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Updated: 1 hour 15 min ago

Dallas’ Bishop Lynch places 10th at National High School Mock Trial Competition; Wylie student wins art contest

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 14:00

Bishop Lynch High School, of Dallas, finished 10th out of 46 teams at the 2019 National High School Mock Trial Competition from May 16 to May 19 in Athens, Georgia. This is the second time in the past five years that a Texas team has placed in the top 10.

In March, Bishop Lynch topped 28 Texas high school teams to earn its place at the national competition.

Team members included Ryan Gerron, Leah Hawthorne, Kathleen McNeill, Billy Olsson, Jason Peraza, Grace Rochester, Mike Rutherford, Charlie Stock, Grace Stroud, Beth Storm as teacher-coach, and Magistrate Judge Rebecca Rutherford, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, as attorney adviser.

Evelyn Penrose, of Wylie High School, took top honors out of eight artists competing in the national competition’s art contest.

For more information about the National High School Mock Trial Competition, go to nationalmocktrial.org.

Houston Bar Association presents awards at annual dinner

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 09:00

The Houston Bar Association, or HBA, presented a new award for outstanding achievement and leadership for women in the law to former Texas Supreme Court Justice Ruby Kless Sondock at its annual dinner meeting on May 16.

Sondock was the first woman to serve on the Texas Supreme Court and the first woman district court judge in Harris County. The University of Houston established the biennial “Ruby Kless Sondock Lecture in Legal Ethics” in her name, and in 2015, the State Bar of Texas Litigation Section recognized her as a Texas Legal Legend.

Now with the HBA’s creation of the Justice Ruby Kless Sondock Award, top women attorneys in the Houston Bar will be recognized, said HBA President Benny Agosto Jr. in a press release. “Justice Sondock is a trailblazer for women in the law in every sense of the word.”

The Justice Eugene A. Cook Award, established in 2018 and the HBA’s highest award for professionalism, was awarded to Harry M. Reasoner, of Vinson & Elkins, and Fred Hagans, of Hagans Montgomery & Rustay.

Reasoner has served as chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission since being appointed by the Texas Supreme Court in 2009. Hagans, appointed in 1989 as co-chair of the Texas Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professionalism, led the effort to make Texas the first state to adopt a mandate to govern the conduct of lawyers.

Christopher A. Prine, court clerk for both the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals in Houston, was honored with a special HBA President’s Award for Service. Prine oversees and coordinates the courts’ administrative operations, including human resources, information technology, purchasing, accounting, and budgeting, in consultation with the justices of each court.

Also honored for outstanding leadership and service were:
• Judge Mike Engelhart, of the 151st District Court; Erin Lunceford, of Norton Rose Fulbright; and Texas Supreme Court Justice J. Brett Busby as co-chairs of the 25th Bench Bar Conference.
• Rob Ford, of Fogler, Brar, Ford, O’Neil & Gray; and Sean Gorman, of Bracewell; as co-chairs of the Continuing Legal Education Committee.
• Judge Michael Gomez, of the 129th District Court; Judge Daryl Moore, of the 333rd District Court; and Stewart W. Gagnon, of Norton Rose Fulbright; as co-chairs of the County Law Library Committee.
• Jacquelyn McAnelly, of Cersonsky, Rosen & Garcia; Amy Parker, of Bracewell; and Angeles Cassin, of Greenberg Traurig; as co-chairs of the Gender Fairness Committee.
• Maria Lowry, of the Law Office of Maria S. Lowry, and Tara Grundemeier, of Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, as co-chairs of the Lawyers for Literacy Committee.
• Diana Gomez, of Chamberlain Hrdlicka; Staci Wilson, of Bracewell; and Ashley Brown, of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; as co-chairs of the Minority Opportunities in the Legal Profession Committee.
• William G. Hagans, of Hagans, Montgomery & Rustay; Yvonne Ho, of Bracewell; Lonny Hoffman, of the University of Houston Law Center; and J. Robin Lindley, of Buck Keenan; as co-chairs of the Professionalism Committee.
• Justice Ken Wise, of the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, and Richard F. Whiteley, of Bracwell, as co-chairs of the Teach Texas Committee.
• Polly Fohn, of Haynes and Boone, as editor in chief of The Houston Lawyer.
• Mark Trachtenberg, of Haynes and Boone, as chair of the HBA Appellate Practice Section.
• Angela Stout, of the Stout Law Firm, as chair of the HBA Family Law Section.
• Nicole Singer, of Santo Petroleum, as chair of the HBA Oil, Gas & Mineral Law Section.

