HBA, go to hba.org.

In Memoriam

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas’ Membership Department was informed in February 2019 of the deaths of these members. We join the officers and directors of the State Bar in expressing our deepest sympathy.

Ken Andrews, 80, of Fort Worth, died February 9, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.
Charles D. Baxter, 89, of Topeka, Kansas, died January 6, 2019. He received his law degree from Washburn University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1955.
Robert Lee Busselman, 84, of Karnes City, died November 24, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1970.
W. Stephen Cockerham, 56, of Ovilla, died December 7, 2018. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1986.
Frank William Colburn, 89, of Houston, died December 15, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1956.
Liam S. Coonan, 83, of San Antonio, died September 8, 2018. He received his law degree from NYU School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1993.
Tina Denise Davis-Rincones, 47, of Anton, died January 24, 2019. She received her law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2001.
Joe Micah Enis, 52, of Conroe, died January 8, 2019. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1992.
Sheila Frederick, 45, of Montgomery, died November 25, 2018. She received her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2000.
Mike D. Gibbs, 71, of Dallas, died September 27, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
Patrick Huzinec, 53, of Corpus Christi, died October 26, 2018. He received his law degree from Samford University Cumberland School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1990.
Darrell Eddy Jordan, 80, of Dallas, died January 30, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.
J. David Kirkland Jr., 60, of Houston, died September 12, 2018. He received his law degree from Yale Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1983.
John A. MacDonald, 69, of Seattle, Washington, died January 13, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975.
Chilton Maverick, 78, of San Antonio, died September 1, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1969.
Charles J. McGuire III, 77, of Dallas, died February 2, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
Hurshal F. Moore, 84, of Fort Worth, died February 7, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1959.
Steven Owens, 37, of Fate, died February 2, 2019. He received his law degree from Samford University Cumberland School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2008.
Paul William Phy, 84, of Dallas, died February 12, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1961.
Derral K. Sperry, 88, of Houston, died December 12, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1962.
George Troxell IV, 47, of Austin, died January 12, 2019. He received his law degree from Tulane Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2012.
Michael B. Udell, 67, of Plainfield, Indiana, died December 27, 2018. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1978.

If you would like to have a memorial for a loved one published in the Texas Bar Journal, please go to texasbar.com/memorials. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Texas Bar Journal at (512) 427-1701 or toll-free at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1701, or by email at tbj@texasbar.com.

State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division elects Edna W. Garza-Guerra president-elect

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 09:00

Edna W. Garza-Guerra, a litigation paralegal with Walsh McGurk Cordova Nixon in McAllen, will serve as the 2019-2020 State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division president-elect. She joined the division in 2011 and has served as a sub-chair for its CLE committee, helping to generate 53 free CLE hours for District 15, and on its board of directors.

Garza-Guerra, who is certified in civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, brings 28 years of professional experience. Her focus is on civil litigation, real estate, and transactional work. After graduating from the first paralegal program at South Texas Vo-Tech in 1990 Garza-Guerra became a part-time paralegal instructor at her alma mater and began working for a Rio Grande Valley attorney who specialized in wrongful death, products liability, and mass environmental cases.

She is also a Realtor and has experience as a buyer’s representative and a seller’s representative and has worked on the sale of bank foreclosures. Garza-Guerra works as a Realtor part-time on weekends and after paralegal work during the week.

For more information about the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division, go to txpd.org.

Bishop Lynch High School wins Texas High School Mock Trial Competition

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 08:00

The team from Bishop Lynch High beat more than 25 high school teams to win the final round of the Texas High School Mock Trial Competition on Saturday, March 2, at the George Allen Sr. Courthouse in Dallas.

The teams argued a hypothetical criminal court case that was written by local attorneys from the Dallas Bar Association. Judges and attorneys served as jurors and also selected the teams who best prepared and demonstrated exceptional presentation skills. Students served as prosecution, defense attorneys, and witnesses.

One Day Academy, of Austin, took home second place while Regents School, of Austin, and Lubbock High School were semi-finalists.

Bishop Lynch will represent Texas at the 2019 National High School Mock Trial Competition in Athens, Georgia, May 16-19. The national competition is designed to promote an understanding and appreciation of the American judicial system through competition.

The Texas program, which the Dallas Bar Association has sponsored and coordinated since its inception in the 1970s, has drawn more than 120,000 participants in its 40 years and awarded nearly $300,000 in scholarships.

For more information, go to texashighschoolmocktrial.com or dallasbar.org.

Above: The Bishop Lynch High School team won the Texas High School Mock Trial Competition in Dallas on March 2 and will represent the state at the National High School Mock Trial Competition in Athens, Georgia, May 16-19. Photo by the Dallas Bar Association.

