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July 6, 2016
Contact: Amy Starnes
Public Information Director, State Bar of Texas
(800) 204-2222, ext. 1706, or (512) 427-1706


Winners of 2016 Texas Gavel Awards announced

AUSTIN — In-depth stories exploring life under Texas’s sex offender laws, the use of civil asset forfeiture funds, and the mishandling of child-support dollars by an employer are among the winners of the 2016 Texas Gavel Awards.

Journalists representing Texas Monthly, Victoria Advocate, KPRC-Houston, KLTV-Tyler, and The Texas Lawbook were selected as winners of 2016 Texas Gavel Awards, which honor journalism that deepens public understanding of the legal system. The State Bar of Texas will honor the winners at an awards luncheon September 8 in Austin in conjunction with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas annual conference.

Each year, the State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee coordinates the Texas Gavel Awards and recruits an independent panel of journalists and legal professionals to judge the entries. Submissions are judged on their educational value, journalistic excellence, objectivity, creativity, and overall quality.

The winners are listed below by award category, along with short descriptions of their entries.

Print, Major Metro: Michael Hall of Texas Monthly wins for “The Outcast,” an in-depth portrait of a sex offender who denies committing the crime for which he was convicted. The story weaves past and present to paint a vivid picture of a man, his alleged crime, and what it means to rebuild a life under Texas sex offender laws.

Print, Non-Metro: Jessica Priest of the Victoria Advocate wins for “Detention Attention,” a series that evolved from the Victoria County judge and district attorney’s efforts to examine the efficacy of a regional juvenile detention center. In following the story, Priest seized the opportunity to educate readers on the topics of juvenile crime, Texas’s open records law, and civil asset forfeiture funds and procedures.

Broadcast, Major Metro: KPRC’s Robert Arnold, John Barone, Jon Hill, and Scott Sherman win for “No Scrutiny, No Accountability,” the final two stories of an 18-month investigation into how police departments at private universities in Texas were not subject to Texas open records laws. The investigative team found that private university police departments were not required to provide the public with information about incidents on or off campus, officers’ actions, or even basic department policies. Lawmakers subsequently filed and passed Senate Bill 308, declaring campus police departments of private institutions governmental bodies and thus subject to public information laws of the state.

Broadcast, Non-Metro: Julia Jenaé and Cody Lillich of KLTV-Tyler win with “Failure to Support,” an investigation of a case in which an employer was accused of intercepting thousands of child-support dollars from a father’s paycheck. The investigation illuminates a problem where unscrupulous employers could withhold pay from an employee’s check without forwarding the money to the state, leaving it up to the employee to ferret out potential wrongdoing.

Online: Mark Curriden of The Texas Lawbook wins for “The Smartest Person in the Room,” an in-depth profile on Stacey Doré, general counsel for Energy Future Holdings, and a behind-the-scenes look at the EFH bankruptcy proceedings and restructuring plan.

The State Bar of Texas features winner bios and links to the stories at

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas’s 2016 Bernard and Audre Rapoport State Conference is September 8 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The conference will examine recent Texas court rulings affecting public access to information and other timely transparency topics. The Texas Gavel Awards will be presented during the John Henry Faulk Awards Luncheon. For more information or to register for the conference, visit

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The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system. For more information, follow us on Twitter and Instagram @statebaroftexas, like us on Facebook at, or visit

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