The State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division will host the 2019 Texas Advanced Paralegal Seminar from September 18 to 20 at the DoubleTree in Austin.
“There’s No Place Like TAPS” will include CLE, socials, a keynote luncheon, and the Paralegal Division Annual Meeting on September 20.
The keynote luncheon speaker will be Judge Darlene Byrne, of the 126th Judicial District Court in Travis County. She is a commissioner on the Texas Children’s Commission; serves on the Judicial Council for National CASA; is an advisory council member for TexProtects, Partnerships for Children, and the Seedling Foundation; chair of the Texas Statewide Collaborative for Trauma-Informed Care; and on the editorial review board for the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ Juvenile and Family Court Journal. Byrne is a member of the Travis County Juvenile Justice board and a founding team member of the Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court and the Travis County Model Court of Children, Youth and Families.
Other highlighted speakers include M. Jack Martin, president of Martin, Frost & Hill in Austin; Leigh De La Reza, a partner in Noelke Maples St. Ledger Bryant in Austin; and Judy Kostura, of Judge, Kostura & Putman in Austin.
TAPS attendees can earn up to 13 hours of advanced CLE during the seminar.
Additionally, a panel of paralegals certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization will be on hand to answer questions about preparing for and taking the TBLS certification exam.
Registration opened on June 1 and can be completed at txpd.org/TAPS. The deadline for early registration is August 6. All registrations after will include a $35 late fee.
The Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative continues its traveling Saturday legal clinics of the summer with a stop in Tomball on July 13.
The Veterans Legal Initiative hosts the clinic along with the Houston Northwest Bar Association and the Montgomery County Bar Association.
The clinic will offer veterans and spouses of deceased veterans advice and counsel from volunteer attorneys in any area of law, including family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate and tax law, and disability and veterans benefits. Those who qualify for legal aid and are in need of ongoing legal representation may be assigned a pro bono attorney to take their case.
The clinic, which does not require an appointment, will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Tomball VA Outpatient Clinic, 1200 W. Main St., Tomball 77375.
Additional Saturday clinics:Galveston (Galveston VA Outpatient Clinic, 3828 Ave. N., 77550)—July 27, 9 a.m. – noon. Lake Jackson (Lake Jackson VA Outpatient Clinic, 208 Oak Drive S., 77566)—August 10, 9 a.m. – noon. Katy (Katy VA Outpatient Clinic, 750 Westgreen Blvd., 77450)—September 14, 9 a.m. – noon.
For more information, go to hba.org or contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at 713-759-1133.
To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans webpage at texasbar.com/veterans.
Two Texas attorneys were included in the annual Fastcase 50 list, which honors top innovators in the legal field.
Michael Dreeben, retired deputy solicitor general for the U.S. Department of Justice, and Shawn Tuma, a partner in Spencer Fane, were named to the list alongside other attorneys, professors, and entrepreneurs from around the world.
Dreeben was honored for his criminal law work with the Department of Justice. He is one of only seven people to have tried more than 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Dreeben argued his first Supreme Court case in 1989, against now-Chief Justice John Roberts.
Tuma was recognized for his cybersecurity work, including cyberrisk management, incident response, and security for a variety of companies in and outside of the law. In addition to providing consulting services to clients, he also sometimes represents them in related litigation. Tuma is an officer of the State Bar of Texas Computer & Technology Section.
The State Bar of Texas’ Membership Department was informed in June 2019 of the deaths of these members. We join the officers and directors of the State Bar in expressing our deepest sympathy.
• Frederick P. Ahrens, 81, of Dallas, died May 29, 2019. He received his law degree from Marquette University Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1978.
• William A. Allen, 71, of Austin, died April 21, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1976.
• James Wade Campbell, 77, of Richardson, died May 11, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1966.
• Christopher Albert Clark II, 81, of Oro Valley, Arizona, died October 5, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1993.
• Stanley Crawford, 75, of Austin, died May 25, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
• Richard B. Davies, 96, of Houston, died April 13, 2017. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the State Bar in 1952.
• Timothy Flint Davis, 83, died July 22, 2017. He received his law degree from the University of Denver College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1969.
• John W. Dixon, 94, died March 19, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1948.