For more information about the Houston Bar Association, go to hba.org.

Benny Agosto Jr. is the new Houston Bar Association president

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 13:00

Benny Agosto Jr., a partner in Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz, is the new president of the Houston Bar Association. He succeeds Warren W. Harris, a partner in Bracewell, who will serve on the HBA Board of Directors as immediate past president.

As president, Agosto intends to focus on celebrating the diversity of the HBA during his term. He has a summer conference planned to educate the legal community and community at large on diversity and inclusion issues. Agosto will also launch a new library project to benefit local schools.

Benny Agosto Jr., a partner in Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz will serve as Houston Bar Association for 2019-2020.

Agosto’s practice focuses on catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, product defects, workplace accidents, and other personal injury issues. He is certified in personal injury law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Agosto received his law degree from South Texas College of Law, where he was a member of the board of advocates.

Agosto is the first Spanish-speaking president of the HBA and the second Hispanic to lead the bar association. Among his honors and awards are the National Diversity Council’s Top Latino Lawyers Award, New York University School of Law’s Legacy Builder Award, the Latino Learning Center’s Humanitarian Award, Houston Baptist University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, South Texas College of Law Houston’s Outstanding Public Service Award, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law Student Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Legacy Award, and the Anti-Defamation League’s Civil Rights Medal.

Other new officers of the HBA are President-elect Bill Kroger, of Baker Botts,; First Vice President Chris Popov, of Vinson & Elkins; Second Vice President David Harrell, of Locke Lord; Treasurer Jennifer A. Hasley, of Hasley Scarano; and Secretary Diana Gomez, of Chamberlain Hrdlicka.

New directors for 2019-21 are Collin Cox, of Yetter Coleman; Daniella Landers, of Reed Smith; Erin Lunceford, of Norton Rose Fulbright; and Pamela A. Medina, of Cadence Bank.

Finishing terms as directors for 2018-2020 are Greg Moore, of Norton Rose Fulbright; Robert Painter, of the Painter Law Firm; Greg Ulmer, of BakerHostetler; and Mitch Reed, of Hunton Andrews Kurth.

For more information about the Houston Bar Association, go to hba.org.

Free legal clinic for veterans in Richmond

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 18:43

Veterans in need of legal advice or assistance can visit a free clinic on Saturday, May 18, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Volunteer attorneys will give any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran one-on-one advice in any area of law, including family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate law, tax law, and disability and veterans benefits. Veterans in need of ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney.

No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will be held at the Richmond VA Outpatient Clinic, 22001 SW Fwy., Ste. 200, Richmond 77469, and is a public service of the Fort Bend Lawyers Care, the Fort Bend County Bar Association, and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative.

For more information, call the Veterans Legal Initiative at (713) 759-1133 or go to hba.org.

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

Newest attorneys sworn in to Texas Bar

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 21:47

Texas’ newest lawyers were inducted into the State Bar of Texas on Monday, May 13 at the Frank Irwin Center in Austin.

The Supreme Court of Texas and State Bar of Texas welcomed the state’s newest members of the profession May 13 at the Frank Irwin Center in Austin.

Texas’ highest courts, the State Bar, the Texas Board of Law Examiners, law school deans, and friends and family looked on as newly licensed attorneys took the Lawyer’s Oath during Monday morning’s New Lawyer Induction Ceremony.

State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley commended the inductees for their initiative, saying “[y]our presence here today demonstrates that people confident in their destiny do no wait to be sent for.”

State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley emphasized the importance of the new attorneys’ commitment to equal access to justice, explaining that they are joining an organization of more than 103,000 attorneys who have chosen the destiny of supporting the cause. He pointed to joining State Bar sections for network and pro bono opportunities as ways to get started.

Longley reminded the inductees that the oath they take is one that stays with them 24/7, guiding them as they promote civility, professionalism, and adherence to the rule of law, not just when it is convenient to them.  The words in the oath, he said, will be needed as the new attorneys seek their destiny within this chosen profession.

“Your presence here today demonstrates that people confident in their destiny do not wait to be sent for,” he said. “You’re already here and you knew how to get here and I congratulate you for that.”

Texas Young Lawyers Association President Sally Pretorius encouraged the inductees to use being underrated to their advantage.

