Jan. 25, 2008

Contact: Kim Davey, 800.204.2222 x 1713

State Bar Board Increases Funding to Support Professionalism and Public Protection

(GRAPEVINE, TEXAS) — The State Bar of Texas budget for the upcoming budget year increases funding to several key areas of professionalism and public protection. Additional funds are provided for the Client Security Fund and Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, as well as a 50 percent increase to the Grievance Oversight Committee budget. The Client Security Fund provides compensation for clients of attorneys who have absconded with those clients' funds. The Grievance Oversight Committee is a committee appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas and tasked with looking at the grievance system and disciplinary process from many perspectives to ensure it is efficient, effective, and meeting the needs of both the public and the profession. It reports directly to the Supreme Court of Texas.

State Bar President-elect Harper Estes of Midland, who oversaw development of the budget and began his volunteer bar service as a grievance committee member, stressed his commitment to professionalism and public protection as he approaches being sworn in as president in June. In addition to increases to the Client Security Fund budget and the Grievance Oversight Committee, he has worked closely with the Commission for Lawyer Discipline to ensure it has the resources it needs. Current State Bar President Gib Walton ordered special review for the need of an additional attorney and other resources to answer the ethics helpline, as well as to review other avenues for increased commitment to professionalism, attorney ethics, and public protection. A "blue ribbon committee" has already started this review. The budget approved by the board of directors on Friday includes potential funding for this new ethics advisor.

"Throughout the budgeting process, our commitment has been to the public and profession we serve," said Estes. "The State Bar has traditionally looked for meaningful ways to make our disciplinary system the best it can be, as well as ways to give lawyers all the tools necessary to ensure they are living up to the highest standards of professionalism."

Commission for Lawyer Discipline Chair Betty Blackwell is pleased with the support and cooperation the State Bar Board of Directors continues to demonstrate for the disciplinary system. "Our system of discipline can only be stronger as the various groups with a stake in the system come together and work together," said Blackwell. "Many of these issues and ideas have been fleshed out after a recent Commission symposium. We are grateful for resources, projects, and creative thinking that will make the system work better for all involved, that help lawyers stay out of trouble, and that ultimately protect the public we serve."

The budget approved by the board will be published in the March issue of the Texas Bar Journal. A public hearing of that budget will be held in April prior to the State Bar of Texas Board meeting, where it will be adopted for submission to the Supreme Court of Texas. It will be presented to the Supreme Court of Texas in May. The State Bar fiscal year begins June 1.