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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.

James A. Baker, III, to speak at President George H.W. Bush ceremony

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 15:00

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, will speak at the Remembering President George H.W. Bush Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on February 19 at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Houston.

Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton partner Talmage Boston will interview Baker, who was a dear friend of President Bush and served as his secretary of state from 1989 to 1992 and as his White House chief of staff from 1992 to 1993.

“Everybody knows that James A. Baker, III, was George H.W. Bush’s longtime best friend as well as his secretary of state during his presidency, and for that reason, the Bush Center was delighted that Secretary Baker would be willing to open up and talk about their friendship for this special program that is dedicated to remembering President Bush 41,” said Boston. “Secretary Baker was gracious enough to ask me to interview him for the program, which came from the fact that I’ve previously interviewed him for my books Raising the Bar: The Crucial Role of the Lawyer in Society and Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers from the Experts About Our Presidents. We feel sure that what Secretary Baker says in the interview will provide a deeper and more intimate picture of George H.W. Bush, the man as well as the president.”

Boston’s interview with Baker will open the two-part tribute to the late president and will be followed by former aides providing personal perspectives of working closely with President Bush before, during, and after his presidency.

Auditorium seating for the event is sold out, but overflow tickets are available. Tickets can be purchased at tickets.bushcenter.org. A livestream will be available at bushcenter.org and a recording will be available after the event.

State Bar LRE accepting applications for Leon Jaworski Award

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 11:00

State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education is now accepting applications for the 2019 Leon Jaworski Award for Teaching Excellence in Law Focused Education.

The award recognizes educators who have made an outstanding contribution to law-focused education. Educators’ programs should foster understanding of the values of the legal and judicial systems; inform and educate students about the roles in society of law, the courts, law enforcement agencies, and the legal profession; instruct students to recognize their duties and rights; encourage effective law-focused education programs in schools and communities; and increase communication and understanding among students, educators, and those involved professionally in the legal system.

Any public or private school classroom teacher in Texas with a minimum of five years’ experience may apply for the award. Entries must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. April 1.

For more information and to apply, go to texaslre.org.

Stories of Recovery: “I am a satisfied customer of AA”

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 08:00

Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or find more information at tlaphelps.org.

I walked out of my first AA meeting confident I was not an alcoholic. The meeting was a speaker meeting, and the speaker told a horrendous story of what alcohol had done to her life. Judging myself against her, I was sure whatever she was, I was not. I thought I just over indulged sometimes. A few weeks later, at 21 years of age, I flipped my car drunk. That was my last drink. I surrendered and started working a twelve-step program. Since then, my life has become one of purpose and meaning; my life is filled with countless blessings that are all due to sobriety.

When talking about recovery, I always like to share a few aspects of sobriety that have been instrumental to me. First, sobriety means complete abstinence from all alcohol and other mind-altering substances. Before I actually worked the twelve steps, I confused sobriety with moderation, assuming sober people were rather moderating or sneaking an occasional drink (probably a sign I had a drinking problem). It was impossible for me to get sober by moderating my alcohol intake. Complete abstinence is a much easier way to get and stay sober.

Second, I cannot stress enough how important working the steps with a sponsor was for me. I heard a guy share at a meeting; he sounded like he knew what he was doing, so afterward, I asked him to be my sponsor. It is simple but vital. I owe a great debt to that man—he spent nine months taking me through the steps. Today, I get the opportunity to share that gift with others.

Finally, early sobriety can be incredibly uncomfortable—it was for me. Do not be discouraged. Just keep showing up. If I can do it, so can you. I had become accustomed to the instant gratification of take a drink, feel the effect. While I am fully gratified today, the twelve steps are not an instant fix.  At the time, I did not realize it, but my entire identity had somehow formed around alcohol. It only makes sense that the drastic life change of removing and instituting a new identity is going to be uncomfortable. This transformation can be lonely; I felt different and apart from everyone. But by the grace of God, which can be called luck, fortune, happenstance, or any synonym you like, I kept showing up. As time passed, the early struggles of sobriety did too, and I became more comfortable in sobriety. Today, I realize and accept that learning to handle life on life’s terms sober is a work in progress, rather than a destination.