Texas Young Lawyers Association President Sally Pretorius offered advice to the new lawyers based on themes of self-care, taking advantage of being underestimated, and protecting one’s reputation.

“As you guys sit here today, please remember you only get one shot to build your reputation,” she said. “One small lie; one little white lie—judges remember that. Your employers remember that. Your paralegals remember that. Your co-associates remember that and your opposing counsel remembers that.”

The TYLA president also encouraged the new lawyers to not get weighed down by their lack of experience. Pretorius told the group that opposing counsel in her first hearing was a seasoned board certified attorney. But Pretorius out-prepared her opponent, making sure she knew the law and that her witnesses were prepared, and she won.

“Just because we are young attorneys doesn’t mean that we don’t know what we are doing and that doesn’t mean that we don’t know the law and what’s best for our client,” she said. “So remember to always use the power of underestimation in your favor.”

Round Rock-based attorney Melanie McCammon, the Bar Exam’s highest scorer, praised her fellow inductees, saying they “have the ability to think critically, analytically, creatively to take the facts that you’re given and question them and solve problems not just in the courtroom or across a negotiation table but in social media or whatever life throws at you.”

The Bar Exam’s highest scorer, Round Rock-based attorney Melanie McCammon, thanked her coworkers and friends and family, especially her son, Isaac, who she called her inspiration, and her husband, Jack. She also thanked all the people in the audience who supported the inductees. “What we have accomplished was very hard by any measure and I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself but for most of you or all of you when I say it would have been even harder without the love and support of the people sitting here with us today.

McCammon, a graduate of New York University School of Law in 2010, drew from her experiences taking the bar exams in both New York and Texas and how her perspective has shifted from her previous outlook on taking the tests.

The first time I looked at this as just a stepping-stone in my career. It was something to get over—a hurdle to jump over. Now I see that it’s a huge achievement all by itself. I encourage you to take some time to really revel in this achievement. It says a lot about who you are and what you are capable of. First it shows you can think like a lawyer. You have the ability to think critically, analytically, creatively to take the facts that you’re given and question them and solve problems not just in the courtroom or across a negotiation table but in social    media or whatever life throws at you.

She called the skills the inductees have developed—such as being able to teach themselves something or the ability to make things happen instead of waiting around—superpowers and told them it will allow them to keep up with the constantly changing world.

Texas Supreme Court Nathan L. Hecht delivered the New Lawyer Oath.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht congratulated the inductees, welcoming them to the profession and reminding them of their duties going forward. The first part of the New Lawyer Oath, he said before administering it, charges them with supporting the U.S. and Texas constitutions, honestly demeaning themselves in practice, and discharging their duties to their clients to the best of their abilities. The second tasks lawyers with conducting themselves with civility and integrity in dealing with the court and all parties.

“From this day forward, you are the voice and the instrument for the rule of law,” Hecht said. “Whether you are prosecuting or defending an individual charged with transgressions against society; representing a party in a civil dispute; drafting a contract, a deed, or a will; or giving other legal counsel to a client; everything you do contributes to a republic in which the rights to life, liberty, and property have displaced reliance on class, heredity, wealth, and military might.”

To watch video of the New Lawyers Induction, go to the State Bar of Texas’ YouTube channel.

State Bar of Texas responds to lawsuit with strong constitutional defense

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 13:36

On May 13, the State Bar of Texas laid out almost six decades of U.S Supreme Court precedent establishing the constitutionality of its structure in response to a lawsuit filed against the bar. The State Bar’s filings explain that the bar — as an arm of the government — has a statutory obligation to regulate the legal profession and improve the quality of legal services in Texas.

You can read the State Bar’s cross-motion for summary judgment here. Go to texasbar.com/mcdonaldvlongley to read other filings in the case.

