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Discounts on everyday items

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 08:00

Find offers on sunglasses, fragrances, headphones, and other great everyday items on your Member Benefit Program. Check out the Retail, Health & Wellness, and Electronics pages for more info.

  • Sunski Sunglasses — Sunski shades are always polarized, light-years from ordinary, and backed by a forever warranty. Take 25% off your order.
  • Next Big Idea Club The Next Big Idea Club is a subscription book club curated by world-renowned authors. Get 15% off your Next Big Idea Club subscription.
  • Cotopaxi Save up to 20% on outdoor gear with Cotopaxi. Cotopaxi bridges urban and outdoor lifestyles with versatile products that combine sleek style and practical durability.
  • FragranceNet.com — Founded in 1997, FragranceNet.com is the leading online retailer of genuine brand-name fragrances and beauty products. Save 25% on all orders.
  • Glasses.com — State Bar of Texas members receive an extra 20% off orders of $100 or more on all brands on the site. Each order includes free shipping, free CR-39 Plus lenses, and Glasses.com’s 100% satisfaction guarantee.
  • BURST Oral CareState Bar of Texas members get $40 in savings, plus free shipping, on BURST Oral Care items. BURST offers affordable, high-quality products.
  • SennheiserSennheiser is shaping the audio world of tomorrow, today. Save up to 30% on headphones, microphones, and other audio accessories.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

Guest blog: I am living proof that learning CPR can save lives

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 16:25

By Ricardo Garcia-Moreno

Rolando Ramirez, left, was the waiter who performed CPR on Ricardo Garcia-Moreno, helping save his life on February 4, 2018.

 

I was lying on a stretcher, unable to talk or move as I went into full cardiac arrest the afternoon of February 4, 2018. My heart had stopped beating for approximately 20 minutes, and I was not breathing when emergency medical personnel loaded me into an ambulance. As I faded in and out of life over the next few hours, all I could think about were my wife, Ana; and our two sons, Emilio, 7, and Adrian, 5; and how the boys would grow up without their dad if I died that Super Bowl Sunday.

But my will to survive—and the determination of several strangers who knew cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR—kept me alive so I can be here today with my family.

I was enjoying time with Ana and her family at a restaurant that February afternoon in Las Vegas. We were having a great time eating, having drinks, and watching the Super Bowl, and then I told my wife that I was feeling dizzy. Less than a minute later, I lost consciousness and my head fell like a load of bricks on the table.

My sister-in-law saw the blank stare on my face and lunged over the table to help me, yelling for others to call 911. The wait staff came over and helped lower me to the floor, where a waiter, Rolando Ramirez, began administering CPR. Ramirez happened to be a trained doctor from Cuba who had administered CPR to more than a dozen people during his tenure at the restaurant.

A doctor who was having lunch rushed over to help, and then another medically trained person. Together, the three of them kept my heart pumping through CPR for 15-20 minutes until the ambulance arrived. My heart had to be defibrillated five times—four times in the ambulance alone.

I regained consciousness in the ambulance and remembered hearing sirens and wearing an oxygen mask. I mistakenly thought I had been run over while walking on the Vegas Strip. But then I remembered we had been in a restaurant having dinner. I couldn’t figure out when and how we left the restaurant and how I had been hit by a car. Nothing made sense.

Ricard Garcia-Moreno, left, was eating dinner with his wife, Ana, and family when he suffered a heart attack in the restaurant. Rolando Ramirez, middle, performed CPR on the attorney. Ramirez was a doctor in Cuba and has relied on his experiences to administer CPR to more than a dozen people at the restaurant.

48 hours

In the emergency room, two nurses were prepping me for an angiogram. I thought I was paralyzed because I could hear them clearly talking about me, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t open my eyes and I couldn’t talk. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had been sedated and intubated. I thought I was dying. I thought my soul was detaching from my body, and I felt helpless.

And then I became angry and thought to myself that I was going to fight to wake up. I was not going to leave my family behind.  I lost consciousness again.

I regained consciousness 48 hours after arriving at the hospital. As it turns out, I spent a full week in the hospital recovering from the ordeal and from a surgery to implant a defibrillator in my chest once the cardiologists figured out the reason why I had gone into cardiac arrest.

Evangelist of CPR

Unbeknownst to me, I had a genetic heart condition called Brugada syndrome, which is characterized by abnormal electrocardiogram, or ECG, findings and an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. I also learned that this condition had killed my maternal grandfather when he was about my age (48). For years, my family and I erroneously thought that he had died from a massive heart attack.

I believe it’s a miracle that I survived. God was looking after me and sent a lot of angels— including the Good Samaritans at the restaurant, the paramedics, and the hospital staff—to help me survive. If they hadn’t been there, I would not be here today.

I am living proof that learning CPR can save lives.

The experience has changed my life in a number of ways. For one, I now evangelize the importance of learning CPR. With the support of Haynes and Boone, I helped arrange CPR training classes in October and November at the firm’s Houston office. About 60 employees will get certified during the classes. I hope other Haynes and Boone offices will follow suit.

I know God has a purpose for me—foremost, to be a good husband and father and help raise my boys to be good men. And, if along the way I can help or be a positive influence to others in their lives somehow, including by telling my story to others and encouraging them to take a CPR class, then I am fulfilling that purpose.

I plan to issue a challenge to Houston-area law firms to host CPR classes in February in conjunction with American Heart Month. I have also been invited to speak to other companies, such as BP, where I will be kicking off its health and wellness campaign in Houston on November 7. I am happy to speak to groups as an ambassador for this cause.

Bystander behavior

According to the American Heart Association, or AMA, hundreds of thousands of Americans experience sudden cardiac arrest each year outside of the hospital—most in their own homes. About 90 percent of these incidents are fatal.

Appropriate bystander behavior can triple the chances of survival. However, CPR rates among bystanders are bleak. In Houston, for example, only 51 percent of people who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest receive CPR from bystanders. Houston has the best rate among Texas’ big cities, while Dallas has the worst rate, at 33 percent.

The AMA hopes to educate Texans about the importance of knowing CPR and symptoms of a heart attack with activities like Heart Walks, which are taking place around the nation through November. More than 30 Haynes and Boone employees participated in a Heart Walk in downtown Dallas in September.

This post was originally published on the Haynes and Boone blog and has been edited and republished with permission.

Ricardo Garcia-Moreno is a partner in Haynes and Boone and practices corporate law with an emphasis on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, energy, securities law compliance, and corporate governance. He has more than 22 years of experience representing U.S., European, and Latin American clients in domestic and international transactions involving mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, investments, joint ventures, and capital markets transactions.

 

 

 

 

 

TYLA launches Shero podcast

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 10:30

The Texas Young Lawyers Association, or TYLA, launched the Shero podcast, its first foray into podcasting, with the first episode dropping on October 3.

The Shero podcast is inspired by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers’ Continuing the Conversation and features discussions with female attorneys who have served as an inspiration, or shero, for women practicing law.