Texas Bar Foundation announces 2019 Terry Lee Grantham Memorial Award recipient

Tue, 03/05/2019 - 11:00

The Texas Bar Foundation named Dallas attorney Talmage Boston as its 2019 Terry Lee Grantham Memorial Award recipient.

Talmage Boston

Boston will be honored and presented with the award on June 14 at the Texas Bar Foundation Annual Dinner at the JW Marriott in Austin. Texas Tech University School of Law—Grantham’s alma mater—will receive $5,000 for student scholarships in the study of energy law.

Award winners exemplify “the qualities of an accomplished, talented and dedicated practitioner, a servant of the profession and an advocate for those we serve, demonstrating dedication and service with the same passion” that defined Grantham’s life and work.

Boston, who is a partner in Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, is certified in civil trial law and civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He has served as past chair of the State Bar of Texas Litigation Section, Council of Chairs, and Annual Meeting Committee, and he has served on the State Bar Board of Directors and the Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors. He has received eight Presidential Citations for outstanding service.

A graduate of the University of Texas and the University of Texas School of Law, Boston has published four books.

For more information about the Texas Bar Foundation, go to txbf.org.

Free legal clinic for veterans in Galveston

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 09:00

The Galveston County Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative are sponsoring a free legal clinic for veterans on Saturday, May 5, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Veterans and spouses of deceased attorneys can receive one-on-one advice and counsel from volunteer attorneys in family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate and tax law, and disability and veterans benefits.

Pro bono attorneys from the Houston Volunteer Lawyers may be assigned to veterans in need of ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid.

No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will be held at the Galveston VA Outpatient Clinic, 3828 Avenue N., Galveston, 77550.

For more information, go to hba.org or call (713) 759-1133.

To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans website at texasbar.com/veterans.

Texas Supreme Court addresses attorneys’ tech competence in amended comment to disciplinary rule

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 13:27

A Texas attorney’s duty to maintain competence in the practice of law includes knowing about relevant technology, according to a new Texas Supreme Court order.

The court, in Misc. Docket No. 19-9016, amended Paragraph 8 of the comment to Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which deals with competent and diligent legal representation. Under the amended comment, maintaining proficiency and competence in the practice of law includes knowing “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

The amendment mirrors a change made to the American Bar Association model rule in 2012.

The State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section and the bar’s Professional Development/Continuing Legal Education Committee passed resolutions in April 2018 supporting the change. At that time, 31 states had adopted language similar to the ABA model rule related to technological competence, according to the resolutions.

The Computer and Technology Section resolution, signed by then-chair Michael Curran, said that “the practice of law is now inextricably intertwined with technology for the delivery of services, the docketing of legal processes, communications, and the storage and transfer of client information, including sensitive and confidential private information and other protected data.”

“[L]awyers have become increasingly dependent upon mobile applications to perform core legal functions and the electronic creation of and transmission of attorney client work product and storage of all of this information in the cloud and, therefore, they require a fundamental skillset to effectively manage their law practice,” the section resolution states.

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors voted in June 2018 to submit the resolutions to the Supreme Court for consideration. The court then asked the Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda, or CDRR, to study the matter.

The CDRR voted December 5 to recommend the change, noting that the same language is found in the comment to ABA Model Rule 1.1 and is part of the ethics code in many states.

March must-reads

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 11:30

Need a head start on the Texas Bar Journal before your copy arrives in the mail? We’ve got you covered. Check out our editorial staff’s top picks for a look at discovery related features and the state of the judiciary in Texas. And don’t forget to read Movers and Shakers, Disciplinary Actions, and Memorials.

In Style
The onset of smart clothing and the rise of privacy concerns.
By Peggy Keene

Making a Plan
Select discovery issues that are important to the practitioner.
By Xavier Rodriguez and James Wes Christian

E-Discovery
Direct access of electronic devices after In re Marion Shipman.
By Dustin B. Benham

The State of the Judiciary in Texas
Remarks of Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht as prepared for delivery to the 86th Legislature.