Sobriety has provided me with so much that I feel compelled to give back. I feel responsible for helping others learn from my past poor choices. Today, I am blessed with the opportunity to share my experience with student groups, schools, youth groups, courtrooms, fraternities, etc. To date, I have spoken to nearly 50 different groups. Speaking is always a powerful and cherishable experience for me. Specifically, on one occasion, a student approached me afterward to let me know they were no longer going to try a drug that upcoming weekend that they had been planning to try for some time. I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be.

Do not let my speaking experience fool you—by no means am I Mr. AA. I just try to stay willing to practice the principles I have learned through the twelve steps. I do not ever want getting sober or being sober to be the greatest achievement of my life. There are certainly many greater hardships to face in life than sobriety. Ultimately, for some folks, like myself, sobriety is simply a necessary foundation to live a productive life.

Everything good in my life is due to sobriety. If you ever hear me share at a meeting, I often close with, “I am a satisfied customer of AA.” I am currently a 26-year-old law student. I intend to go into litigation. Today, I am content. I sleep easy—before sobriety I felt I could never turn off my brain. My relationship with my family is spectacular, and I am lucky enough to have married the love of my life. Coincidentally, our anniversary day and date falls on my sobriety date. All of this and much more because of sobriety. If alcohol is causing problems in your life, there is a solution. I am proof that the solution works, and for that, I am grateful.

Sponsored Content: LawPay unveils new 0% eCheck payment processing

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 23:01

Austin, TX, February 13, 2019 — LawPay’s easy-to-use payment solution was designed to help legal professionals accept online payments and improve cash flow. The company is now announcing even more ways for law firms to get paid. As of today, all LawPay accounts also come equipped with integrated eCheck payments. Users can now accept check payments online through LawPay for 0% and a simple, flat $2 per transaction.

“I’m so excited to announce one of our newest initiatives for 2019 is a fully integrated eCheck program built into our own technology,” said Amy Porter, founder and CEO of LawPay. “For over 10 years our mission has been to transform the way professionals get paid. Now you can manage all of your payments, whether they are credit card, debit card, or eCheck, all through LawPay.”

The LawPay platform has transformed payments for more than 35,000 law firms nationwide, helping them get paid as much as 39 percent faster with complete IOLTA compliance. Now with eCheck, legal professionals will have even more ways to increase their cash flow, as well as their clients’ satisfaction, with the same security, service, and ease-of-use they enjoy with card payments.

To start processing online credit card and eCheck payments with LawPay, create an account at https://lawpay.com/sign-up/.

About LawPay

LawPay was developed specifically to provide a sophisticated payment solution for legal professionals. The LawPay platform contractually protects client funds correctly separating earned and unearned fees and by restricting the ability of any third-party from debiting monies from a trust or IOLTA account. LawPay is available through all 50 state bars and the ABA as a vetted and approved payment solution for the legal industry.


Supreme Court Children’s Commission’s releases report on building trauma-informed child welfare system

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 15:42

Judge Darlene Byrne, of the 126th Civil District Court in Travis County, and the Supreme Court of Texas Children’s Commission presented its child welfare system report at the Texas Law Center in Austin on February 8.

The report, Building a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint, is a roadmap to better serving Texas children and families within the system by viewing them through a trauma-informed lens. It serves as a framework for creating such a child welfare system statewide, and includes short-term and long-term guiding principles and strategies.

The report is the result of an 18-month collaboration of more than 100 professionals representing multiple systems and perspectives on helping children and families overcome trauma. They make up the Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care, led by Judge Byrne and charged with developing strategies for the report.

The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration defines trauma as the result of “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” Children and youth who experience abuse or neglect are vulnerable to trauma, and suffer an adverse impact to their well-being as well as their interpersonal relationships.

Supreme Court of Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and Justice Eva Guzman championed Blueprint and its statewide collaborative effort, writing in their opening letter in the report:

“The critical guidance provided in this Blueprint once again establishes Texas as a leader in charting a course to bring meaningful change to family and youth-serving systems that are immense, and quite often, incredibly complex … The opportunity for transformation is before us and we must embrace it. The future of Texas depends on it.”