“This podcast is meant to serve as a platform for these sheroes to share their experiences and their advice on a broader spectrum and allow for other female attorneys to be inspired by their advice and experiences,” said TYLA President Sally Pretorius in her TYLA President’s Page column in the November 2018 issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

The first episode took an in-depth look at what a shero is and featured Pretorius, TYLA Immediate Past President Baili Rhodes, TYLA Vice President Britney Harrison, and TYLA Chair-elect Courtney Barksdale Perez. The panel discussed their personal sheroes and some of the challenges they have faced as female attorneys.

The newest episode, released October 17, is a discussion with retired Justice Linda Yañez, the first Latina on the Texas Court of Appeals. She served on the 13th Court of Appeals in El Paso from 1993 to 2010.

The podcast can currently be downloaded on iTunes. For more information about TYLA, go to tyla.org.

DBA honors legal news reporting at Stephen Philbin Awards

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 14:30

The Dallas Bar Association hosted its 35th annual Stephen Philbin Awards at the Belo Mansion on October 12, honoring the best legal news reporting in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Bar Association

The Dallas Bar Association hosted its 35th annual Stephen Philbin Awards at the Belo Mansion on October 12, honoring the best legal news reporting in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The awards focus on journalism that shows educational value, accuracy, and resourcefulness, as well as the reporter’s initiative in pursuing the story and the story’s role in public debate.

This year’s grand prize winner was the NBC 5 investigative team: Scott Friedman, Eva Parks, Jack Douglas, Jose Sanchez, Mark Ginther (no longer with NBC 5), and Frank Heinz, whose report, “Big Buses, Bigger Problems: Taxpayers Taken for a Ride,” exposed corruption and financial mismanagement inside Dallas County Schools. The agency is funded by taxpayers and transports more than 75,000 children to school daily. The 18-month investigation by NBC 5 led to corrective actions including the reorganization of school busing in Dallas.

“‘Big Buses’ demonstrated what investigative journalism should be—it was timely, thorough, and informative,” the judges said in a press release.

Additional winners:

  • Suburban/Specialty Article: Joshua C. Johnson, of the Focus Daily News, for his article “Lancaster ISD Police Officer Sparks Dialogue On Perception, Understanding”
  • Series/Investigative Article:Tanya Eiserer, Michael Botsford, and Martin Doporto, of WFAA-TV, for “Deadly Consequences”
  • Breaking News: Eric Griffey and Jeff Prince, of Fort Worth Weekly, for their article “Flamed Out”
  • Feature Article: Bruce Tomaso and Allen Pusey, of The Texas Law Book, for their article“‘Wake Up the Pope’—The Historic Jury Verdict Against a Priestly Pedophile that Shook the Catholic Church”
  • Visual/Multi-Media Story: WFAA-TV’s Jason Whitely, Mark Smith, and Taylor Lumsden for “What Went Wrong in Waco”
  • Student Publication: Kyle Cotton, of The Shorthorn at the University of Texas at Arlington, for his article “Firefighters file civil service lawsuit against the city”

The Stephen Philbin Awards were established in 1983 in honor of the late Stephen Philbin, who was a member of the DBA and a leading authority on media law.

Winners in each category received a $1,000. Grand prize winners take home a $1,750 cash award. Each are chosen by a panel of judges, including Lisa A. Rich, associate professor of law at Texas A&M University School of law, and Cheryl Wattley, professor of law at UNT Dallas College of Law.

New scam targets attorney through online member directory

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 10:00

A Texas attorney, who recently relocated to Missouri, was contacted by a scammer seeking the attorney’s bank information. The scammer sought the information in the guise of a method of payment for the attorney to act in the settlement of a defaulted loan.

The attorney was contacted from a Gmail account belonging to “James D Templeton,” who claimed to be from Springdale, Arkansas, and that he was owed $685,000 from his friend, “Dennis Robert,” allegedly of Houston.

In an email, dated September 14, 2018, Templeton stated he had a two-year agreement with Robert to the repayment of a loan of $685,000 at a 7.5 percent interest rate. The “loan agreement promissory note” copy that Templeton sent to the attorney noted the same figure but with an interest rate of 5 percent. The “loan” repayment deadline was set for a two-year period beginning March 12, 2015, and ending March 12, 2017.

Templeton provided the attorney with a street address for his location in Arkansas, however, a search for that address turned up with no one of the name “James” living in that location, and a Google search for a “James D Templeton” in Arkansas also turned up no results. The home phone number provided by Templeton corresponded to a landline with the area code and prefix for a location in Blair, Oklahoma. Templeton also provided the attorney with an additional contact number because he said he was “presently away on a business trip.” That number’s area code and prefix corresponded to a landline in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The attorney was also provided with a driver’s license and Social Security card for a James Templeton. Upon doing research, the attorney found a James Templeton in Arkansas matching the license.

On October 2, 2018, Templeton left a voicemail for the attorney, and the attorney noted the caller spoke with a “foreign accent” that was definitely not an Arkansas accent. The attorney said in an email that research he had done for a James Templeton in Arkansas indicated Templeton had only lived in Arkansas. The number corresponding to the voice message was different than the previous two numbers, but again the area code and prefix corresponded to a location in Vancouver.

In an email from October 3, 2018, Templeton requested that the attorney “send me a scanned copy of the [documents] with your bank information on how I can send you the retainer.” Templeton also complained in the email that he had hoped they would have progressed farther in the matter before his return to town.

The attorney, suspicious of the situation from the start, mailed his retainer letter to the address listed on the driver’s license of James D Templeton that was provided to him. The letter was returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable, at which point the attorney confronted the scammer asking for an explanation. The attorney never received any further communication from the scammer.

A search of the Blair phone number on Google turned up an Instagram account with the phone number listed in the biographical information. Opening the page led to a profile for an Instagram user in Bangladesh with Bengali script in use. The account is private but has a biography that reads (when translated) “Manager 9+ years For the Financial program. Need Extra Cash? invest $500=Earn$10,500. Text’Money’ to [number].” The profile picture for the account appears to have been stolen from a celebrity account.

The attorney filed a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and notified the State Bar of Texas of the email address used by the scammer.

Cases involving bank fraud are investigated by the Secret Service. If you are targeted, contact an office in your area. Internet fraud should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

If a scam has targeted you or your firm, please leave a comment below describing the scenario or tactics the scammer used.

Sponsored Content: 2018 Clio Cloud Conference Highlights

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 23:01

The 2018 Clio Cloud Conference was an incredible event. With powerful keynotes, helpful educational sessions, and a big announcement that’s set to change the course of the legal tech industry, this just might have been the most exciting Clio Cloud Conference yet.

This year, it was all about experience—creating a better experience for your clients, having a better experience managing your law firm, and of course, having an amazing experience at the Clio Cloud Conference.

Read on for more highlights from this year’s conference—and to see where we’re headed for 2019!

An incredible opening keynote from Jack Newton

As always, Clio CEO and Co-founder Jack Newton opened the conference with a rousing keynote speech packed with plenty of exciting news from Clio.

