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State Bar of Texas

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News on the Lawyers and Legal Professionals of Texas
Updated: 2 days 4 hours ago

James Woo joins State Bar board

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 06:00

Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson, left, congratulates San Antonio attorney James C. Woo after administering the oath of office to Woo, a new at-large director on the State Bar board.

San Antonio attorney James C. Woo has joined the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors as an at-large director.

The board approved Woo’s appointment on January 26 at its quarterly meeting in San Antonio. His term was effective immediately and expires in June 2020.

Woo is a shareholder at the firm of Davidson Troilo Ream & Garza and is board certified in estate planning and probate law.

He is a former chair of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has served in numerous leadership positions for the State Bar of Texas, San Antonio Bar Association, and other organizations.

Fifth Circuit seeks comments on proposed rule change

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 15:30

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is accepting comments about a proposed amendment to circuit rule 35.5.

Read the full notice, which includes the proposed redline changes, on the court’s website.

The court is accepting written comments through March 9 by email at Changes@ca5.uscourts.gov or by mail at:

Clerk of Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
ATTN: Rule Changes
600 S. Maestri Place
New Orleans, LA 70130

Registration now open for State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2018

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 14:00

Registration is now open for the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting on June 21-22 at the Marriott Marquis—Houston.

Attorneys can select their choice of courses to earn up to a year’s worth of CLE credits in two days for just one low price, hear from motivating keynote speakers, and network and socialize with other professionals and influencers in the legal profession.

For more information about registering online and making hotel reservations, go to texasbar.com/annualmeeting.

Texas Bar Journal Must-Reads for February

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:30

Looking for a head start on the February issue of the Texas Bar Journal? Check out our editorial staff’s must-reads online at texasbar.com/tbj. And don’t forget to catch up on Movers and Shakers, Memorials, and Disciplinary Actions.

Lawyers as Leaders
Community engagement and leadership benefit all.
By Leah Witcher Jackson Teague

A look at impeachment using prior inconsistent statements.
By Hon. John B. Stevens

What Does Leadership Mean to You?
By the 2017-2018 LeadershipSBOT Class

Clean Breaks
A Galveston judge presides over the waters of the Gulf Coast when the surf is just right.
Interview by Eric Quitugua

Send us our next social media cover art

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:00

We want to highlight on our Facebook page and Twitter profile where you live and work.

We’re looking for photos of your town or city’s landmarks, skylines, courthouses, prominent buildings, monuments, natural areas, and anything else you might think to be unique to where you live and practice. Be sure to send in a pic of your law firm or workspace too.

Photos can be submitted to tbj@texasbar.com, through Twitter by tagging the State Bar account (@statebaroftexas) and using the hashtag #TXBarCoverPic in your post, and through Instagram by including the bar’s page and also using the hashtag #TXBarCoverPic in your post.

Featured photos will be selected by members of the State Bar staff and submitters will be notified of when their photo will appear as the cover photo and for which profile it will be appearing. Some of our favorites will be featured on the State Bar’s social media accounts.

Disclaimer: By submitting any photographs via social media to #TXBarCoverPic at the State Bar of Texas, you agree to give the State Bar of Texas, Texas Bar Blog, and Texas Bar Journal the right to use, publish, and edit the photograph(s) and that they can credit you by name upon publication. You also agree that the photograph(s) and additional information you submit are original, accurate, under your ownership, and that they do not violate the rights of any third party.

A New Day for Children

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 16:38

It is a new day for our most precious resource—our children. The creation of the State Bar of Texas Child Protection Law Section became a reality on January 26, when the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors voted unanimously to form the new section. Both the Family Law and Juvenile Law sections enthusiastically supported this effort. This significant accomplishment represents decades of hard work on the part of many legal professionals throughout the state who are committed to improving the lives of children.