• Cornelius T. Dorans, 88, of Plano, died May 23, 2017. He received his law degree from New York University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1992.
• Lee Duggan Jr., 87, of Houston, died June 16, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1955.
• Billy W. Flanagan, 67, of Mount Pleasant, died October 8, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1976.
• Word Lee Gidden, 98, of Elgin, died April 30, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1949.
• Leon G. Halden Jr., 83, of Kingwood, died February 6, 2019. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1960.
• Edward Heller, 82, of Houston, died April 25, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Buffalo School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1979.
• B.J. Lange Hoffman, 85, of New Braunfels, died May 7, 2019. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1961.
• Walter M. Holcombe, 84, of League City, died March 26, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
• Steven Huff, 67, of Mequon, Wisconsin, died May 22, 2019. He received his law degree from Boston University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2009.
• Richard P. Keeton, 81, of Houston, died April 20, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1963.
• John Moore Killian, 84, of San Antonio, died May 16, 2019. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1965.
• Davey Lamb, 66, of Dallas, died November 18, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1979.
• Christopher Lane, 67, of Florida, died April 5, 2019. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1978.
• Robert E. Lang, 75, of San Antonio, died April 26, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Akron School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1990.
• Kennard Lawrence, 76, of Burton, died April 23, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Washington School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1968.
• Vincent Ka-Lin Lo, 68, of Sugar Land, died January 29, 2019. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1997.
• Eugene O. Marquette III, 85, of Cookeville, Tennessee, died November 5, 2018. He received his law degree from Western State College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
• Leonard N. Martin, 88, of Boerne, died July 22, 2017. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1961.
• Carol M. McGilvray, 63, of Shreveport, Louisiana, died October 21, 2018. She received her law degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1979.
• Herbert H. Medsger, 90, of League City, died June 18, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1969.
• Gary C. Miller, 63, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, died August 25, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1980.
• Jerry Doyle Miller, 69, of Destin, Florida, died September 20, 2018. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
• Sean Arleigh Moore, 71, of Houston, died December 4, 2018. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1977.
• William Neil, 79, of Dallas, died May 29, 2019. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1966.
• Albert Perez, 74, of Fort Worth, died May 2, 2019. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
• Jack G. Ponder, 93, of Richardson, died September 12, 2018. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1952.
• Noe Reyna, 61, of Corpus Christi, died May 21, 2019. He received his law degree from Harvard Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1985.
• Mary Elizabeth Rogers, 61, of Corpus Christi, died May 18, 2019. She received her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1991.
• Charles A. Rubiola Jr., 70, of San Antonio, died March 29, 2019. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975.
• Richard Edric Salisbury, 48, of Austin, died April 28, 2019. He received his law degree from Columbia Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2001.
• John Shannon, 67, of League City, died May 21, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1976.
• Stephen Shoultz, 63, of Fort Worth, died June 23, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1980.
• Malcom Carey Smith, 75, of Johnson City, died June 2, 2019. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
• Cavitt Foster Wendlandt, 59, of Austin, died June 10, 2019. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
• David Vandiver Wilson II, 51, of Houston, died June 3, 2019. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1993.
• William H. Yowell, 88, of Killeen, died February 6, 2017. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951.
• Thomas Michael Zulim, 60, of Hockley, died December 28, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1992.
If you would like to have a memorial for a loved one published in the Texas Bar Journal, please go to texasbar.com/memorials. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Texas Bar Journal at 512-427-1701 or toll-free at 800-204-2222, ext. 1701.
The July issue of the Texas Bar Journal is out now. What are your favorites? Here are ours from this month’s look at the changing practice of law. And don’t forget to check out the latest in Movers and Shakers, Memorials, and Disciplinary Actions.
New sources of evidence from the internet of things.
By John G. Browning and Lisa Angelo
Why are women attorneys leaving the practice of law at a point when they should be advancing in their careers?
By Belinda May Arambula
The Power of Words
Best practices in communication for lawyers, courtesy of Winston Churchill.
By Talmage Boston
Before the Bench
Unique aspects of Texas Supreme Court practice.
By Scott A. Keller
Stories that examined how Texas judges are elected and showed how law enforcement agencies are using the Texas Public Information Act to withhold information about deceased suspects are among the winners of the 2019 Texas Gavel Awards.