Best interest of the child under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 10:00

It is a timeless and eternal verity that we all cherish our children and seek to ensure their overall well-being in every facet of their lives and stage of development. No sacrifice is too great to achieve that paramount aim. In the context of family law and the dissolution of marriage where children are involved, the summum bonum of all such cases is to arrive at a resolution that serves the best interest of the child, as that legal lodestar is defined in Tex. Fam. Code § 153.002: “The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”

This legal standard is more poignant and urgent when children with disabilities are seeking educational opportunities under the federally mandated law of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA (IDEA was formerly the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, or EHA). This article will examine Texas court opinions related to the overarching themes of this broad, expansive, comprehensive, and “subjectively inclined to interpretation” law. The central themes upon which Texas courts have opined range from what constitutes a Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE; interpretations of a Least Restrictive Environment, or LRE, (20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5)(A); 34 C.F.R. § 300.114); due process rights of parents of children with disabilities; judicial deference to school boards and educators when crafting Individualized Educational Plans or Programs, or IEPs, for students who have been assessed as having learning disabilities; and placement issues. Any detailed explanation into other IDEA-related themes is beyond the scope of this article.

History
On a national level, prior to 1975, courts rarely mentioned children with disabilities and their right to public education. Pre-1975, educators would make unilateral decisions often without any input or consultation with the parents of children suspected of having learning and other disabilities in determining the manner in which children with disabilities would best be served educationally.

In 1975, Congress passed IDEA (20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482). Influenced by the language of the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education, (347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686 (1954)) the momentous words of the Supreme Court would serve as the backdrop to the passage of IDEA: “[E]ducation is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments,” (Id. at 493). The unanimous Supreme Court further stated that: “In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms,” (Id.). Notably, this language has been cited in innumerable cases nationwide, including cases involving students with disabilities demanding equal educational opportunities. After enactment and passage of IDEA, every state had to abide by IDEA’s mandate to evaluate, test, and place any suspected students with disabilities in educational settings that provided a FAPE in an LRE. Moreover, post determination that a student had learning disabilities, an IEP had to be established by the school board and the child’s educators, in collaboration with the child’s parents and other professionals to serve the best interest of the student based on his or her specific educational needs.

Under IDEA, “[T]he schoolchild and his or her parents are entitled to be involved in the process of developing an IEP,” ((20 U.S.C. § 1401(a)(20) (Under 20 U.S.C. § 1415, the statute mandates collaboration between educators and parents/guardians when developing the IEP via numerous, well-defined, procedural safeguards. The IEP must be reviewed at least annually (20 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(5); Teague Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Todd L., 999 F.2d 127, 129 n.3 (5th Cir. 1993)). Additionally, 20 U.S.C. § 1414 mandates that the IEP be created by an “individualized education program team” comprised of parents, educators, and disability professionals.

Congress, in enacting IDEA, was unequivocal in its purport that collaboration between the parents of the child with disabilities and various school officials was an indispensably pivotal and crucial element in crafting an IEP that would best serve his or her specific needs as well as deliver optimal results (20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482).

As broad and complex as the law of IDEA may be, nowhere is this collaborative process more compelling or in demand than the crafting of an IEP that specifically addresses the learning needs of a child with disabilities and how to successfully approach those unique learning challenges. The crafting of the IEP must ensure in its substance, content, and application that a FAPE in an LRE has been accomplished. In this regard, the author contends that it is an unforgiving, unwelcome, and harsh reality that Congress’ generalizations of the terms “appropriate” and “least restrictive” lends itself to multiple, subjective, and disparate interpretations that frequently give rise to differing opinions and conflict between the educators and the parents of children with disabilities.

Indisputably, the crafting of the proper IEP for children with disabilities is paramount and potentially outcome determinative in whether the student’s IEP will confer sufficient educational benefit to allow him or her to make academic and educational progress.

For example, in Teague, the 5th Circuit was tasked with opining the sufficiency of an IEP that was challenged as to its merits by the parents of the child in question. The court held that the IEP was sufficiently substantive and the student “received significant benefit from his public school placement.” (In Teague, the 5th Circuit noted: “As a condition of federal funding, IDEA requires states to provide all children with a “free appropriate public education,” 20 U.S.C. § 1412(1), with the statutory term “appropriate” designating education from which the schoolchild obtains some degree of benefit. (See Board of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 200, 102 S. Ct. 3034, 3047, 73 L. Ed. 2d 690 (1982). See 20 U.S.C. § 1412(5); Rowley, 458 U.S. at 202, 102 S. Ct. at 3049; Sherri A.D. v. Kirby, 975 F. 2d 193, 206 (5th Cir. 1992)). The 5th Circuit explained the underlying rationale for IDEA, reflecting the best interest of the child as it is also reflected within Brown:

“IDEA was intended to redress a long history of discrimination by public schools against disabled children. Isolation of a schoolchild or reduction of the quality or amount of a child’s educational programming solely for the convenience of staff violates IDEA.” See, e.g., Rowley, 458 U.S. at 179, 189, 102 S. Ct. at 3037, 3042 (Congress’ intent, in passing EHA, was to prohibit schools which receive federal funds from discriminating against disabled children) (Teague, 999 F.2d 127, 129 n.4 (5th Cir. 1993)).