The history of child welfare protection law is relatively brief. Traditionally, children had few rights, with full authority over their lives being vested in their parents. A paradigm shift began in the 1960s with the help of several Supreme Court decisions extending certain constitutional rights to children. During the 1960s, the Department of Public Welfare began to deal head-on with abuse and neglect in Texas. In 1962, the U.S. Congress defined abuse and neglect in the child welfare provisions of the Public Welfare Amendments to the Social Security Act. And in 1974, the federal movement to prevent child abuse and neglect began in earnest with the creation of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, or CAPTA. This act created the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, or NCCAN, and provided federal funding to state child-protection agencies.

Thankfully, the historical treatment of children as chattel has given way to our current recognition that children are individuals entitled to protection and respect. Today society realizes that children are frequently innocent participants in events over which they have no control and from which they must be sheltered. Two competing realities present real challenges in this area of the law: (1) children frequently lack the maturity and knowledge necessary to protect themselves and to make appropriate decisions, and (2) children are worthy individuals entitled to varying degrees of independence, deference, and respect depending upon their maturity levels.

As a jurist who has devoted much of my professional career to helping children, I am proud beyond words of this meaningful action taken by the State Bar. The willingness of the bar to create and support this section reflects society’s move toward recognition of children as autonomous beings with individual needs, desires, feelings, and concerns. I admire the State Bar of Texas for rising to the challenge—our children deserve it.

Debra H. Lehrmann is a justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and the inaugural chair of the State Bar of Texas Child Protection Law Section.


Ex-FBI agent: State Bar of Texas response to 2012 embezzlement ‘adequate and proper’

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 16:13

Procedural changes made by State Bar of Texas staff immediately after a 2012 embezzlement case were “adequate and proper” and should be enough to prevent another such theft, according to a member of the financial task force appointed by President-elect Joe K. Longley.

Dallas attorney William D. Brown, a former FBI special agent and a forensic accountant who specializes in fraud and misconduct investigations, analyzed the internal control system at the State Bar before and after the crime. The bar’s current written controls are sufficient to address the issues raised by the embezzlement, Brown said during a State Bar Board of Directors meeting Friday in San Antonio.

“I think the controls and the changes that were made subsequent to the discovery of the theft are adequate and proper, and I think we should probably not have any problems like this in the future,” Brown said, noting that it’s virtually impossible to entirely rule out such a crime. He later added: “The proper corrective actions were taken.”

Brown, who also provided a written report summarizing his findings for Longley’s Financial Responsibility and Fiscal Control Task Force, praised State Bar staff members for aiding his investigation. The staff provided a large volume of audit reports and other documentation and met with him for hours to corroborate accounting policies and procedures, he said, adding that the staff was fully cooperative.

“The type of work that I do is incredibly intrusive,” Brown told the board. “I’m really appreciative of the effort they [the staff] put in.”

Brown’s findings echo past comments by State Bar officials, including Immediate Past President Frank Stevenson and former Executive Director Michelle Hunter, who defended the bar’s handling of the embezzlement when it became an issue in the 2017 president-elect race.

State Bar staff discovered in April 2012 that the bar’s membership director, Kathleen M. “Kathy” Holder, who also worked as a deputy clerk for the Texas Supreme Court, had been embezzling funds for years from a Supreme Court account that was outside the scope of the State Bar’s audit. The State Bar’s chief finance officer, Cheryl Howell, discovered the embezzlement when a monthly bank statement was inadvertently delivered to the accounting department instead of Holder. Holder was quickly fired, charges were filed, a conviction was obtained, and processes were changed to prevent it from happening again, State Bar officials have said.

Brown said Holder had exclusive access to the account in question in her capacity as deputy clerk of the Supreme Court. “The accounting department inside the State Bar really had no responsibility for monitoring this account,” Brown said. “It was just happenstance that they found this [embezzlement].”

The State Bar immediately reported the theft to Austin police and within a week provided detailed financial records to assist in the investigation, which Brown called an “unbelievably quick” response. Through an insurance claim and court-ordered restitution, the State Bar recovered a “vast majority” of the more than $550,000 shown to have been stolen by Holder, he said.