Journalists representing The Texas Tribune, KXAN-TV in Austin, KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, Super Lawyers Magazine, and the Victoria Advocate were selected as winners. The Texas Gavel Awards, hosted by the State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee, honor journalism that deepens public understanding of the legal system.
The winners are listed below by award category, along with descriptions of their entries:
Online-only: Emma Platoff of The Texas Tribune wins for a series of articles that explored Texas’ system of partisan judicial elections. Among the issues she covered were: the perception, true or not, that judges are inclined to lean a certain way on the law based on their ideology; the low name recognition for judicial candidates, even at the highest levels of the state’s judiciary; and the possibility for partisan sweeps that can propel inexperienced judges into office based not on qualifications but on party affiliation.
Broadcast, Major Metro: An investigative team that involved Josh Hinkle, Sarah Rafique, and Andrew Choat at KXAN-TV in Austin wins for an investigation that began with questions about how a teenager, detained in the back of an Austin police cruiser, obtained a gun and shot himself and developed into the discovery of a loophole in the Texas Public Information Act that allows law enforcement agencies to withhold the details of incidents such as this from the public and even families of the deceased for decades.
Broadcast, Non-Metro: Jessica Savage of KRIS-TV Corpus Christi wins for a trio of stories following a Nueces County woman’s five-year fight to have her day in court while the defendant in the criminal case employed delaying tactics in a crowded court system.
Print, Major Metro: Steve Knopper wins for a Super Lawyers Magazine feature in which seven Texas lawyers tell — in their own words — what it’s like to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Print, Non-Metro: Jessica Priest of the Victoria Advocate wins for a series of stories covering the Calhoun County Port Authority after it hired former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold as a lobbyist in May 2018. Priest’s reporting uncovered that the board’s action may have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and highlighted a general lack of oversight for ports and special purpose taxing districts. Farenthold resigned from his port position in January 2019.
The State Bar of Texas features winner bios and links to the stories at texasbar.com/gavelawards.
The State Bar of Texas will present the awards to the winners on September 20 at the John Henry Faulk Awards luncheon during the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas’ statewide conference, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency, 208 Barton Springs Road, in Austin. For more information or to register for the conference, visit foift.org.
During the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2019 on June 13-14 in Austin, State Bar of Texas Podcast host Rocky Dhir was in full swing interviewing keynote speakers, panelists, and attendees. Working in conjunction with the Legal Talk Network, Dhir and guest hosts recorded 14 episodes on-site, which can be heard on Apple podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and the Legal Talk Network website. As a special offer, State Bar of Texas members who listen to the episode titled “State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2019: Josh Team and the Adaptable Lawyer” can get one hour of self-study MCLE credit. For more details, simply click on that episode page.
The Science of Speaking with Noah Zandan
Adaptable Lawyer keynote speaker Noah Zandan, CEO and co-founder of Quantified Communications, discusses how his company uses advanced data analytics to help people better convey their ideas and messages.
Representing Diverse Clients
Disability Rights Texas Senior Litigation Attorney Lia Davis and Monty & Ramirez Managing Attorney Jake Monty share their thoughts on how lawyers can better serve a diverse client base.
A View from the Bench with Judge Roy Ferguson
Judge Roy Ferguson, of the 394th Judicial District, talks about common procedural mistakes lawyers make that can put their clients’ at risk.
Free Press and the First Amendment with David McCraw
David McCraw, general counsel of the New York Times, talks about the state of the free press, the impact of new technology on journalism, and future challenges.
What Kanye Can Teach Us About Litigation
DHD Films’ Elliot Mayén and Bell Nunnally & Martin Senior Associate Brent Turman joined the podcast to talk about artist and musician Kanye West—and the lessons he can teach attorneys about litigation.
The U.S. National Debt with Larry Gibbs
Larry Gibbs, senior counsel to Miller & Chevalier and former IRS commissioner, talks about the rising national debt, urging citizens to take an interest in the topic and to take action in addressing it.
Ethical Use of Contract Lawyers with Penny Robe
Attorney Penny Robe discusses ethical ways of hiring a contract lawyer and resources practitioners can turn to.