To reiterate, Texas courts, in evaluating IDEA-related cases, have applied the “best interest of the child” legal standard in delivering its opinions. In Christopher M. v. Corpus Christi Indep. Sch. Dist., the court was tasked to opine whether a shortened school day due to the nature of the child’s disability was a violation of the FAPE portion of IDEA. The court in applying the “best interest of the child” legal barometer, stated: The board was not required to provide a full day of educational programming for the student with multiple disabilities whose educational programming consisted of basic sensory stimulation, since it was not in his best interest (933 F.2d 1285 (5th Cir. 1991)).

Further, in discussing the original mandate of EHA the precursor to IDEA, the court reiterated that it was instituted in order:

“[t]o create an educational program tailored to the unique needs of each child. The drafters of EHA were guided by the principle that “each child must receive access to a free public program of education and training appropriate to his learning capabilities.” Rowley imposes an obligation on the states that the IEP must be “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits,” and “In reviewing the appropriateness of an IEP, [the] court has previously considered these very factors: “our analysis is an individualized, fact-specific inquiry that requires us to examine carefully the nature and severity of the child’s handicapping condition, his needs and abilities, and the school’s response to the child’s needs.” (See Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 189, 102 S. Ct. 3034, 3042, 73 L. Ed. 2d 690 (1982); and Christopher M., 933 F.2d 1285, 1289 n.7 (5th Cir. 1991)).

In sum, despite Congress’ intent to serve the educational needs of children who qualify for special education services, this area of the law, due to its broad mandates, continues to be fertile ground for litigation, which arguably does not serve the best interest of the child due to its emotionally charged, protracted, combustible, and costly process.

Ultimately, it is this author’s opinion that in the context of meeting the educational needs of children with disabilities, it is imperative that parents and educators set aside any animus, pre-conditioned biases they may harbor and work together in a spirit of compromise, compassion, equanimity, and reasonableness with the singular and ennobling aim of serving the best interest of the child.

Kamran Mashayekh is a partner in Mashayekh & Chargois in Houston. He has practiced law for nearly 30 years in Texas in the area of civil litigation. Mashayekh received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and has testified before state legislatures in assisting them in crafting anti-predatory lending laws.

Beware non-compete agreements in Louisiana: ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Texas anymore’

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 10:00

Multi-state non-compete agreements are commonplace. Enforcing these agreements is generally not a problem, as most states use a reasonableness test for determining their enforceability. Texas law requires an evaluation of reasonableness as to time, geographical area, and activity being restrained, not unlike most other states (Tex. Bus. and Com. Code § 15.50). If the reasonableness test is met, these agreements can be enforceable. Not so in Louisiana.

Companies and individuals outside of Louisiana seeking to do business there are often surprised by Louisiana’s non-compete law. Louisiana does not use a reasonableness test to determine the validity of non-compete agreements. To the contrary, contracts that restrain someone’s right to work are presumed to be invalid in Louisiana. Moreover, Louisiana law prevents efforts to avoid the applicability of Louisiana’s strict law in contractually providing for the applicability of another state’s law in a non-compete agreement involving an employer/employee relationship. In short, in seeking to enforce a non-compete agreement in Louisiana, Louisiana law cannot be avoided.

The validity of non-compete agreements in Louisiana is strictly controlled by a single statutory provision—Louisiana Revised Statutes § 23:921—and its judicial interpretation. Louisiana Revised Statutes § 23:921(A)(1) begins with the general prohibition against any agreement whereby “anyone is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade, or business,” unless one of the narrow exceptions to the general prohibition contained therein is satisfied. It provides:

“Every contract or agreement, or provision thereof, by which anyone is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, except as provided in this Section, shall be null and void.”

Louisiana has long had a strong public policy against non-compete agreements. Because these agreements are in derogation of the common right—the right to work in your chosen field—Louisiana jurisprudence has narrowly construed the exceptions to the general prohibition listed in Louisiana Revised Statutes § 23:921. These exceptions, for the most part, are based upon relationships. The list of exceptions include the employee/employer relationship, the sale of the goodwill of a business, the dissolution of a partnership, the franchisor/franchisee relationship, the employer/computer employee relationship, the corporation/shareholder relationship, the partnership/partner relationship without consideration of any possible dissolution, and the limited liability company/member relationship.

Once it is demonstrated that a particular non-compete agreement falls within one of the listed exceptions, most Louisiana courts require a valid non-compete agreement to contain an area of prohibition described by parishes, municipalities, or parts thereof, together with a term of no longer than two years from date of termination of the relationship. These requirements are derived directly from statutory language.