What Evan Thomas Taught Me . . . By Way of Sandra Day O’Connor

Fri, 05/10/2019 - 14:54

By Rocky Dhir 
Host of the 
State Bar of Texas Podcast and President & CEO of Atlas Legal Research, LP

As a vegetarian, salmon mousse shouldn’t intrigue me, but it does now. I even Googled images of what it looks like, having never eaten it myself. My newfound interest in salmon mousse places me in the company of Ken Starr, Jonathan Rose, and Sandra Day O’Connor. The latter three actually ate the confection, together, in fact. The year was 1981; Starr and Rose traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, on behalf of the Department of Justice to interview O’Connor for possible nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.,After two hours of quizzing O’Connor about her judicial philosophy and the Arizona appellate decisions she had authored, it was lunchtime.The temperature in Phoenix stood at a searing 101 degrees. O’Connor quickly switched from judge, former legislator, accomplished lawyer, and Stanford Law graduate to hostess. She “fixed” lunch and whipped up—you guessed it—salmon mousse. Her juxtaposition of penetrating intellect with grace and charm left Starr and Rose convinced that O’Connor was the only nominee candidate that mattered. President Ronald Reagan would call a short time later to offer the nomination, paving her historic rise to becoming the first female Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history.

I wish I could say I learned the foregoing story on my own by dint of an inquisitive mind.  But if I am being honest (and as lawyers, we are supposed to be honest), I learned the story from Evan Thomas, author of the newly published biography of Justice O’Connor simply and elegantly titled First. Reading its pages left me transfixed and transported to a time in our nation’s history when the thought of a female justice was both revolutionary and yet long overdue. More importantly, though, the book highlights the tolerance and tenacity with which Justice O’Connor navigated the male-dominated world of lawyering and lawmaking. In the process, Justice O’Connor—through Thomas’ expert prose—teaches us about the importance of forging relationships, a craft that she mastered and one that served her well alongside her undeniable intelligence.

I had the honor of interviewing Evan Thomas for the State Bar of Texas Podcast. I came away convinced that the author was just as interesting as the subject he chose. He has met many of the newsmakers of our time and knows them well. Like Justice O’Connor, Thomas knows how to form and maintain consequential relationships. He and Justice O’Connor have something else in common: amazing and supportive marriages in which each spouse supports and propels the other. In the podcast interview, Thomas recounted the serendipitous journey that, with his wife’s help, led to him authoring this insight into one of the deafeningly quiet pioneers in the movement toward greater equality. Thomas was kind enough to provide his candid views on how social change comes about and the lengths to which O’Connor deftly managed the obstacles that stood in the way between her and destiny. I must confess, too, that I was surprised when Thomas mentioned a trait of O’Connor’s that has been in the legal vernacular more often of late: civility. Sandra Day O’Connor was possessed of a civility that served to strengthen her charismatic hold on those who knew her.

First has taken its place in the pantheon of my favorite books, and I intend to read it anew at my leisure and on my terms. I think that’s how Justice O’Connor would prefer it. I would highly recommend that you subscribe to the State Bar of Texas Podcast and listen in on the discussion (please leave your comments and feedback as well, and be sure to browse the other episodes to see what treasures await you). You should also pick up a copy of First, which you can find out more about here. You might not be able to put the book down, which could mean that you will lose some billable hours. Trust me, you won’t miss them.

Evan Willing Thomas III is a journalist, historian, and author. He is the author of ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. He has taught at Harvard and Princeton and, for 20 years, was a regular panelist on Inside Edition, a weekly public affairs TV show.

Dallas Bar Association receives Texas Bar Foundation grant for legal incubator

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 13:00

The Dallas Bar Association, or DBA, received a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation to launch its Entrepreneurs in Community Lawyering program this fall.

The Entrepreneurs in Community Lawyering program is the first local legal incubator in Dallas and seeks to create a pipeline for lawyers who are well equipped to launch a fiscally stable solo or small firm that caters to low-income Texans.

The program is one of DBA President Laura Benitez Geisler’s initiatives during her year as president. Participants must be recent law school graduates licensed less than five years and have an interest in starting a solo or small firm serving clients of modest means. Candidates have to complete an application and interview process before being invited to participate. Sustainability of the applicant’s proposed practice area is critical. The program anticipates having eight to 10 lawyers per session.

The Entrepreneurs in Community Lawyering program is inspired by the State Bar’s Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator, or TOJI. DBA wanted to follow TOJI’s example of increasing opportunities for young lawyers and middle-income people who need, but cannot afford, a lawyer. Although the program is not exactly the same as TOJI, DBA consulted with Frank Stephenson, who launched TOJI as his initiative as State Bar president; Anne-Marie Rabago, TOJI director; and others involved with the State Bar’s legal incubator.

Interested candidates should contact Kathryn Zack at kzack@dallasbar.org for more information.

For more information on DBA, go to dallasbar.org and for more information on the Texas Bar Foundation, go to txbf.org.