This year featured an especially big announcement: The introduction of Clio as a client experience platform and the acquisition of Lexicata by Clio, signaling the creation of a new product category in legal tech focused on delivering a solution that addresses the needs of the end-to-end client experience.

Clio will be evolving Lexicata into a more advanced client engagement platform called Clio Grow, coming early 2019.

Jack also spoke about:

  • The release of the 2018 Legal Trends Report
  • New feature releases from Clio this year
  • Why disruption means unlocking more market demand for all in the legal space

See more highlights from Jack’s keynote here.

Insights from the 2018 Legal Trends Report

Clio’s COO, George Psiharis, gave an insightful overview of the findings from this year’s Legal Trends Report at the conference.

Released at the Clio Cloud Conference, the 2018 Legal Trends Report is the most in-depth report to date. With aggregated and anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals in the US, supported by extensive survey research, lawyers can expect a rich, actionable analysis of today’s legal consumer: Learn what makes them hire, what makes them recommend your services, and how they want to communicate with their lawyer.

Download your copy of the 2018 Legal Trends Report now!

Celebrating the amazing work of Clio customers at the Reisman Awards

Every year, we’re incredibly inspired by the amazing stories submitted by Clio customers to the Reisman Awards. With extraordinary stories from over 200 applicants, the selection process was difficult, but we were proud to announce our 2018 Reisman Award Winners at the conference this year:

  • Best New Law Firm: Morgan & Cumbas
  • Best Growth Story: Burd Law Group
  • Legal Innovation: Modern Law
  • Community Champion: Dunkiel Saunders Elliott Raubvogel & Hand

Watch their stories here.

That’s not all—read the full list of conference highlights to see the winner of our Launch//Code contest, hear about our amazing keynote speakers, see what additions were made during customer delight week, and much more!

Read the full list of 2018 Clio Cloud Conference highlights.

The Honorable John Frank Onion Jr.

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 12:00

The Honorable John Frank “Jack” Onion Jr., former presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who died in September at 93, was one of the longest serving, prolific, and consequential judges in the history of the state of Texas. But “honorable” was not just Judge Onion’s title. It captured his character, his work, and his essence for more than five decades of public service.

Those of us who had the honor of working with him as judges—and as lawyers appearing before him—are better judges and lawyers because of Judge Onion the man and his lengthy service to the people of Texas.

John F. Onion Jr.

After graduating from law school in 1950, Judge Onion entered public service. It was a family tradition: His grandfather, J.F. Onion, had been a member of the Texas Legislature; his father, John F. “Pete” Onion, had been a longtime Bexar County district judge. After serving as an assistant district attorney and justice of the peace, Onion was elected district judge, where he served for 10 years.

In 1966, Judge Onion was elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas’ highest court for criminal cases. In 1971, with a constitutional amendment that made the office of the presiding judge of the court an elected position, Onion became the first presiding judge of the court who was elected by the voters. He was elected to and served two more terms before retiring in December 1988.

But his service to the state of Texas did not end upon his “retirement.” Onion continued to sit as a visiting judge in courts around the state.

In 1994, Judge Onion sat as the trial judge in the official misconduct case of Kay Bailey Hutchison, then state treasurer. On the first day of trial, when he declined the prosecutor’s request to make pretrial rulings on whether certain evidence was legally obtained, the prosecution then declined to proceed with the trial. The trial abruptly ended with a directed verdict rendered by the court and an acquittal by the jury. Legal experts opined on whether Onion had acted properly in declining to rule on the evidence prior to trial. Describing Judge Onion as “a very fine judge,” one commentator observed, “No one knows the law here better than Judge Onion.”

For many years Judge Onion sat by designation on the 3rd Court of Appeals, the intermediate appellate court sitting in Austin and covering 24 counties in central Texas. I often sat on panels with him. Judge Onion was the consummate appellate judge. He was collegial but principled and independent. He recognized the dignity of judges, lawyers, and litigants alike. Long entrusted with safeguarding the criminal justice system, he resisted the occupational hazards of a system of partisan election of judges. He was a stalwart protector of the independence of the judiciary.

Often when I entered his chambers, Judge Onion was hidden behind mounds of law books, briefs, volumes of trial records, and stacks of legal pads containing his own handwritten notes and drafts of opinions written in longhand. He was always available to share his vast knowledge of the law and to exchange ideas. He was a true student of the law, always weighing and evaluating the views of judges and lawyers, and scrupulously scouring the record. Lawyers knew he was devoted to the record and they could rely upon him to read—and rely upon—the record in every case. (At oral argument, with a twinkle in his eye directed to the lawyer addressing the court, his knowledge of the record informed the foundation of his questions.)

Likewise, his opinions exhibited a vast knowledge of the law—not to show off his knowledge but to protect the integrity of the system and to do justice. It was important for him to get it right and to make certain the decision-making process was informed, transparent, and honest.

Judge Onion was not a man of few words. He loved words—oral and written—and he loved to share his wisdom with others. He wrote lengthy, well-reasoned opinions. He stood ready to confront difficult legal issues. He resisted simplifying, sidestepping, or mischaracterizing an issue to avoid dealing with the real and difficult issues in a case. He avoided attacking the personal integrity or intellectual acumen of his colleagues or of lawyers.

But neither was he diffident. His judicial voice was vivid and unique. He became known, usually in his many dissents, for his expression of surprise and concern for an opposing view in a majority opinion: “Color me amazed,” he would exclaim. “Color me amazed one more time.” And “Color me amazed again, this time with a shade of deep concern.” “This is not the law, has never been the law, and should never be the law. My color is still amazed.” I can assure you there was a twinkle in his eye.

Judge Onion was the consummate judge. But he was more. My father’s ultimate compliment of a person’s character was to say he was a fine man. An ultimate compliment but one of that generation’s understatements. Judge Onion was humble. He was gentle. He was hardworking. He was jolly, warm, and humorous. He loved a good laugh, a genuine smile. He generously shared words of encouragement. He entered my life, my judicial thinking. Judge Onion was a fine, fine man.

Over his 56 years of service, he served at all levels of judgeships. He served a vital role in the overall administration of Texas’ criminal justice system. He impacted six decades of law and his work continues to inform our system of justice. A man of principle, Judge Onion was a distinguished, prolific, hardworking, humble, and respected jurist.

His life reflects the importance of our courts, what a good judge can do and be, and the long-lasting legacy of a fine judge. His good works live on in opinions he wrote, precedent he created, and generations of excellent lawyers who worked and clerked for him, and appeared before him, all confident that he would listen.
He was a trusted man.

This article was published in the Waco Tribune-Herald and has been edited and reprinted with permission.

Justice Jan P. Patterson is a senior judge of the state of Texas, formerly a justice of the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin and currently a justice in residence at Baylor Law School.

Texas lawyers able to assist North Carolinians recovering from Hurricane Florence

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 15:02

Lawyers across the nation can provide pro bono assistance to North Carolinians in the wake of Hurricane Florence thanks to a recent order of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

After Hurricane Harvey several hundred out-of-state lawyers volunteered their services to residents of this state.