While not contained within the statute, some Louisiana courts also require a valid non-compete agreement to define narrowly and accurately the business in which the individual is prohibited from competing. Other Louisiana courts deny the need for this additional non-statutory-based requirement. If the business is defined within the agreement, however, the definition must be narrow and accurate.

In further protecting the right of employees to work in their chosen field of employment, Louisiana Revised Statutes § 23:921 prohibits a contract of employment from designating by contractual provision the applicability of another state’s law unless the employee re-confirms such choice of law after the occurrence of the incident which is the subject of the dispute. Thus, once an employee is terminated and begins competing with his or her ex-employer, the applicability of the provision in the non-compete agreement selecting another state’s law is only valid if the employee agrees to it again, once his or her ex-employer complains about the alleged violation of the non-compete agreement.

Louisiana Revised Statutes § 23:921(2) provides:

The provisions of every employment contract or agreement, or provisions thereof, by which any foreign or domestic employer or any other person or entity includes a choice of forum clause or choice of law clause in an employee’s contract of employment or collective bargaining agreement, or attempts to enforce either a choice of forum clause or choice of law clause in any civil or administrative action involving an employee, shall be null and void except where the choice of forum clause or choice of law clause is expressly, knowingly, and voluntarily agreed to and ratified by the employee after the occurrence of the incident which is the subject of the civil or administrative action.

As demonstrated herein, drafting multi-state non-compete agreements that include Louisiana are problematic. An enforceable non-compete agreement in Louisiana requires much more than reasonableness. All requirements of Louisiana Revised Statutes § 23:921 must be met for a valid non-compete agreement in Louisiana. One approach is to exclude Louisiana from your multi-state non-compete agreements, with a separate agreement for Louisiana, compliant with Louisiana law. Doing so will protect your client’s business in today’s competitive marketplace.

Jude C. Bursavich is a partner in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, office of Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson. He practices in the area of complex business and commercial litigation and has concentrated on business protection issues for over 25 years. Bursavich has extensive experience in drafting and litigating non-compete agreements throughout Louisiana. He represents both individuals and local and national companies in business matters.

Cochran Firm celebrates Black History Month

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 11:00

Larry Taylor Jr., a Texas partner in the Cochran Firm, presents a $500 check to competition winner Jhaniya Rodgers.

The Cochran Firm in Dallas kicked off its inaugural High School Black History Cooking Competition to celebrate Black History Month and the soul food traditions of African Americans. Select culinary programs from Dallas area high schools participated and six finalists crafted meals on February 19 at Cedar Hill High School.

Larry Taylor Jr., a Texas partner in the Cochran Firm, awarded the winner, Jhaniya Rodgers, of Cedar Hill High School, a $500 prize; runner-up, Keyonna Hickman, of Cedar Hill High School, a $250 prize; and third-place finisher Terry McGill, of Lincoln High School, a $250 prize.

“I’m honored to continue the legacy Johnnie L. Cochran has set by supporting and inspiring all youth to fulfill their professional dreams in all fields,” Taylor said in a press release. “It’s no doubt these students have culinary skills and potential star quality.”

Other competitors were Kaelyn Cruz, of Cedar Hill High School; Aerial White, of Lincoln High School; and Jamendra Glenn, of Lincoln High School.

The event was co-hosted by the Cedar Hill High School Culinary program and its instructor, chef Alex Goss.

Entries sought for local bar association awards

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 06:00

The State Bar of Texas Local Bar Services Committee is now accepting local bar association submissions for the annual Stars of Texas Bars Awards and Judge Sam Williams Award.

The Stars of Texas Bars Awards include eight award categories that recognize local bar associations for outstanding community involvement, commitment to increasing access to justice, dedication to the profession, and excellent reporting from May 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019. Each local bar has the opportunity to receive awards based on its division. Divisions are broken down by the size of bar membership.

The Judge Sam Williams Award honors one individual who demonstrates a commitment to fostering and maintaining the relationship between his or her local bar and the State Bar of Texas. The award, established in 1990, is named in honor of Judge Sam Williams, the longtime president of the Northeast Texas Bar Association. Judge Williams, an outstanding leader of the local bar, exemplified the highest ideals of the position and significantly contributed to maintaining the local bar’s relationship with the State Bar of Texas.

For more information about the awards and to view submission criteria, go to texasbar.com/stars.

The deadline to submit entries is 5 p.m. CST April 30. For questions, please email localbars@texasbar.com or call (800) 204-2222, ext. 1514.

Winners will be honored at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 13, 2019, at the JW Marriott in Austin.