“Get Paid and Have a Life” with Judge Audrey Moorehead
Dallas County Criminal Court 3 Judge Audrey Moorehead shares tips from her presentation on law practice management in hopes of helping attorneys to “get paid and have a life.”
Ted Boutrous and Tom Leatherbury on Open Government Law and Fake News
Tom Leatherbury, a partner in Vinson & Elkins, and Ted Boutros, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, examine the ramifications of “fake news” and discuss whether open government law could possibly be a vaccine (or pathogen) for it.
Bench Bar Breakfast with Wil Haygood
Award-winning author and journalist Wil Haygood, the keynote speaker at the Bench Bar Breakfast on June 14, dives deep about the subject of his book Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court.
Conversation with Keynote Speaker Asha Rangappa
Asha Rangappa, a CNN analyst and former FBI agent, talks about the history, current status, and issues surrounding disinformation and “fake news” in the U.S. Rangappa delivered the keynote speech during the General Session Luncheon on June 14.
Bar Presidents Randy Sorrels and Benny Agosto Jr.
Texas Young Lawyers Association President Victor A. Flores joined Rocky Dhir to talk with State Bar President Randy Sorrels and Houston Bar Association President Benny Agosto Jr.—both of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz—about what to expert during their terms and why bar diversity is a priority. Sorrels was sworn in as president of the State Bar of Texas on June 14.
Josh Team and the Adaptable Lawyer
Keller Williams Realty President Josh Team joined host Rocky Dhir for a Q&A in front of a “live audience” to talk about how companies need nimble lawyers who can keep up with the fast pace of innovation. Team delivered a keynote address as part of the Adaptable Lawyer.
Fooding in Austin
State Bar of Texas Public Information Director Amy Starnes, State Bar Pro Bono Programs Administrator Hannah Allison, Web Content Specialist Jennifer Dunham, and Texas Bar Journal Assistant Editor Eric Quitugua discuss barbecue, doughnuts, and their favorite Austin eateries.
Houston Bar Association President Benny Agosto Jr.’s newly formed LGBTQ+ Committee will meet July 8 to set goals and discuss programming for the upcoming year, including participation in the HBA Diversity Summit on July 11.
“As our nation prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, it is important that our bar association recognizes there is much work to be done to ensure diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, as well as in our communities,” Agosto said. “We are proud to work alongside organizations like the Stonewall Law Association of Greater Houston to make sure that everyone has equal opportunities under the rule of law.”
Agosto has planned the Diversity Summit as a celebration of the HBA’s history of inclusion and outreach, as well as a program to educate attorneys and non-attorneys on implicit bias, the gender spectrum, allyship, seeking and retaining a diverse workforce, gender fairness and the changing face of parental responsibility, and business development.
Founding members of the bar association’s LGBTQ+ Committee:Judge Steve Kirkland, of the 334th District Court—Co-chair; Judge Daryl Moore, of the 333rd District Court—Co-chair; Judge Kim Ogg, Harris County District Attorney—Co-chair; Judge Alice Oliver-Parrott, of Alice Oliver-Parrott, P.C.; Travis Torrence, of Shell Oil Company; Deborah Lawson, of the Stonewall Law Association of Greater Houston; Bryan Vezey, of Cozen O’Connor; Lena Laurenzo, of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz; Jessica Rodriguez, of the Ramsey Law Group; Joseph Sanchez, of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office; Charles Shaw, of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office; Benny Agosto Jr., of the Houston Bar Association; Mindy Davidson, of the Houston Bar Association; and Tara Shockley, of the Houston Bar Association
For more information on the Diversity Summit and LGBTQ+ Committee, go to hba.org/committees/lgbtq.
Tiye Foley, Michael Ritter, and Ryan V. Cox received On the Rise—Top 40 Young Lawyers Awards from the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.
The ABA’s On the Rise award program began in 2016 and has provided “national recognition for ABA young lawyer members who exemplify a broad range of high achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, and legal and community service,” according to its website. Candidates for the awards are ABA members, licensed to practice in the U.S. or its territories, are 36 or young, and are nominated by those familiar with their professional work.
