2015-2016 State Bar of Texas Committee Reports
Committee reports are included in the July issue of the Texas Bar Journal to update Texas lawyers on State Bar activities. The reports do not necessarily reflect the position or official policy of the State Bar of Texas, which is formulated by the State Bar Board of Directors or by the membership through referendum. For more information or to complete a Committee Volunteer Interest Form, go to texasbar.com/committees or call (800) 204-2222, ext. 1516.
Administration of Rules of Evidence
Hon. Robin Malone Darr, Chair
The Administration of Rules of Evidence Committee is studying some of the rules that came to our attention as possibly needing a substantive review. The subcommittees are comparing those Texas Rules of Evidence with the corresponding Federal Rules and also are evaluating how each rule is applied in the actual practice of law.
The rules under substantive review and the subcommittee chairpersons are: Rule 203—Leslie Hyman Rules 509 and 510—Chris Hanslik Rule 701-706—Hon. Andrew Austin Rules 804 and 807—Alex J. Bell Federal Rules 301 and 302, Texas and Federal Rules 403 and 408— Mary Dietz
AREC is recommending to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee that Rules 203, 408, 509, 701-703, and 705 be amended. With the exception of changing the time and manner of notice in 203, most of the amendments are technical or aim to align the Texas Rule with the Federal Rule and are not substantive changes. The committee has reviewed a remarkable number of rules this year and special thanks goes to University of Texas School of Law Professor Steve Goode, who has been an integral part of the review.
Stephen L. Tatum, Chair
The committee continues to work in the pursuit of three objectives: (1) educate the bar about the provisions of the Advertising Rules, (2) provide guidance concerning compliance with Part VII of the Advertising Rules, and (3) ensure compliance with the Advertising Rules by reviewing and approving filed advertisements. Gene Major, director of the Advertising Review Department; Michael Dobbs, program coordinator of the department; and various committee members gave a number of live, videotaped, and web-based presentations over the past year to educate lawyers and others about the requirements and restrictions imposed by the Advertising Rules. Major also spoke at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting and to the Dallas Bar Association, the Jefferson County Bar Association, and the Texas Minority Counsel Program. The committee continued working with the publishers of Super Lawyers, Law360’s Rising Stars, and other similar publications to ensure that advertising related to these publications is filed with and reviewed by the committee before publication. The committee met throughout the 2015-2016 bar year to provide guidance concerning the rules and reviewed more than 4,000 applications. The number of filings has consistently increased, with the largest category of submissions filed being electronic/ web-based advertisements.
Cindy Tisdale and Brad Parker, Co-Chairs
The 2016 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting took place in Fort Worth on June 16-17. The Annual Meeting Committee offered a diverse selection of quality CLE, featuring keynote speakers Michael Morton, author of Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace; Ken Reeves, vice president of human resources at Freese and Nichols and a former NFL player; and S.C. Gwynne, a New York Times bestselling author. With more than 80 informative learning sessions, this year’s meeting featured programs for everyone from the first-year associate to the seasoned professional. State Bar sections provided practice-specific programs as well as joint events, including the Adaptable Lawyer Track and the Business Law Section and Corporate Counsel Section. During Friday’s General Session Luncheon, 2015-2016 State Bar President Allan K. DuBois gave parting remarks, and Frank Stevenson was sworn in as 2016-2017 president. At the Texas Young Lawyers Association reception, 2015-2016 TYLA President C. Barrett Thomas thanked young lawyers for their service and gave farewell remarks, and Sam Houston was sworn in as the 2016-2017 president. The Fort Worth community and law firms statewide deserve acknowledgement and gratitude for their dedicated support of the Annual Meeting. Be sure to mark your calendars for the 2017 Annual Meeting in Dallas on June 22-23.
Child Abuse And Neglect
Carole Hurley, Chair
To address the educational needs of attorneys involved in child-protection litigation, the committee conducted a one-day workshop at the Advanced Family Law Conference, and the Supreme Court Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families provided scholarships. The committee conducted a June conference in Houston featuring sessions for attorneys representing parents, children, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and it will conduct a similar event in the latter part of 2016. The committee distributed English and Spanish copies of its DVD on shaken baby syndrome, When Babies Cry, and made a presentation—Relatives Helping Children: Pro Bono Projects to Help Abused Children—at the Bar Leaders Conference. The committee works to increase awareness about prenatal alcohol exposure in the population of abused and neglected children and is now working toward board certification for child welfare practitioners. The committee posts attorney resources on the website of Texas Lawyers for Children (texaslawyersforchildren.org), which provides free access to legal research tools concerning child protection and communication tools allowing judges and attorneys to have a dialogue with colleagues. The site also provides a way for attorneys to access pro bono opportunities in child protection cases. The committee presented its annual Fairy Davenport Rutland Award for Distinguished Service to Children and Families.
Continuing Legal Education
Mark D. White, Chair
During the 2015-2016 bar year, the Continuing Legal Education Committee met twice with the Board of Professional Development Subcommittee and bar staff to propose topics for future CLE programs and to discuss challenges and opportunities facing TexasBarCLE and Texas BarBooks. TexasBarCLE continues to be a leading provider of high-quality CLE. In recognition of the trend moving toward online CLE, expansion of webcasts and online classrooms remains a priority. With legal developments readily available on the internet, TexasBarCLE will focus its programs on emphasizing the practical consequences—how changes in the law affect the practice of law. Partial or full scholarships are now available for all live and online programs, and the number of attorneys applying for them has grown steadily larger. The goal is to take price out of the equation in the decision to attend a bar CLE program.