Governor appoints Brett Busby to Texas Supreme Court

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 14:04

Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday he has appointed former 14th Court of Appeals Justice Brett Busby to the Texas Supreme Court for a term set to expire on December 31, 2020. Busby’s appointment, which is subject to Senate confirmation, follows the retirement of Justice Phil Johnson in December.

Read the governor’s announcement.

Reminder: Comments accepted on proposed advertising rules

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 06:04

The Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda (CDRR) will continue to accept public comments concerning the proposed lawyer advertising rules through March 1, 2019. You can submit comments here.

Interested in law firm trade names? Take the CDRR’s poll.

The CDRR is responsible for overseeing the initial process for proposing a change or addition to the disciplinary rules (Gov’t Code § 81.0873). For more information, go to texasbar.com/CDRR.

To subscribe to email updates, including notices of public hearings and published rules for comment, click here.

Come out to Law Night and watch the Dallas Mavericks take on the Philadelphia 76ers

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 15:56

Get your tickets to watch the Dallas Mavericks against the Philadelphia 76ers at 7:30 p.m. on April 1.

Stick around after the game as each person who purchases through this Law Night promotion will be able to access the court post-game to attempt a free throw!

For every advanced ticket purchased, a $2 donation will be made to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services.

Are you game? Tickets here.

Join us for Law Night as San Antonio Spurs take on Golden State Warriors

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 15:53

Come watch the San Antonio Spurs against the Golden State Warriors on Monday, March 18. Everyone who buys tickets through the Law Night promotion will be able to enter the Bud Light Courtyard at 5 p.m. before the general doors open at 6 p.m.

The first 25 people to purchase tickets using the link below will be able to participate in high-fiving the Warriors as they come onto the court!

Get you tickets now. Go Spurs Go!

 

Texas high school students to compete for DBA mock trial state title

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 12:00

More than 25 high school teams will travel to the George Allen Courthouse in Dallas March 1-2 for the 40th annual Texas High School Mock Trial Competition, organized by the Dallas Bar Association. Students will argue a hypothetical criminal court case, culminating in a final championship round on Saturday.

The case was written by local attorneys and involves students representing nearly 200 Texas school districts. Throughout the tournament, more than 1,000 Dallas-area attorneys and judges volunteer as clinic instructors, as well as attorney advisers and competition judges.

The mock trial, which is designed to teach students how the justice system works and how the law is applied in everyday life, involves critical thinking exercises and quick analysis through preparation and presentation.

In the competition, students portray plaintiffs, defense attorneys, and witnesses. Dallas judges and attorneys play the role of jurors and choose the teams that are best prepared and who demonstrate exceptional presentation skills. The winner of the competition moves on to the 2019 National Mock Trial Competition in Athens, Georgia, May 16-19.

Competition times and location:

  • George Allen Courthouse (600 Commerce St., Dallas 75202)
  • Rounds 1-4: Friday, March 1, 8:30 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.
  • Round 4: Saturday, March 2, 1:30 p.m.
  • Semi-final round, Saturday, March 2, 1:30 p.m.
  • Final round, Saturday, March 2, 4 p.m.

The Dallas area teams:

  • Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet, Dallas
  • Booker T. Washington High School, Dallas
  • Skyline High School, Dallas
  • Bishop Lynch High School, Dallas
  • Creekview High School, Carrollton
  • Lake Highlands High School, Richardson
  • Prestonwood Christian Academy, Plano

For more information, go to dallasbar.org and texashighschoolmocktrial.com.

Houston Bar Foundation names new officers and presents awards

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 14:00

The Houston Bar Foundation, or HBF, announced its new officers, including Chair Travis Torrence, of Shell Oil Company, and presented Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva M. Guzman with the James P. Sales Pro Bono Leadership Award for her lifetime of work to ensure equal access to justice for all Texans at its annual meeting and luncheon February 14 at the Marriott Marquis Houston. The HBF also honored Kay Sim, the longtime executive director of the foundation and the Houston Bar Assocation, or HBA, for her contributions to the legal community.

Travis Torrence

Torrence, global litigation bankruptcy and credit team lead at Shell, serves on the board of directors of the National LGBT Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation. He previously served on the State Bar Board of Directors Executive Committee and as president of the Arthur L. Moller/David B. Foltz Jr. American Inn of Court. Torrence served as co-chair of the Texas Minority Counsel Program.