ABA President Bob Carlson reminds lawyers that ABA Free Legal Answers, an online portal that remotely connects low-income individuals with pro bono lawyers, has adapted its North Carolina site to accept out-of-state volunteer registrations. This provides a convenient way for U.S.-licensed attorneys to offer pro bono legal advice to Hurricane Florence survivors from wherever they live. After following the instructions on this link, volunteers can log in and provide answers at their convenience.

Texas lawyers interested in pro bono work within their own state can always volunteer at texaslegalanswers.org, Texas’ ABA Free Legal Answers online portal. Sign up here.

Texas Bar Journal wins 2018 Luminary Award

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 13:30

Texas Bar Journal Managing Editor Patricia McConnico accepts the 2018 Luminary Award for excellence in authored articles from Mike Leme, of Fastcase, during the 2018 NABE Communications Section Workshop.

The Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors received a 2018 Luminary Award for excellence in authored articles from the National Association of Bar Executives Communications Section Workshop, held last week in Omaha, Nebraska.

Each year the workshop brings together bar associations from across the country to network, learn about new industry trends, and recognize their communications and marketing projects from the past year.

The winning article, “Surviving the War Within” (November 2017, Page 700), was authored by current TBJ Board of Editors member and Texas Young Lawyers Association President-elect Victor A. Flores, a U.S. Marine Corps Iraq War veteran who interviewed a panel of veterans about living with post-traumatic stress.

“This article is so timely. While we’ve seen a lot about veterans and PTSD, the topic remains one of acute interest. The most riveting parts of the article were the first-hand quotes by the veterans themselves,” said one of the judges of Flores’ article.

Have you RSVP’d to pro bono week?

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 06:00

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Circuits and is reprinted with permission. 

By Hannah Allison

Texas is RSVP’ing YES to pro bono week this year. How about you?

Not sure what it is? The Celebrate Pro Bono homepage reads, “…this initiative provides an opportunity for legal organizations across the country to collaboratively commemorate the vitally important contributions of America’s lawyers and to recruit and train the many additional volunteers required to meet the growing demand. With the enthusiastic involvement of national, statewide and local partners, from all components of the legal profession, the National Pro Bono Celebration is creating a wave of positive energy about the pro bono movement in this country…”

The year marks the 10th anniversary of National Pro Bono Week, October 22-26. American Bar Association President Bob Carlson is encouraging organizations to plan and participate in events focused on disaster resiliency.

Disaster survivors face countless legal issues—from insurance disputes, FEMA appeals, landlord-tenant disputes, consumer fraud, health and education issues, and so much more. Even before a disaster strikes, communities need legal assistance with disaster preparedness through business continuity planning, securing title documents, meeting insurance needs, and other assistance. How can you get involved in October?

Online Pro Bono Clinic

Following the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas coast, attorneys found an easy way to participate in pro bono by volunteering with Texas’ new online legal advice clinic, Texas Legal Answers. It took just three minutes to sign up for www.TexasLegalAnswers.org, under Volunteer Attorney Registration, and within the first month following the disaster there were Harvey questions hitting the queue. To date, Texas Legal Answers has received 65 direct questions in the natural disaster category with hundreds more coming in that are indirect legal issues that arose following Harvey.

Client surveys are showing feedback like:

“This was a terrific way to get questions answered and it was obvious that whoever answered the question for me was both knowledgeable and compassionate. Thank you so much.”

With an average question taking just 20 minutes for an attorney to answer, you can easily log pro bono hours during pro bono week and empower Texans to receive access to justice anywhere you have internet access. Maybe while you wait for your Frappuccino? Or while you wait for your oil change?

Volunteer attorneys are also benefiting this program:

“I became an attorney to do good—and helping those that need help is a part of that. Texas Legal Answers is a quick and simple way to give back and help without turning away your attention from your existing caseload.”

For every question answered during pro bono week, volunteers will receive an entry to win a new Kindle Fire—generously donated by Westlaw—and a Pro Bono Texas swag bag. Can you #Give20Minutes?

Social Media

How about daily social media posts, covering the week of October 22-26? You could focus on how technology can assist in a disaster or ideas on technological preparedness for attorneys and their practice. Whether it is physical space considerations, network and phone backup ideas, or any statewide or national resources that are available to assist with technological needs following a fire, flood, etc., y’all have the resources and knowledge base—share it! Need a starting point for ideas? Check out the ABA’s Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness page here.

If not social media, how about writing a short blog post for the Texas Bar Blog? Again, focusing on the above topics and connecting it to national pro bono week.

Find an Event

Don’t have enough time in the day to plan your kid’s fall soccer schedule, let alone build something for pro bono week? Let someone else do the planning and you can simply show up for a pro bono week event near you. Watch over the coming weeks, as organizations add events to the National Pro Bono Week calendar.

Texas Has Your Back

Already doing pro bono, but looking for some resources to make it a tad easier? Need a mentor for a case that is outside your practice area? Maybe you haven’t dipped your toe in pro bono, but now you are ready? Texas has your back with ProBonoTexas.org. It is a one-stop shop for all things pro bono—including ways to find new pro bono opportunities, a resource library to help you find those answers for Texas Legal Answers, and Westlaw Doc & Form Builder to maximize your efforts when assembling documents for your pro bono clients.

Pro Bono Texas will be pushing out social media posts, giveaways, fun facts, etc. across pro bono week on Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned for announcements and event highlights from across the state.

Do you know a pro bono rock star or are you yourself a pro bono enthusiast? Give us a shout here!

Hannah Allison is the pro bono programs administrator for the Legal Access Division of the State Bar of Texas and manages Texas Legal Answers. If you have questions or would like to chat about all things pro bono, you may contact her at probonotx@texasbar.com.

Have you RSVP’d to pro bono week?

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 06:00

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Circuits and is reprinted with permission. 

By Hannah Allison

Texas is RSVP’ing YES to pro bono week this year. How about you?

Not sure what it is? The Celebrate Pro Bono homepage reads, “…this initiative provides an opportunity for legal organizations across the country to collaboratively commemorate the vitally important contributions of America’s lawyers and to recruit and train the many additional volunteers required to meet the growing demand. With the enthusiastic involvement of national, statewide and local partners, from all components of the legal profession, the National Pro Bono Celebration is creating a wave of positive energy about the pro bono movement in this country…”

The year marks the 10th anniversary of National Pro Bono Week, October 22-26. American Bar Association President Bob Carlson is encouraging organizations to plan and participate in events focused on disaster resiliency.

Disaster survivors face countless legal issues—from insurance disputes, FEMA appeals, landlord-tenant disputes, consumer fraud, health and education issues, and so much more. Even before a disaster strikes, communities need legal assistance with disaster preparedness through business continuity planning, securing title documents, meeting insurance needs, and other assistance. How can you get involved in October?

Online Pro Bono Clinic

Following the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas coast, attorneys found an easy way to participate in pro bono by volunteering with Texas’ new online legal advice clinic, Texas Legal Answers. It took just three minutes to sign up for www.TexasLegalAnswers.org, under Volunteer Attorney Registration, and within the first month following the disaster there were Harvey questions hitting the queue. To date, Texas Legal Answers has received 65 direct questions in the natural disaster category with hundreds more coming in that are indirect legal issues that arose following Harvey.