The task force continues to investigate whether to recommend issuing Holder an IRS Form 1099, in an attempt to force her to pay income tax on the amount stolen, Brown said.

Update from State Bar President Tom Vick—Candidates Approved and Other News

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 16:57

Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick sent the following message to members Friday. 

I hope the new year finds you well. Please read below for updates from Friday’s quarterly meeting of the State Bar Board of Directors in San Antonio.

2018 President-elect Race

The State Bar board unanimously approved the nominations of Lisa Blue of Dallas and Randy Sorrels of Houston in the race for the next president-elect. Click here to read the news release and to learn more about these candidates, and pick up the April issue of the Texas Bar Journal for a Q&A. Voting is April 2 to May 1, and results will be announced May 1. The winner will serve as State Bar president from June 2019 until June 2020.

Election Policy Changes  

The board approved changes to State Bar policy and rules to update our election procedures for president-elect and district director to ensure that the process is fair and all candidates have the same opportunities to campaign. The board voted to add a 180-day expiration date on petition signatures—a provision that matches the law governing petitions in other state elections. The board also decided to approve board-nominated candidates in September in future years, instead of January. Taken together, these changes will ensure that the campaign periods are roughly equal for president-elect candidates, regardless of whether they are nominated by our board or certified through petition.

As part of the same process, the board approved sweeping changes to the board policy manual that relaxed or removed many campaign restrictions to ensure that director and president-elect candidates are all able to freely present their views of and visions for the bar.

Update on Embezzlement Issue 

A member of President-elect Joe K. Longley’ s financial task force reported that the procedural changes State Bar staff made immediately following a 2012 embezzlement case would likely prevent the incident from happening today. As we have reported in the past, the State Bar staff discovered in 2012 that an employee embezzled funds from an account outside the State Bar’s audit authority. As soon as the theft was discovered, that employee was fired, charges were filed, a conviction obtained, and processes were changed to ensure that it could not happen again.

As part of the task force’s work, Dallas attorney William D. Brown, who has more than 40 years of forensic accounting and/investigative experience, was tasked with analyzing the internal control system at the State Bar before and after the embezzlement. He determined that current written controls “adequately address the issues raised” by the theft. At the meeting Friday, he also thanked the State Bar staff for their cooperation and transparency in aiding his extensive analysis. I encourage you to read the whole report here. 

Internal Records Policy 

Some members have contacted us with questions about a proposed internal records policy pending before the board of directors. This article from the Texas Bar Blog offers a good overview of the proposal. Currently, the State Bar lacks a policy on how to handle requests from officers and directors for records not subject to the Texas Public Information Act when the executive director has concerns about a particular request. The proposed policy was designed to provide more transparency, not less, by giving the final authority to release such records to the board of directors—your elected representatives—instead of the executive director. At the board meeting Friday, the policy manual subcommittee informed the board it was delaying action on this proposal to allow for more study.

Open Enrollment & Teledoc Benefit 

Despite an open enrollment period half as long as in years past (45 vs. 90 days), enrollments in the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange have far exceeded expectations. We saw an astonishing 18 percent increase in individual major medical enrollments and a healthy 16 percent increase in employer and employee major medical enrollments in 2018—surpassing last year’s projections.

These numbers are particularly impressive given that nationwide, health care enrollments for 2018 are either the same as or slightly lower than for 2017. These numbers are good news for the State Bar’s efforts to provide health insurance opportunities for hardworking Texas attorneys, their families, and their employees.

In addition, enrollments in Teladoc, which allows lawyers and their families to receive extremely low-cost medical evaluations and even (in certain cases) prescriptions via web, phone, and mobile app—without ever setting foot in a doctor’s office—are up 88 percent when compared to last year. Any member who has purchased a product from the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is eligible to receive Teladoc at no cost. In many cases, Teladoc allows Texas attorneys and their families to avoid crowded (and potentially infectious) medical waiting rooms while obtaining quality care for their medical needs.

It’s an honor to serve as your State Bar president. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.