In addition to Torrence, other new foundation officers include Vice Chair Charles A. “Chip” Casey, of ExxonMobil Corporation, and Treasurer Tom Godbold, of Twin Eagle Resource Management. New directors include Susan L. Bickley, of Blank Rome; Polly Fohn, of Haynes and Boone; Jim Hart, of Williams Kherker Hart Boundas; Neil Kelly, of Hunton Andrews Kurth; Richard Mithoff, of Mithoff Law Firm; Jason Ryan, of CenterPoint Energy; and Denise Scofield, of Winston & Strawn. Brett Reasoner, of Gibbs & Bruns, serves as immediate past chair, and HBA President Warren Harris, of Bracewell, serves as ex officio.

Others were recognized for their contributions to Houston Volunteer Lawyers, or HVL, including Christie Cardon, of King & Spalding, who received the Outstanding Contribution to HVL by a Pro Bono Coordinator; J. Thomas Black, who received the Outstanding Contribution to HVL by a Solo Practitioner; Bryn Poland, of Mayo & Poland, who was recognized for Outstanding Contribution to HVL by an Individual; and Shell Oil Company, which was recognized for Outstanding Contribution to HVL by a Corporate Law Department.

Susan Rokes was recognized for Outstanding Volunteer Service to the Dispute Resolution Center; James Montgomery for Longevity of Exemplary Service to the Dispute Resolution Center; and Dustin Rynders, of Disability Rights Texas, was honored as the author of the outstanding legal article published in The Houston Lawyer.

Others receiving awards include Baker Botts for Outstanding Contribution to HVL by a Large Firm; Blank Rome for Outstanding Contribution to HVL by a Mid-size Firm; and Jenkins & Kamin for Outstanding Contribution to HVL by a Small Firm.

A paralegal turned lawyer talks about her journey

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 12:00

Interview by Eric Quitugua

Jessica Anderson is an associate of Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, or ONDA, in Dallas, where she represents clients in divorce, modification, enforcement, and child custody matters. The Texas A&M gradwas previously a paralegal for the firm before making the switch to becoming an attorney. In law school, Anderson was vice president of the Family Law Student Association, preparing and organizing CLEs on family law.

How was the preparation for the Texas Bar Exam last year?
It was time consuming. Having said that, I only wanted to take the bar exam once, so I was motivated to put in the required time and effort.

How does it feel to be done with it and ready to get to work?
It feels great to be done with law school and the bar exam. I feel like I am going straight from one challenge to the next. While I am done with final exams and bar preparation, I am confronted with new challenges daily as I settle into my new role as an associate attorney at ONDA.

Has it sunk in yet—being able to say “Jessica Anderson, associate of ONDA”?
Yes and no. Generally, when I am in the office working with the same great attorneys and paralegals I have for years, it seems as though nothing has changed. However, when I am preparing for or participating in a hearing or deposition in a way I never have before, it hits me that I am an associate at ONDA with new and different responsibilities.

Where did your interest in law come from?
My interest in law began when I took several undergraduate courses in criminal justice. I was intrigued by the way the law resolves conflicts in our society and how the individual rights given in the U.S. Constitutionmanifest through our legal system. As I began to work in law, I was able to see first hand how the legal system works and how it can affect the daily lives of litigants.

Do you have attorneys in your family?
No, not that I am aware of.

What drew you to family law?
I did not pursue family law specifically from the beginning. I happened to get a paralegal position in a family law firm as my first legal job. However, I have continued with family law because it is unlike any other kind of law in that it is very personal to the client and it can flow into many other areas of law depending on the case and issues involved. In family law, no day is ever the same and I enjoy the variety of tasks and challenges involved in a family law career.

What was your game plan for becoming a lawyer?
My plan was to find a job in the legal field to determine if I was passionate enough about the law to spend the time and money pursuing law school. I discovered that I did have a passion for the law, and the more I worked in family law, the more I wanted to help our clients by doing “lawyer-like” work. That is when I knew I needed to pursue my law degree.

Tell me about the Family Law Student Association at Texas A&M—what kind of work did you do with the association?
The Family Law Student Association is a group of students who have an interest in pursuing a family law career after law school. As vice president, I assisted the president and other board members in organizing presentation and CLE seminars on current family law topics. For example, in conjunction with the family law clinic at Texas A&M University School of Law, the Family Law Student Association organized a CLE for local attorneys on the topic of same-sex marriage and the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court decisionin Obergefell v. Hodges.

What did the association do for your education?
The Family Law Student Association allowed me to keep up with the changes in family law and to work closely with my classmates who had the same interest in family law as I did. The Family Law Student Association also introduced me to the law school family law clinic where I was able to represent clients in family law cases under the supervision of a clinic attorney.