Foley is an attorney with Exxon Mobil Corporation’s Environmental and Safety Law group and previously worked in litigation with Baker Donelson. In private practice, she focused on creditor lawsuits, commercial disputes, and bad-faith insurance claims. Foley also has a background in mechanical engineering, which aids her intellectual property and environmental cases. In addition to practicing law, she spearheads monthly legal clinics in the Houston area as chair of the NAACP-Houston Legal Redress Committee and is on the board of directors for and general counsel to JJ’s I’m Me Foundation, which is a nonprofit that hosts life-development workshops for at-risk girls.
Ritter has worked extensively with the state’s court system, including the Texas Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, and currently the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio. He’s drafted more than 350 opinions and worked on more than 700 appellate matters. Ritter has authored more than 30 law review articles and legal publications, with one being cited by the Texas Supreme Court. Outside of his law practice, he co-owns a business to help students in 47 states and six countries develop argumentation and presentation skills; promotes access to justice and diversity through the Texas Young Lawyers Association, or TYLA, and San Antonio Young Lawyers Association, or SAYLA; served as president of the San Antonio LGBT Bar Association and Texas Association of Appellate Court Attorneys; and volunteered with nonprofits that help LGBTQ youth, people living with HIV, and single parents without transportation.
Cox is a senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project in San Antonio, where he works on voting rights litigation in state and federal courts, with a focus on addressing systemic issues that prevent voter access to the polls. He previously was a briefing attorney with the 13th Court of Appeals and clerked with the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas. Cox is a TYLA director and has worked on local affiliate programs and projects that address fair housing and eviction cycles. He has also previously served the SAYLA as a director and president in 2017-2018, a year when its projects won ABAYLD Service to the Bar, Service to the Public, and Comprehensive Programming Awards, as well as the W. Frank Newton Award from the State Bar of Texas in recognition of efforts to increase legal services to the poor.
The ABA’s On the Rise award program began in 2016 and has provided “national recognition for ABA young lawyer members who exemplify a broad range of high achievement, innovation, vision, leadership, and legal and community service,” according to its website. Candidates for the awards are ABA members, licensed to practice in the U.S. or its territories, are 36 or young, and are nominated by those familiar with their professional work.
For a full list of 2019’s award winners, go to americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/awards_scholarships/on_the_rise/2019-honorees.
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.
Law school made me an alcoholic, or to be fair to law school, it was during law school that I crossed over to alcoholism. In college, I used to drink on weekends and sometimes got drunk. But I could decide when I wanted to get drunk. In law school, drinking was a major social component of my life and was a good way to relax and unwind from the stress of the day. But I began to lose the power of choice in terms of my drinking—I got drunk when I did not intend to, and I started to drink to black out, embarrassing my friends and myself.
I graduated, passed the bar, practiced law, got married, went into academia, had children, published articles, and received promotions and tenure all while I was still an active alcoholic. I was a “functioning” alcoholic and was able to practice my profession, attend church, volunteer in many community activities, and still be a good spouse and parent, or so I thought. I needed a drink desperately every day when I got home though, and after that, I might or might not remember the evening. I was not “present” for most of my adult life, and I was depressed, anxious, and angry at home.
Being in academics, I “audited” 12-step programs for many years before I got sober. I knew there was a problem, but being a well-educated person, I thought I could think, reason, or study my way to a solution. I attended hundreds of meetings and read dozens of books, but I could not deal with the reality that the only solution to my problem was to stop drinking.
For me, the crisis came when my spouse decided that our marriage was over. I very much loved my spouse and our life together. I could not imagine not seeing my children every day, nor splitting up the life we had built together. But we separated. I started to attend 12-step meetings and began the long journey to sobriety.
I committed to that program of recovery and particularly came to love and respect the people in our local legal professionals group. I went to the weekly meetings and found people who understood my problem, including the incredulity and pain of asking oneself, How did a smart and talented person like me get here? I have a good job, a nice home and family, and I am an active and productive member of the community. How can I be an alcoholic? I met lawyers like me, personable and functional, yet defeated by their addictions and depression. That first year I also attended the annual Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers convention and found even more attorneys who shared my problem—and showed me that a solution was possible.
After a year sober, my life, objectively, was good, but I was separated and getting divorced. I cried every day and began to suffer from thoughts of suicide. I could not sleep and felt that everyone, except possibly my children, would be better off without me. I still had enough sense to realize that I really did not want to kill myself, so I began seeing a psychiatrist and counselor and started on a true road to recovery.