For more information, go to texaschildrenscomission.gov.

Association of Women Attorneys Foundation recognizes Houston lawyers

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 09:00

Association of Women Attorneys Foundation Premier Women in Law 2019 honorees are, from left, Burke Butler, Betsy Kamin, Amanda McMillan, and Phyllis Young.

The Association of Women Attorneys, or AWA, Foundation will recognize four Houston attorneys for leadership in their practice areas during the 8th AWA Foundation Premier Women in Law Luncheon on March 20 in Houston.

Association of Women Attorneys Foundation Premier Women in Law 2019 honorees are, from left, Burke Butler, Betsy Kamin, Amanda McMillan, and Phyllis Young.[/caption]
Being honored this year are Burke Butler, special counsel to nonprofit law practice Phillips Black; Betsy Kamin, member in Clark Hill Strabsurger; Amanda McMillian, executive vice president and general counsel to Anadarko Petroleum; and Phyllis Young, global energy and transactions partner in Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

The foundation will also award six scholarships to women who are in their second or third years of law school and attend one of Houston’s three law schools—South Texas College of Law Houston, the University of Houston Law Center, and Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. The AWA Foundation Pro Bono Fellowship Program was created in 2017 in partnership with Houston Volunteer Lawyers and the Tahirih Justice Center to provide a paid fellowship with one of the partnering organizations.

The luncheon will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. For more information, go to awahouston.org/awa-foundation/pwil.

Registration now open for the 30th Annual Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 15:00

The 30th Annual Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention will be held from May 31 to June 2, 2019, at the Austin Marriott South.

The convention will feature national speakers discussing current research on mental health, substance abuse recovery, and how to maintain a more balanced professional life. Attendees will be able to earn up to 6 hours of CLE (ethics) credits.

Reservations for rooms can be made here and the rate is $109 a night.

TLCL is a volunteer group of attorneys that works in partnership with the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, or TLAP.

For more information or questions, contact TLAP at (800) 343-8527.

Solo/Small Firm: Search Results

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:00

Emma Hanes busts five SEO myths. To learn more about how to successfully run your practice, read the entire February issue at texasbar.com/tbj.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Hecht delivers State of the Judiciary

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 15:22

Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht delivered the State of the Judiciary to the 86th Legislature at the House chamber on February 6. Photo by Eric Quitugua

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht delivered the State of the Judiciary on February 6 at a joint session of the 86th Legislature at the Texas House chamber. Hecht discussed a number of issues facing the court system, asking for support on items such as response to natural disasters, bail reform, court treatment of people with mental illnesses, bolstering technology in record keeping, and help with judicial qualifications and compensation.

“Beaten but unbowed, Texas judges, clerks, administrators, and staff carried on, throughout the storm and since, in makeshift space—many at great personal sacrifice,” Hecht said, opening his remarks with stories of Hurricane Harvey recovery. “We haven’t fully recovered but we’re getting there. In my 38 years on the bench, I have never been prouder of the Texas judiciary.” 

Hecht detailed Aransas County District Clerk Pam Heard and her staff’s efforts to continue operations in a damaged building even as their own homes and courthouse were destroyed. Because they covered their computers with plastic—and filed documents electronicallywith the courts—the county lost no records. He also told the story of Judge Lincoln Goodwin, Justice of the Peace in Harris County, who worked with staff to recover and dry court documentsand used an emergency order from the high courts to share a courtroom in a neighboring precinct. Court administrations need more flexibility in response to the next Harvey, Hecht said, calling for support for SB 40.

Hecht called for strengthening access to justice in a number of ways, including restoring cut funding to Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault, a program he said has cleared 11,000 cases in the past two years; and answering Gov. Greg Abbott’s call to appropriate an additional $3 million for civil legal aid services for veterans.

Hecht also expressed concern with the judicial selection process. The November elections brought on board a large number of new judges who the chief justice believes were elected because of partisan politics and not qualifications. Voters, in knowing almost nothing about candidates, throw out very good judges who happen to be on the wrong side of higher races on the ballot, he said. The chief justice called for judicial qualifications to be raised.