How did you become a paralegal for ONDA and for how long?
I had been working as a family law paralegal for just a short time when I first interviewed for a paralegal position at ONDA in 2012. At that time, a good friend of mine had been hired as a paralegal at ONDA and recommended that ONDA hire me as well. When I was hired as a paralegal at ONDA in 2012, I was assigned to work for associateattorney Ryan Kirkhamand partnerWill Reppeto. Mr. Kirkham and Mr. Reppeto are both talented lawyers, and they embraced their role as my mentors and teachers immediately. Mr. Kirkham and Mr. Reppeto were instrumental in the development of my legal skills and were always there to answer my questions and encourage me. I worked for both attorneys until I began law school in 2015. During law school, I continued to work at ONDA during school breaks and on Fridays during the school year.

What sorts of tasks did you handle in that role?
As a paralegal at ONDA, I was tasked with many duties including being the organizer of information and a liaison between our attorneys, our clients, and opposing counsels. I was responsible for helping to ensure my assigned attorneys met their deadlines and that they had the proper materials for hearings, trials, and depositions. I also drafted pleadings, discovery, letters, etc. and handled organizing and filing documents with the court. On occasion, I accompanied ONDA attorneys in court to assist with managing exhibits during contested hearings.

What did you learn as a paralegal and how did that prepare you to become a lawyer?
As a paralegal, I learned the typical process of a family law case and the specific steps involved in working a case from beginning to end. I became familiar with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedureand the Texas Family Code. However, I would say there is a difference in what I learned as a family law paralegal elsewhere and what I learned as a family law paralegal at ONDA. During my time as an ONDA paralegal, I was privileged to be present during various meetings with the lawyers of ONDA who are highly skilled and who approach family law cases with a diligence that is unmatched. The attorneys at ONDA put deliberate thought into every decision that is made in their cases. Observing the skilled litigators of ONDA discuss case planning and strategy was especially influential on me.

Were you already planning to stay with ONDA?
Yes, ONDA allowed me to continue working at the firm during law school so I did maintain my connection to the firm in hopes that ONDA would hire me after law school. Therefore, I was thrilled when ONDA offered me a position as an associate attorney as I entered my third year of law school.

Now that you are an attorney, do you already have a slate of cases you’re working on? What’s an example of one?
I have already been assigned to work on several cases alongside several of ONDA’s attorneys, and I am taking an active role in managing these cases. An example of one would be a divorce case that involves both complex child related issues and a high value martial estate.

What’s it like to be able to help people in this new capacity?
It is amazing to see how much more I can help our clients with a law license. I am really enjoying being able to take a bigger role by being the client’s voice in the courtroom. I am also enjoying tackling bigger projects that can truly affect the outcome of a client’s case. As a paralegal, I might know the answer to a client’s question but if they called for legal advice, I was unable to give an answer. As a lawyer, it is freeing and very fulfilling to be able to give legal advice to our clients.

 

Do you recommend an aspiring attorney to take a similar path as you?
Yes. I am thankful that I had the experience of a paralegal before I became an attorney because I was able to approach law school truly knowing what my day-to-day life as a family law attorney would be like. Law school is an expensive investment, both financially and emotionally, and I felt I knew enough to make that investment without regret. Additionally, my paralegal experience allowed me to approach law school with a basic understanding of civil litigation and put me ahead in subjects like civil procedure and legal writing.

What’s next for you?
Building my law practice at ONDA. I am currently working on learning everything I can from the attorneys at ONDA and further developing my legal skills.

Immigration and Nationality Law Section wins Pro Bono Texas section awards

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas Immigration and Nationality Law Section took top honors for the highest total number of reported hours and the greatest percentage of member participation.

Immigration and Nationality Law Section members provided 16,303 hours of pro bono service, and 17.2 percent of members participated in providing pro bono services. Section member Karen George-Baunchand, an attorney with the International Center for Justice, provided more than 1,100 hours of pro bono service last year.

The Immigration and Nationality Section will be recognized for its excellent effort during the Council of Chairs meeting on February 22 in Austin.

“Thank you to all the sections for rallying your members,” said Hannah Allison, State Bar of Texas Pro Bono Programs administrator. “You are answering the pro bono call, and Texans in need are reaping the benefits! I challenge all 50 sections to engage in a pro bono program or create a pro bono project by 2021.”

Other sections reporting high pro bono hours are the Family Law Section (15,626 hours), Criminal Justice Section (7,245 hours), and the Real Estate, Probate & Trust Law Section (6,537 hours).

Sections with the highest percentage of members participating include the Military & Veterans Law Section (7.8 percent), Justice of the Peace Courts Section (7.6 percent), Family Law Section (7.3 percent), and Criminal Justice Section (6.5 percent).

For more information about pro bono opportunities, go to probonotexas.org/find-your-pro-bono.

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