Since that time, now several years ago, I have come to realize that I used alcohol to treat my underlying problems of anxiety and depression. When the alcoholic “medicine” was removed from my system, it was important to get professional treatment since the 12-step program alone could not treat the mental health problems I had. I also now understand that depression is not a “character defect” or personality flaw that can be removed by prayer, service to others, or efforts of will. Depression, like alcohol, can be a sneaky and lifelong disease that needs to be treated and monitored.
Today my life is good. I remarried, my first spouse and I remained friends, and we did a great job raising two wonderful children. I have true friends, and I have my career and it has thrived. I go to meetings regularly and reconnect with friends at the annual Texas LCL conference.
I still have problems, insecurities, worries, and occasionally, a really bad day. However, I now know the difference between a genuine problem and an inconvenience. I value my friends and family and am actually there for them, rather than passed out on the couch or lying in bed with a hangover. Best of all, the future is something I look forward to.
Originally published by Joanna Herzik.
To highlight some of the posts that stand out from the crowd, the editors of Texas Bar Today have created a list from the week’s blog posts of the top ten based on subject matter, writing style, headline, and imagery. We hope you enjoy this installment.
10. Ratification Issue Did Not Provide Path to Attorneys’ Fees – Ryan Lammert of McGinnis Lochridge @mcginnislaw in Austin
9. $334,500 Age Discrimination Verdict Against Time Warner Cable Upheld on Appeal – Christopher McKinney @CJMcKinney of The Mckinney Law Firm, P.C.
8. NLRB Restresses Risk of Firing Employees Who Discuss Pay – Robert G. Chadwick, Jr. @chadwicklawusa of Seltzer Chadwick Soefje & Ladik, PLLC in Frisco
2. Copyright Woes are Over the Rainbow: Harold Arlen Estate Sues Tech Giants – Peggy Keene of Klemchuk LLP @K_LLP in Dallas
Originally published by Christopher McKinney.
ADEA – Age Discrimination in Employment Act
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has let stand a $334,500 jury verdict for a 61-year-old employee who the company fired over a single incident of backdating a form.
The Plaintiff, Glenda Westmoreland, had worked for a Time Warner Cable subsidiary for more than 30 years, was fired after instructing a subordinate to backdate a form to reflect the date of a related meeting, rather than the date the form was actually completed. TWC initially told her the infraction wasn’t serious but later concluded that she had violated company policy prohibiting false statements and created “trust and integrity” issues. While walking her to her car, a supervisor told the Plaintiff, “You’ll get another job. Just go home and take care of those grandbabies.” Westmoreland sued, alleging age discrimination.
A jury found for Westmoreland and, on appeal, the 4th Circuit upheld the verdict. TWC’s “about face” on the disciplinary matter could give rise to a “suspicion of mendacity” about the company’s rationale for firing her, the court said. It also noted that company representatives had testified that there were lesser forms of discipline available. As a result, the court said, the jury could reasonably find that Westmoreland’s firing for one infraction that did not require termination was “such an extreme overreaction as to be pretextual.” In addition, the jury could have found that the “grandbabies” comment was made by a supervisor who harbored age bias, the court said.
Age discrimination in employment is illegal, but two-thirds of older job seekers report encountering it. Employees between the ages of 46 and 65 (especially those nearing retirement age) are the most likely to be targeted. Those employees are often let go by employers who perceive them to be more expensive and less valuable than younger replacements.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) exists to protect individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA’s protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment — including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.
You can read the full 4th Circuit opinion here.
Originally published by tiffany.dowell.
We’ve reached the end of May…I’m not sure how time goes so quickly. Here are a few ag law stories in the news recently.
*Texas judge finds 2015 WOTUS Rule violated Administrative Procedures Act. A federal judge here in Texas found that the 2015 WOTUS rule violated the Administrative Procedures Act. Specifically, the judge found that the proposed rule, for which public comment was allowed, differed too greatly from the final rule. In other words, because there were portions of the final rule that were significantly modified from the proposed rule, the public did not get an adequate opportunity to comment. One such substantial change the court relied upon was the definition of “adjacent” wetlands. The proposed rule provided that this meant all wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waterways. The final rule included all waters within 100 feet of waterways and those within the 100-year floodplain of a waterway or jurisdictional water. This type of substantial change between the proposed rule and final rule, the court reasoned, was not permitted. [Read Opinion here and article here.]