Client surveys are showing feedback like:

“This was a terrific way to get questions answered and it was obvious that whoever answered the question for me was both knowledgeable and compassionate. Thank you so much.”

With an average question taking just 20 minutes for an attorney to answer, you can easily log pro bono hours during pro bono week and empower Texans to receive access to justice anywhere you have internet access. Maybe while you wait for your Frappuccino? Or while you wait for your oil change?

Volunteer attorneys are also benefiting this program:

“I became an attorney to do good—and helping those that need help is a part of that. Texas Legal Answers is a quick and simple way to give back and help without turning away your attention from your existing caseload.”

For every question answered during pro bono week, volunteers will receive an entry to win a new Kindle Fire—generously donated by Westlaw—and a Pro Bono Texas swag bag. Can you #Give20Minutes?

Social Media

How about daily social media posts, covering the week of October 22-26? You could focus on how technology can assist in a disaster or ideas on technological preparedness for attorneys and their practice. Whether it is physical space considerations, network and phone backup ideas, or any statewide or national resources that are available to assist with technological needs following a fire, flood, etc., y’all have the resources and knowledge base—share it! Need a starting point for ideas? Check out the ABA’s Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness page here.

If not social media, how about writing a short blog post for the Texas Bar Blog? Again, focusing on the above topics and connecting it to national pro bono week.

Find an Event

Don’t have enough time in the day to plan your kid’s fall soccer schedule, let alone build something for pro bono week? Let someone else do the planning and you can simply show up for a pro bono week event near you. Watch over the coming weeks, as organizations add events to the National Pro Bono Week calendar.

Texas Has Your Back

Already doing pro bono, but looking for some resources to make it a tad easier? Need a mentor for a case that is outside your practice area? Maybe you haven’t dipped your toe in pro bono, but now you are ready? Texas has your back with ProBonoTexas.org. It is a one-stop shop for all things pro bono—including ways to find new pro bono opportunities, a resource library to help you find those answers for Texas Legal Answers, and Westlaw Doc & Form Builder to maximize your efforts when assembling documents for your pro bono clients.

Pro Bono Texas will be pushing out social media posts, giveaways, fun facts, etc. across pro bono week on Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned for announcements and event highlights from across the state.

Do you know a pro bono rock star or are you yourself a pro bono enthusiast? Give us a shout here!

Hannah Allison is the pro bono programs administrator for the Legal Access Division of the State Bar of Texas and manages Texas Legal Answers. If you have questions or would like to chat about all things pro bono, you may contact her at probonotx@texasbar.com.

The Battle over Biometrics

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 12:24

A look at the law in Texas and two other states

Public hearing set on proposed rules changes

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 16:12

The Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda (CDRR) has published proposed rules changes regarding confidentiality/ethics advice and diminished capacity.

These were also printed in the (September) Texas Bar Journal and the (August 31) Texas Register. A public hearing on the proposed rules will be held at 10 a.m. October 10, 2018, at the Texas Law Center in Austin.

The public can listen via teleconference at 1-605-475-5604, Passcode: 2870504#

The committee also will accept comments concerning the proposed rules through November 1, 2018. Comments can be submitted at texasbar.com/CDRR.

The committee was created by Government Code section 81.0872 and is responsible for overseeing the initial process for proposing a disciplinary rule. For more information, go to texasbar.com/CDRR.

Savings on events and fashion

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 08:00

With offers on sporting events, theme parks, and stylish outfits, your Member Benefit Program has everything you need to have fun and look great this October. Visit the Entertainment, Retail, and Wireless Phone pages to start saving.

  • Premium Seats: NFL Football Tickets — Premium Seats USA carries a huge selection of NFL tickets. Save $50 on orders of $400 or more, or save 10% on your entire order.
  • Ticket Monster — Thanks to the Ticket Monster Employee Discount Program, you can save up to 50% on tickets to sports events, concerts, theme parks, and movies.
  • Preferred Access Tickets: Concerts — Get tickets to the most in-demand concerts, sports games, and major events around the world with the new TicketsatWork Preferred Access. It’s all here: great seats, the best prices, and the top shows.
  • Theme Parks & Attractions — Save up to 40% on admission to the nation’s most popular theme parks, special events, and attractions. Savings are available for Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando, Cirque du Soleil, movie tickets, and more.
  • Rockport — Rockport believes that your workday should be spent in comfort and style. To help you turn heads at work without compromising comfort, Rockport offers 25% off your entire purchase all year round.
  • OtterBox — Shop otterbox.com, and receive 15% off the OtterBox case of your choice. We dedicate our cases to all the klutzy, spontaneous, chaotic, graceless individuals who have broken a device or valuable due to their active lifestyle.
  • Skechers Direct — Skechers Direct is proud to offer you all the benefits of our corporate shoe program. Save 30% year round on select work, corporate casual, dress, and performance shoes from Skechers.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

State Bar accepting expressions of interest for 2019-2020 committees

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 08:08

The State Bar of Texas is accepting expressions of interest to serve on committees for the upcoming bar year.

Please fill out this form by December 7, 2018, to express interest in serving on a State Bar committee beginning in the 2019-2020 bar year, which starts June 1, 2019. Information provided in this form will be submitted to the president-elect for consideration when naming committee appointments.

State Bar committees are established by the Board of Directors and appointed by the president-elect to consider matters of interest to the bar membership, update professional materials, recommend changes to policies and procedures, and study legal issues affecting the legal profession and the public.

A list of committees and their roles is available at texasbar.com/committees.

State Bar accepting expressions of interest for 2019-2020 committees

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 08:08

The State Bar of Texas is accepting expressions of interest to serve on committees for the upcoming bar year.

Please fill out this form by December 7, 2018, to express interest in serving on a State Bar committee beginning in the 2019-2020 bar year, which starts June 1, 2019. Information provided in this form will be submitted to the president-elect for consideration when naming committee appointments.

State Bar committees are established by the Board of Directors and appointed by the president-elect to consider matters of interest to the bar membership, update professional materials, recommend changes to policies and procedures, and study legal issues affecting the legal profession and the public.

A list of committees and their roles is available at texasbar.com/committees.

Guest blog: Making sure you have a court reporter in today’s market

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 12:46

By now, you have heard there is a shortage of court reporters or felt the pinch of not having a reporter when you need one. The Texas Court Reporters Association, or TCRA, has suggestions to help lawyers have a greater likelihood of having a reporter when they need one.

Court reporters are vital to the justice system. We know the system can get bogged down when a reporter isn’t available. Currently, the demand for court reporters exceeds the supply. TCRA has been working to recruit people into the field. We are also working on new ways to alleviate the problem in the near term. In the meantime, the suggestions below will help ensure you have the service you need when you need it.