Of all the issues Chief Justice Hecht talked about, technology was the biggest. In a state the size of Texas, with its 254 counties dotted by few very urban areas, Texas courts “need better data on cases and dockets to operate efficiently and plan for the future.” He then described the pros of a statewide online court records public access initiative, Re:SearchTX, which allows users to see e-filing from any of the state’s courts and download them for a fee.

Hecht also talked about a program called the Public Safety Assessment, which he said can accurately predict—using demographic information—whether a defendant poses a risk of flight, violence, or recidivism. The technology, he said, can help cut down on the amount of non-violent indigent defendants held in jail because they cannot afford bail—which then falls on the taxpayers to the tune of $1 billion each year and violates fundamental constitutional rights, he said. It also can cut down on the number of violent defendants released on bail. But judges are denied such a tool that can help make more informed decisions, Hecht said.

The family of slain Department of Public Safety Trooper Damon Allen was in attendance at the House chamber as Chief Justice Hecht urged legislators to pass the Damon Allen Act. Photo by Eric Quitugua

That discussion hit an emotional high point when Hecht described the role a lack of better technology played in the death of a law enforcement officer Damon Allen, whose family was in attendance at the House. On Thanksgiving Day 2017, Department of Public Safety Trooper Allen was killed outside of Fairfield while sitting in his car checking the driver’s license of a man he pulled over for speeding. While Allen was running a scan, the driver approached and shot and killed him. The driver was released on bond the same day. Just four months earlier, the same man led officers on a high-speed chase, during which he rammed a deputy’s vehicle, injuring the deputy. Despite being charged with evading arrest, aggravated assault of a public servant, and reckless driving, he was out on bail that time after paying about 10 percent of his bail. Hecht urged the Legislature to pass the Damon Allen Act, which he said would give judges more information and risk factors of a defendant before setting bail.

Hecht asked for support in other areas before summing up the State of the Judiciary, including a 15 percent increase in judicial pay, the Supreme Court’s Children’s Commission, diverting children from the criminal justice system, funding for training judges on mental health issues, and bolstering the monitoring of guardianship cases in all Texas courts.

“The Texas Judiciary is committed to upholding the law, to getting every case right, to operating efficiently, to searching out and adopting improvements and reforms, to making all our processes advance the precious cause of justice,” Hecht said.

Look for the entire speech in the March issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

DVAP, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas raise more than $1.1 million for access to justice

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 15:14

The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, or DVAP, and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas bested themselves with a record-breaking funding of $1,169,349 for pro bono legal services to the poor. Part of the “Equal Access to Justice Campaign,” the money helps provide assistance to over 4,000 low-income families with civil legal needs.

In addition to using the campaign proceeds to expand community work, DVAP will continue to find ways to keep access to courts open in Dallas in order to serve the more than 600,000 people who meet legal aid’s financial guidelines for assistance. DVAP will look to recruit more volunteer attorneys to represent clients in complex cases and contested family law cases.

The following made donations of $10,500 or more:

  • Champion of Justice ($40,500)—Debra and E. Leon Carter
  • President’s Council ($35,500)—Jerry and Sherri Alexander; Connatser Family Law; Crain Lewis Brogdon; and Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer
  • Chairman’s Council ($25,500)—Anonymous; Lisa Blue and Jeff Tillotson
  • Gold Patron ($20,000)—Margaret and Jaime Spellings
  • Diamond Sponsors ($15,500)—AT&T; Dallas Association of Young Lawyers; and Mike A. Myers
  • Platinum Sponsors ($10,500)—Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Botts; the Dallas Bar Association Business Litigation Section; DBA Corporate Counsel Section; Deans & Lyons; Exxon Mobil Corporation; Fears Nachawati Law Firm; the Hartnett Law Firm; Haynes and Boone Foundation; Jackson Walker; Jones Day; KASTL LAW; Kirkland & Ellis; Latham & Watkins; Locke Lord; Mike McKool; Schiff Hardin; Sidley Austin; Thompson & Knight Foundation; Trinity Industries; Vinson & Elkins; Vistra Energy; and Winston & Strawn

For more information on DVAP or the Equal Access to Justice Campaign, contact Michelle Alden, DVAP director, at aldenm@lanwt.org or (214) 748-1234.