*Eminent domain reform dies as Legislative session ends. One of the most-watched bills in the Texas Legislature related to eminent domain reform. Senate Bill 421, sponsored by Lois Kohlkorst, did not make its way out of the legislature. The bill passed the Senate, but after modifications were made in the house, the Conference Committee was unable to agree on a final version. [Read article here.] I’ll have a blog post and/or podcast episode recapping the 86th Legislative Session coming soon.
* Texas House and Senate unanimously pass bill related to growing industrial hemp; selling and using CBD oil. Another bill that had been of interest to many farmers in Texas was HB 1325, which requires the Texas Department of Agriculture to promulgate a state plan to regulate hemp production in Texas. This plan will include many rules and regulations related to growing industrial hemp, including procedures for inspection and testing of the THC content. Keep in mind, industrial hemp is required to have less than .03% THC. Importantly, producing industrial hemp is not allowed until this plan has been promulgated by TDA. The USDA is working on developing federal guidelines as well. The bill also allows the sale of CBD oil, but limits this to permitted establishments governed by the Texas Health and Human Services Department and provides for testing of THC levels. This bill is currently on the Governor’s desk. [Read article here and bill text here].
* Article outlines arguments in lawsuit against Permian Highway Pipeline. As I mentioned in this previous post, a lawsuit has been filed by several landowners, cities, and groups against Kinder Morgan and the Texas Railroad Commission related to the Permian Highway Pipeline. I thought this article did a good job setting forth the arguments of the plaintiffs–namely that the challenge does not expressly relate to the right of the project to condemn land, but really challenges the oversight of the routing process (or lack thereof as the plaintiffs argue) by the Texas Railroad Commission. [Read article here.] Both Kinder Morgan and the Railroad Commission have filed motions to dismiss, which were argued before Judge Lora Livingston this week. [Read article here.]
* One Dandy of a Scheme. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to write for Progressive Farmer’s “Our Rural Roots” column. My most recent article tells one of my favorite stories about my Gran and a scheme she pulled off on our family’s farm. If you want to read it, click here.
Next week will be a busy one as I’m headed south. On Thursday, I’ll be speaking in Fredericksburg at the Hill Country Cattle Women meeting. [Click here for more info.] On Friday, we’re expecting a big turn out at our Owning Your Piece of Texas program on the top laws Texas landowners need to know in San Antonio. For more info and to register, click here.] As always, you can check out all of my upcoming presentations by clicking on the tab at the top of the page, or by clicking here.
Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.
In some instances, spouses will come into our law office to discuss the
possibility of our office representing both of them in an upcoming
divorce. They have already hatched a plan to settle all of the outstanding issues
in their case. All that they need now is an attorney to file the divorce
and get the process started. The spouses, in their minds, would rely on
that attorney for advice on particular issues and then would finish out
the divorce by drawing up all the court orders that a judge would eventually
sign their name to.
On the outside, this seems like a nice plan. Lawyers, popular belief holds,
typically muddy up the waters and make life more difficult for spouses
who are entering into a divorce. What’s more- attorneys will charge
you money in order to do so. The divorce would likely take longer as a
result and take up more time that could be devoted to their family or
other interests. With these circumstances in mind, spouses will come in
and see if this dream can be their reality. Unfortunately I will need
to steer them out of this mindset for a number of reasons that we will
discuss in today’s blog post.
Conflict in interest when an attorney represents two spouses in a divorce
If you and your spouse find yourself in a situation where you agree on
absolutely every issue in your divorce then you are certainly in a unique
position. Even the most amicable of divorces have a few issues that need
to be sorted out before the case can truly be said to be done. Even in
situations where you and your spouse agree on every or most every issue
you are still technically opposing parties in your divorce. Because of
this an attorney cannot adequately represent both you and your spouse’s
With all of this said, there are still options available to people in your
position who would like to limit the costs associated with hiring two
attorneys in a divorce. First of all, you and your spouse can forego hiring
two attorneys and have you or your spouse hire an attorney while the other
remains unrepresented. The other is to have neither of you hire an attorney
and instead utilize the services of a divorce mediator to mediate any
outstanding issues that are relevant in your case.