  • Most importantly, as soon as you know you will need a court reporter, reach out—right away—to your favorite reporter or a court reporting firm to book the work. Many court reporters are independent contractors and take work from any firm that hires them or act as substitutes for official reporters in the courtroom. Reporters stay booked up, many as far out as three weeks. Asking for one the day before a deposition or hearing will often result in a court reporter not being available. The further out you book, the better.
  • Second, when scheduling, ask the firm if they have a reporter who is committed to do your specific job or if your job is just one of many on their books for that day. Request—when you book—that the court reporting firm confirm that they have a reporter assigned to your job for the date and time you have specified.
  • Third, if a court reporting firm doesn’t have a reporter for the time you would like to schedule one, ask the firm what dates the firm can commit to cover your job. While that process might take longer, it will be one way to keep things running smoothly.
  • Fourth, a few days before the job, follow up with the court reporting firm to confirm they have a reporter committed to your job. Firms normally confirm jobs the day before with both the attorney who scheduled the job and the reporter assigned to it. However, most firms welcome early confirmations.

Keep in mind that anything can happen to court reporters that can hinder them from doing a job to which they have previously committed. Even the most responsible reporter can get sick or have a family emergency. In that instance, the firms will do everything they can to get a replacement reporter for your job.

Court reporters want to be available when you need them and will make every effort to do so. However, we need your help to make this happen. TCRA’s members want to work with their customers—Texas lawyers—to keep the wheels of justice rolling as our new ideas for alleviating the shortage are implemented.

Thanks for your patience and your service to Texas.

 

Shari J. Krieger, CSR, RMR—President, Texas Court Reporters Association
Official court reporter of County Court at Law No. 3, Tarrant County

Lorrie A. Schnoor, CSR, RDR, CRR—President-Elect, Texas Court Reporters Association
Owner, Kennedy Reporting Service, Austin

Guest blog: Making sure you have a court reporter in today’s market

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 12:46

By now, you have heard there is a shortage of court reporters or felt the pinch of not having a reporter when you need one. The Texas Court Reporters Association, or TCRA, has suggestions to help lawyers have a greater likelihood of having a reporter when they need one.

Court reporters are vital to the justice system. We know the system can get bogged down when a reporter isn’t available. Currently, the demand for court reporters exceeds the supply. TCRA has been working to recruit people into the field. We are also working on new ways to alleviate the problem in the near term. In the meantime, the suggestions below will help ensure you have the service you need when you need it.

  • Most importantly, as soon as you know you will need a court reporter, reach out—right away—to your favorite reporter or a court reporting firm to book the work. Many court reporters are independent contractors and take work from any firm that hires them or act as substitutes for official reporters in the courtroom. Reporters stay booked up, many as far out as three weeks. Asking for one the day before a deposition or hearing will often result in a court reporter not being available. The further out you book, the better.
  • Second, when scheduling, ask the firm if they have a reporter who is committed to do your specific job or if your job is just one of many on their books for that day. Request—when you book—that the court reporting firm confirm that they have a reporter assigned to your job for the date and time you have specified.
  • Third, if a court reporting firm doesn’t have a reporter for the time you would like to schedule one, ask the firm what dates the firm can commit to cover your job. While that process might take longer, it will be one way to keep things running smoothly.
  • Fourth, a few days before the job, follow up with the court reporting firm to confirm they have a reporter committed to your job. Firms normally confirm jobs the day before with both the attorney who scheduled the job and the reporter assigned to it. However, most firms welcome early confirmations.

Keep in mind that anything can happen to court reporters that can hinder them from doing a job to which they have previously committed. Even the most responsible reporter can get sick or have a family emergency. In that instance, the firms will do everything they can to get a replacement reporter for your job.

Court reporters want to be available when you need them and will make every effort to do so. However, we need your help to make this happen. TCRA’s members want to work with their customers—Texas lawyers—to keep the wheels of justice rolling as our new ideas for alleviating the shortage are implemented.

Thanks for your patience and your service to Texas.

 

Shari J. Krieger, CSR, RMR—President, Texas Court Reporters Association
Official court reporter of County Court at Law No. 3, Tarrant County

Lorrie A. Schnoor, CSR, RDR, CRR—President-Elect, Texas Court Reporters Association
Owner, Kennedy Reporting Service, Austin

Holy Moley: Musings on “Super” Litigation

Tue, 10/02/2018 - 15:00

It was a simpler time. When I was a kid in the 1940s and ’50s, growing up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, the best part of the week was Saturday. With my 25-cent allowance closely clutched, I stood in a rowdy line at the old Beckley Theater to see the latest B-Western or Tarzan movie. Afterwards, I beat a hasty retreat to a nearby pharmacy to peruse the latest 10-cent comic books, finally selecting and purchasing one. My choice almost always featured a hero-type character with strong principles and a dedication to crime fighting and the “American way” in their make-believe world. Little did I know that deep-carpet copyright lawyers in faraway cities were then in a continuing and desperate battle for my one thin dime, fighting to maintain the legal existence of the fictional characters whose virtue I admired and adventures I so fervently followed.

The first such comic book litigation involved Superman, an alien from the planet Krypton who came to Earth possessing tremendous powers, including the ability to fly (and for some reason wore his underwear on the outside of his pants). He first appeared in Action Comics, published by Detective Comics, in June 1938, and became immensely popular. Bruns Publications, a competitor, was quick to try and capitalize on Superman’s success and published its own comic superhero, a character called Wonderman, created by noted cartoon artist Will Eisner. Suit for infringement of a copyright was immediately brought in federal court. The court found that infringement had indeed occurred, the only real difference between the two being that Superman’s “skintight acrobatic costume” was blue, while the other’s was red. Their super abilities were the same, as was their stated intent to battle against “evil and injustice,” (Detective Comics. v. Bruns Publication, 111 F. 2d 432 (2d Cir. 1940)). Legally vanquished, Wonderman disappeared, the world of evil apparently no worse off.

Fawcett Publications, in the meantime, had come up with Master Man in 1940. This character, too, was the equal of Superman in strength, speed, and crime-fighting ability. But Superman once more prevailed when Fawcett was threatened with a lawsuit. The mighty Master Man gave up without a fight after six issues (Alex Grand, How DC Sued Their Competition to Keep Superman as the #1 Superhero, Comic Book Historians, https://comicbookhistorians.com/how-dc-kept-superman-super-litigation-attorneys/).

A key challenge to Superman’s reign as “numero uno” superhero was in the form of another-red suited character introduced by Fawcett in 1939 and dubbed Captain Marvel. Under the storyline, Captain Marvel came into existence as a superhero mirroring Superman’s abilities when newsboy Billy Batson uttered the term “Shazam,” the letters being an acronym for various ancient gods. In addition to success in comic books, even surpassing Superman’s popularity, Fawcett’s character was also featured in the 1941 serial motion picture, Adventures of Captain Marvel, starring Tom Tyler. Often exclaiming “Holy Moley” when confronted with a dilemma, Captain Marvel’s archenemy was mad scientist Doctor Sivana, who assailed “the world’s mightiest mortal” as the “big red cheese.”