Sabrina N. Jiwani named to TMCP Steering Commmittee

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 08:00

Sabrina N. Jiwani, an attorney in Bradley Arant Boult Cummings’ Houston office, was appointed to the Texas Minority Counsel Program, or TMCP, Steering Committee.

The TMCP, which was created in 1993 by the State Bar of Texas Office of Minority Affairs, is a client development, networking, and CLE event for diverse attorneys in Texas. Its mission is to increase opportunities for minority, women, and LGBTQ attorneys who provide legal services to corporate and government clients.

“We are proud of Sabrina’s work as a champion of diversity in the legal profession and we congratulate her on her new leadership role with the Texas Minority Counsel Program,” Bradley managing partner Ian P. Faria said.

Jiwani is a member of her firm’s construction and government contracts practice groups and focuses her own practice on commercial litigation. She has represented oil and gas service companies and operations, heavy equipment manufacturers, and dealers. Jiwani has also defended construction companies in multi-party suits involving large-scale infrastructure projects.

Before joining Bradley, Jiwani was an assistant vice president of and senior counsel to JPMorgan Chase, where she focused on collections litigation and sworn documents.

Jiwani, who is also a member of the Houston Bar Association’s Minority Opportunities in the Legal Profession Committee, will serve on the TMCP Steering Committee through 2019.

For more information about TMCP, go to texasbar.com/TMCP.

Entertainment attorney and author Mike Farris is latest guest on State Bar of Texas Podcast

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 13:00

In the latest episode of the State Bar of Texas Podcast, host Rocky Dhir talks with Dallas entertainment lawyer and author Mike Farris about his career.

Dhir and Farris discuss the inspiration behind Farris’ books, such as A Death in the Islands, Poor Innocent Lad, and The Bequest, and take a look at his writing process. The two delve into Fifty Shades of Black & White, which was authored by Farris and Jennifer Pedroza and deals with the Fifty Shades of Grey series and ensuing lawsuit. Farris represented Pedroza, who was the plaintiff in the case.

Farris, a Texas Tech University School of Law graduate, was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1983. He has retired from practicing law and now spends his days writing full-time.

To read John G. Browning’s review of Fifty Shades of Black & White in the February issue of the Texas Bar Journal, go to http://ow.ly/pb9Y30nBx4J.

Listen to the episode here. The State Bar of Texas Podcast is produced in association with Legal Talk Network and is sponsored by LawPay.

Houston Volunteer Lawyers now pre-screening clients for ‘Will-A-Thon’

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 08:00

Low-income Houstonians in need of help preparing wills can receive assistance from volunteer attorneys during the 2019 Will-A-Thon, which is now pre-screening for clients.

The free two-clinic event takes place April 3 and May 1 at the Tidwell Community Center, 9720 Spaulding St., Houston 77016 and brings together the Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Houston Bar Association Elder Law Committee, and the city of Houston Department of Neighborhoods to help prepare the following documents for qualifying residents:

  • Wills
  • Medical power of attorney
  • Advance directive to physicians (living will)
  • HIPAA release
  • Statutory power of attorney
  • Declaration of guardianship
  • Appointment for disposition of remains
  • Transfer on death deed

Those eligible for assistance include low-income seniors age 60 and older, persons with disabilities, and military veterans and their spouses. Clinic times are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and clients must be able to attend both days of their scheduled appointment.

Those interested in the clinics must schedule an appointment for pre-screening by Friday, March 22. To do so, call the Houston Volunteer Lawyers at (713) 228-0735.

For more information, go to makejusticehappen.org.

MCLE extensions, fee waivers available for Texas lawyers affected by government shutdown

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 14:03

The State Bar of Texas is offering additional MCLE compliance time and waivers of MCLE non-compliance fees to Texas attorneys furloughed during the recent government shutdown.

Attorneys with December, January, and February compliance deadlines who were furloughed during the recent government shutdown may request an extension of time of up to 90 days and a waiver of non-compliance fees toward compliance with 2018- 2019 MCLE requirements.

Please contact  mcle@texasbar.com to request an extension or a waiver of a non-compliance fee.