Mediating your case instead of hiring lawyers
If you and your spouse would like, you can hire a private
mediator to intercede into your divorce case and to help you and your spouse craft
a settlement on any outstanding issues in your case. This means that issues
related to children and property will all be settled in mediation- or
will be attempted to be settled in mediation. A mediator will typically
be a practicing family law attorney him or herself. The mediator will
charge you and your spouse a set amount of money for either a half day
or full day mediation.
The job of the mediator is basically to act as a ping pong ball- bouncing
in between you and your spouse in order to help you both come together
to come up with the specific terms that will create your final orders.
If you and your spouse have a general understanding of what your custody/visitation
agreement will look like for your children after the divorce a mediator
will help you to create something that is specific and able to stand the
test of time. Likewise, all property matters will hopefully be settled
in mediation. Who remains in the family home (if any), what spouse gets
what share of your community estate and any other issues related to property
matters will also be sorted out.
Mediations will typically occur at the office of the mediator. You will
be in one room while your spouse is in the other. Sometimes spouses will
agree to be in the same room and to negotiate across the table from one
another. From my experience this can be a tough atmosphere to negotiate
in as a glance of the eye or a curl of the lip can aggravate/frustrate
the other side.
The mediated settlement agreement
A Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) is what you and your spouse will
be negotiating for in mediation. The MSA contains all of the agreements
that you and your spouse came up with and will act as the guide for whichever
spouse ultimately ends up writing your
final decree of divorce. He or she will take the MSA and turn its language into an order that
a judge will be comfortable signing their name to.
Your mediator will likely walk you through each item in the MSA and will
make sure you understand everything contained therein. Usually your attorney
would do this but if you don’t have one the mediator can certainly
explain the points of the MSA to you. However, he or she is not able to
advise you on whether or not something is a “good idea” for
you to enter into with your spouse. The mediator can refer you and your
spouse to an attorney who can draft an order based on the language contained
in the MSA but will not represent either you or your spouse.
Although mediation costs money it is typically a small sum of money compared
to the costs of hiring an attorney and going through an extended family
law case. On the other hand, you will not be able to receive any advice
or pointers on what you are negotiating and you will not be able to rely
upon your attorney’s years of family law experience in negotiating
a settlement in your divorce case.
Texas divorce cases are most likely to end in mediation. The vast majority
of divorces where the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC represents one spouse
end in mediation. However, if you and your spouse cannot settle in mediation
your options become somewhat limited. You have already exercised the most
likely route to a settlement and have failed to reach an agreement. If
you find yourselves in this position it is likely that at least one of
you will now move to hire an attorney to represent your interests.
One family law attorney to represent you or your spouse
The other option that you and your spouse can choose to take on is to have
one of you hire an attorney and for the other spouse to be unrepresented.
The represented spouse will be responsible for filing the divorce and
drafting a final decree of divorce once a settlement is reached. The main
advantage this spouse will have is the ability to receive advice about
the divorce process from their attorney. If you are represented by an
attorney you would know if entering into an agreement on a particular
issue were a good idea or not. You would also know how a negotiating strategy
could backfire or have unintended consequences for you years down the road.
In many situations this is an arrangement that works out well for people.
Our office has represented clients who are in basic agreement with their
spouses on the terms of their divorce. The key thing to understand is
that most attorneys are not looking to stir up trouble- on the contrary,
these folks are more than happy to work on behalf of their client to resolve
whatever issues are in play. It is usually simple, straightforward divorce
cases where this method works out for both spouses in the divorce.
Questions about the different methods for completing a divorce? Contact
the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
There are more ways than one to skin a cat, and there is more than one
way to get a divorce. Just because you have a friend or family member
who got divorced one way doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful
of other options for you and your spouse to pursue.
If you are interested in speaking to an attorney in order to begin your
divorce please consider
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We represent clients just like you in our community and we would be honored
to do the same for you and your family. A consultation with one of our
licensed family law attorneys is at no charge to you.