National Comics Publications (the result of a merger between National Allied Publications and Detective Comics, which published Superman,) again ordered its lawyers into the breach to add to the litter of would-be super pretenders. Superman was again found to be protected by copyright. The federal district court compared the characters’ super powers, costumes, and storylines, determining that Captain Marvel was a duplication of the blue-suited character and that Fawcett had plagiarized plots (National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications, 93 F.Supp. 349 (S.D.N.Y. 1950)). The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s findings as to infringement, but reversed and remanded on other issues related to the status of the copyright themselves (National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications, 191 F.2d 594 (2d Cir. 1951)). The Captain Marvel character was shunted off into temporary oblivion, but years later resurfaced as “Shazam,” and a feature film involving him is currently scheduled for 2019.

Superman, however, finally met his nemesis in the form of a competing television character. The “man of steel” had gone on to tremendous success in comics, television, and movies, ever alert to pretenders, although the “golden age” of comics had become a distant memory. In 1981, ABC began promotion of a new program, The Greatest American Hero, starring William Katt as Ralph Hinkley, a high school teacher who receives a magical costume from aliens that invests him with super powers comparable to those of Superman. However, he loses the instruction book for the suit and experiences repeated catastrophic accidents in trying to control his powers, such as crash landings, flailing while flying, etc. After a lawsuit was filed and the two characters were compared, a federal district judge concluded that the television character constituted a parody of Superman and was thus protected under the “fair use” doctrine (Warner Bros. v. American Broadcasting Cos., 523 F.Supp 611 (S.D.N.Y. 1981)). On appeal, also based on a review of physical similarities and the totality of attributes and traits, the lower court finding was upheld (Warner Bros., Inc., v. American Broadcasting Cos., Inc., 654 F.2d 204 (2d Cir. 1981)). During the first season of the program, the name “Hinkley” was changed to “Hanley” because of the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jr.)).

Given this ruling, it explains why no lawsuit followed the publishing by Entertaining Comics, or EC Comics, in Mad comics of its spoof, “Superduperman,” although DC Comics (the name officially adopted by National Comics Publications in 1977) initially threated a legal challenge without following up (Grand, How DC Sued). EC Comics went after other superheroes with “Captain Marbles” and “Bat Boy and Rubin.” EC’s attitude? “What, me worry?” Superman was beginning to lose his battle for copyright primacy. In the comics, parody prevailed with Li’l Abner’s “ideel,” bumbling detective Fearless Fosdick, as drawn by Al Capp, as a ruthless takeoff on Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy.

Although the “golden age” of comics ran out of steam in the 1950s, DC continued its attempts to protect Superman’s posture as the world’s mightiest hero. It was able to force some minor would-be superheroes from the field by threat of lawsuit, but, ultimately, an onslaught of such characters, as witnessed by the plethora of films currently depicting such characters, has seen that primacy diminish and copyright protection yielded for all practical purposes.

However, superheroes were not the only fictional characters in those early years making an effort to protect their legal status. In 1933, a Detroit radio station began broadcasting the exploits of a masked man and his faithful American Indian companion fighting evil in the Old West, a program quickly picked up for national airing. The Lone Ranger proved immediately successful, as witnessed by the millions of kids joining the masked man’s “safety club.” In 1938, on the heels of that success, a movie serial, The Lone Ranger, was released, featuring seven men, each of whom was potentially the Lone Ranger. Only in the final chapter was it revealed that the Lone Ranger was the seventh candidate, a character named Allen King as portrayed by actor Lee Powell

Powell then began appearing with a small circus. Billed as the “original Lone Ranger,” he wore a mask and rode a white horse, crying out “Hi-yo, Silver!” Suit was quickly brought, but a federal district court denied relief. On appeal, a circuit court found that, in the absence of copyright evidence, the actor had nevertheless engaged in a form of unfair competition, and reversed the lower court (Lone Ranger v. Cox, 124 F.2d 650 (4th Cir. 1942)). Of course, the Lone Ranger and Tonto went on to ride off into those thrilling days of yesteryear, as personified by Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

Other characters underwent copyright examination. One court upheld a movie studio in a lawsuit by the Edgar Rice Burroughs family, which claimed that films about the jungle “ape man” Tarzan, had infringed on the copyright of the original books. The court found that there were sufficient differences between the original books, which traced from 1912, and the many successive Tarzan movies beginning in 1918 with Elmo Lincoln starring, and that the studio was a grantee of title to the character (Burroughs v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 683 F.2d 610 (2d Cir. 1982)). Had the plaintiffs prevailed, would comedian Carol Burnett have been estopped from giving her famous Tarzan yell?

The cowled superhero, Batman, was also not totally spared copyright challenge. The term “Batcave” was found to be protected, (DC Comics v. Reel Fantasy, 696 F.2d 24 (2d Cir. 1982)), as was “Batmobile” (DC Comics v. Towle, 802 F.2d 1012 (9th Cir. 2015)).

Thus the battles raged while kids unknowingly followed their heroes’ exploits. A thin dime doesn’t buy much anymore, and comics as I recall them have turned into serious, even morbid “graphic novels.” The heroes of my childhood, with their straightforward personalities and values, have morphed into complex entities with depressing angst. The Western stars of movie and comic fame in my childhood—Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, William Boyd, and Monte Hale—have gone to their eternal reward. It was indeed a simpler time, now sadly long forgotten. These deep-carpet copyright lawyers just couldn’t prevail over the long haul and preserve that era. Dang.

Richard J. “Rick” Miller is a retired attorney. He served 20 years as Bell County attorney and is the author of seven non-fiction books on Texas outlaws and lawmen, as well as a legal manual on Texas fire and police civil service.

Holy Moley: Musings on “Super” Litigation

Tue, 10/02/2018 - 15:00

It was a simpler time. When I was a kid in the 1940s and ’50s, growing up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, the best part of the week was Saturday. With my 25-cent allowance closely clutched, I stood in a rowdy line at the old Beckley Theater to see the latest B-Western or Tarzan movie. Afterwards, I beat a hasty retreat to a nearby pharmacy to peruse the latest 10-cent comic books, finally selecting and purchasing one. My choice almost always featured a hero-type character with strong principles and a dedication to crime fighting and the “American way” in their make-believe world. Little did I know that deep-carpet copyright lawyers in faraway cities were then in a continuing and desperate battle for my one thin dime, fighting to maintain the legal existence of the fictional characters whose virtue I admired and adventures I so fervently followed.

The first such comic book litigation involved Superman, an alien from the planet Krypton who came to Earth possessing tremendous powers, including the ability to fly (and for some reason wore his underwear on the outside of his pants). He first appeared in Action Comics, published by Detective Comics, in June 1938, and became immensely popular. Bruns Publications, a competitor, was quick to try and capitalize on Superman’s success and published its own comic superhero, a character called Wonderman, created by noted cartoon artist Will Eisner. Suit for infringement of a copyright was immediately brought in federal court. The court found that infringement had indeed occurred, the only real difference between the two being that Superman’s “skintight acrobatic costume” was blue, while the other’s was red. Their super abilities were the same, as was their stated intent to battle against “evil and injustice,” (Detective Comics. v. Bruns Publication, 111 F. 2d 432 (2d Cir. 1940)). Legally vanquished, Wonderman disappeared, the world of evil apparently no worse off.

Fawcett Publications, in the meantime, had come up with Master Man in 1940. This character, too, was the equal of Superman in strength, speed, and crime-fighting ability. But Superman once more prevailed when Fawcett was threatened with a lawsuit. The mighty Master Man gave up without a fight after six issues (Alex Grand, How DC Sued Their Competition to Keep Superman as the #1 Superhero, Comic Book Historians, https://comicbookhistorians.com/how-dc-kept-superman-super-litigation-attorneys/).

A key challenge to Superman’s reign as “numero uno” superhero was in the form of another-red suited character introduced by Fawcett in 1939 and dubbed Captain Marvel. Under the storyline, Captain Marvel came into existence as a superhero mirroring Superman’s abilities when newsboy Billy Batson uttered the term “Shazam,” the letters being an acronym for various ancient gods. In addition to success in comic books, even surpassing Superman’s popularity, Fawcett’s character was also featured in the 1941 serial motion picture, Adventures of Captain Marvel, starring Tom Tyler. Often exclaiming “Holy Moley” when confronted with a dilemma, Captain Marvel’s archenemy was mad scientist Doctor Sivana, who assailed “the world’s mightiest mortal” as the “big red cheese.”

National Comics Publications (the result of a merger between National Allied Publications and Detective Comics, which published Superman,) again ordered its lawyers into the breach to add to the litter of would-be super pretenders. Superman was again found to be protected by copyright. The federal district court compared the characters’ super powers, costumes, and storylines, determining that Captain Marvel was a duplication of the blue-suited character and that Fawcett had plagiarized plots (National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications, 93 F.Supp. 349 (S.D.N.Y. 1950)). The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s findings as to infringement, but reversed and remanded on other issues related to the status of the copyright themselves (National Comics Publications v. Fawcett Publications, 191 F.2d 594 (2d Cir. 1951)). The Captain Marvel character was shunted off into temporary oblivion, but years later resurfaced as “Shazam,” and a feature film involving him is currently scheduled for 2019.

Superman, however, finally met his nemesis in the form of a competing television character. The “man of steel” had gone on to tremendous success in comics, television, and movies, ever alert to pretenders, although the “golden age” of comics had become a distant memory. In 1981, ABC began promotion of a new program, The Greatest American Hero, starring William Katt as Ralph Hinkley, a high school teacher who receives a magical costume from aliens that invests him with super powers comparable to those of Superman. However, he loses the instruction book for the suit and experiences repeated catastrophic accidents in trying to control his powers, such as crash landings, flailing while flying, etc. After a lawsuit was filed and the two characters were compared, a federal district judge concluded that the television character constituted a parody of Superman and was thus protected under the “fair use” doctrine (Warner Bros. v. American Broadcasting Cos., 523 F.Supp 611 (S.D.N.Y. 1981)). On appeal, also based on a review of physical similarities and the totality of attributes and traits, the lower court finding was upheld (Warner Bros., Inc., v. American Broadcasting Cos., Inc., 654 F.2d 204 (2d Cir. 1981)). During the first season of the program, the name “Hinkley” was changed to “Hanley” because of the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jr.)).

Given this ruling, it explains why no lawsuit followed the publishing by Entertaining Comics, or EC Comics, in Mad comics of its spoof, “Superduperman,” although DC Comics (the name officially adopted by National Comics Publications in 1977) initially threated a legal challenge without following up (Grand, How DC Sued). EC Comics went after other superheroes with “Captain Marbles” and “Bat Boy and Rubin.” EC’s attitude? “What, me worry?” Superman was beginning to lose his battle for copyright primacy. In the comics, parody prevailed with Li’l Abner’s “ideel,” bumbling detective Fearless Fosdick, as drawn by Al Capp, as a ruthless takeoff on Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy.

Although the “golden age” of comics ran out of steam in the 1950s, DC continued its attempts to protect Superman’s posture as the world’s mightiest hero. It was able to force some minor would-be superheroes from the field by threat of lawsuit, but, ultimately, an onslaught of such characters, as witnessed by the plethora of films currently depicting such characters, has seen that primacy diminish and copyright protection yielded for all practical purposes.

However, superheroes were not the only fictional characters in those early years making an effort to protect their legal status. In 1933, a Detroit radio station began broadcasting the exploits of a masked man and his faithful American Indian companion fighting evil in the Old West, a program quickly picked up for national airing. The Lone Ranger proved immediately successful, as witnessed by the millions of kids joining the masked man’s “safety club.” In 1938, on the heels of that success, a movie serial, The Lone Ranger, was released, featuring seven men, each of whom was potentially the Lone Ranger. Only in the final chapter was it revealed that the Lone Ranger was the seventh candidate, a character named Allen King as portrayed by actor Lee Powell

Powell then began appearing with a small circus. Billed as the “original Lone Ranger,” he wore a mask and rode a white horse, crying out “Hi-yo, Silver!” Suit was quickly brought, but a federal district court denied relief. On appeal, a circuit court found that, in the absence of copyright evidence, the actor had nevertheless engaged in a form of unfair competition, and reversed the lower court (Lone Ranger v. Cox, 124 F.2d 650 (4th Cir. 1942)). Of course, the Lone Ranger and Tonto went on to ride off into those thrilling days of yesteryear, as personified by Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

Other characters underwent copyright examination. One court upheld a movie studio in a lawsuit by the Edgar Rice Burroughs family, which claimed that films about the jungle “ape man” Tarzan, had infringed on the copyright of the original books. The court found that there were sufficient differences between the original books, which traced from 1912, and the many successive Tarzan movies beginning in 1918 with Elmo Lincoln starring, and that the studio was a grantee of title to the character (Burroughs v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 683 F.2d 610 (2d Cir. 1982)). Had the plaintiffs prevailed, would comedian Carol Burnett have been estopped from giving her famous Tarzan yell?

The cowled superhero, Batman, was also not totally spared copyright challenge. The term “Batcave” was found to be protected, (DC Comics v. Reel Fantasy, 696 F.2d 24 (2d Cir. 1982)), as was “Batmobile” (DC Comics v. Towle, 802 F.2d 1012 (9th Cir. 2015)).

Thus the battles raged while kids unknowingly followed their heroes’ exploits. A thin dime doesn’t buy much anymore, and comics as I recall them have turned into serious, even morbid “graphic novels.” The heroes of my childhood, with their straightforward personalities and values, have morphed into complex entities with depressing angst. The Western stars of movie and comic fame in my childhood—Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, William Boyd, and Monte Hale—have gone to their eternal reward. It was indeed a simpler time, now sadly long forgotten. These deep-carpet copyright lawyers just couldn’t prevail over the long haul and preserve that era. Dang.

Richard J. “Rick” Miller is a retired attorney. He served 20 years as Bell County attorney and is the author of seven non-fiction books on Texas outlaws and lawmen, as well as a legal manual on Texas fire and police civil service.

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