TexasBarBooks released a new volume in the Texas Pattern Jury Charges series, Texas Pattern Jury Charges—Oil & Gas, as well as supplements to several manuals and new editions in the civil and criminal jury charges series. The first online version of the Texas Family Law Practice Manual launched in October and is available through a monthly or annual subscription.
Carlos R. Soltero, Chair
The Court Rules Committee submitted several proposed rules during the 2015-2016 bar term. The first is a comprehensive new rule governing spoliation procedures in Texas state courts in light of Brookshire Bros., Petro. Solutions, and Wackenhut Corp., as well as recent amendments to FRCP 37(e).
The committee also proposed amending Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 192.3(c) to require witness contact information other than a lawyer’s address and 192.3(d) to require identification of trial witnesses (as opposed to persons with knowledge of relevant facts) at least 45 days before trial.
The committee proposed amending Rule 57 with a minor grammatical change to account for circumstances when emails are unavailable for pro se parties and to clarify that the email addresses provided in pleadings may be used for service under Rules 21 and 21a. It also proposed amending these service rules to focus on clarifying standards governing electronic notices and service to pro se litigants and to address situations when it is unfeasible to make e-filed documents text-searchable.
In addition, the committee worked on proposals to amend Rule 244, and it is collaborating with TexasBarCLE to produce a podcast on the sensitive data rules.
Tabitha M. Charlton, Chair
The Crime Victims Committee returned in 2015-2016. Our first action was by unanimous vote to recommend that the committee’s name be changed to Crime Victims and Survivors Committee to recognize a key stage of the healing process: shedding the victim label and identifying as survivors. This stage is a key component of healing and breaking the vicious cycle of victimization.
We also developed a three-year strategic plan:
Improve the committee webpage on the State Bar website and utilize social media to communicate our message to the public.
Identify gaps in resources and work with the bar and other agencies to determine ways to fill those gaps.
Partner with other State Bar committees and various nonprofit organizations to hold awareness events and fundraisers.
Hold a contest among Texas high school students to develop a public service announcement aimed at communicating available resources to victims and survivors to be shown on our webpage, by local media, and during the 2018 National Crime Prevention Week.
Increase awareness of crime victim and survivor resources by establishing a presence at medical facilities, colleges and universities, community libraries, first-responder locations, legal events, and public festivals.
Erin Lawler, Chair
The Disability Issues Committee began the bar year by identifying priority issue areas, which included: (1) courtroom access for lawyers and clients with disabilities and (2) guardianship reform and alternatives. Throughout the year, subject matter experts joined committee meetings as guest presenters. Attorneys and specialists from private practice and disability advocacy groups presented on physical accessibility of Texas courtrooms, effective communication with deaf clients, and Texas Achieving a Better Life Experience, a nascent program offering tax advantaged savings accounts for certain Texans with significant disabilities.
Meanwhile, the committee continued to promote the Communication Access Fund, a State Bar program that reimburses attorneys for sign-language interpreters, Computer Assisted Real- Time Transcription, braille documents, and other auxiliary aids and services needed to provide effective communication with clients; offered online training on accessibility of shelters and other temporary housing (available at youtube.com/statebaroftexas); and served as a co-sponsor of the 2016 Special Education, Child Welfare and the Juvenile Justice System CLE event.
Diversity In The Profession
Keshia L. Rodriguez, Chair
Since its creation, the Diversity in the Profession Committee has sought to promote, retain, and support diverse attorneys in the legal profession. In continuing those efforts, DIP was pleased to carry forward and expand last year’s efforts, including (1) a statewide K-12 pipeline initiative providing attorney presentations in classrooms to encourage minority students to choose careers in the legal profession and (2) Texas Bar Exam scholarships offering assistance to law school students preparing for the exam. For the fourth year running, DIP presented the Texas Minority Law Student Program, held at UNT Dallas College of Law. Local attorneys offered a full-day workshop to law students with a panel discussion providing advice for summer clerkships, a networking luncheon, and mock interviews.
DIP also continued its two CLE programs, the Texas Minority Attorney Program, which aims to increase networking opportunities for diverse attorneys at solo and small firms, and the Texas Minority Counsel Program, which provides networking and business development opportunities for diverse attorneys in mid-sized and large law firms, corporations, and governmental entities. DIP is poised to continue these programs next year and encourages all attorneys to get involved with its efforts.
Nicondra Chargois-Allen, Chair
The Jury Service Committee was thrilled to help Texas celebrate its inaugural Jury Appreciation Week during the first week of May 2016. Created by Senate Bill 565, which was passed by the 84th Legislature, the week is dedicated to honoring those who give of their time to participate in our judicial system.
To mark the occasion, the committee distributed stickers reading “Jury Duty: A Texas Tradition,” as well as jury service toolkits to all of the state’s county, district, and federal court clerks. It also worked with the Texas Bar Journal staff to have an article published in the May issue.
The committee accomplished a number of other projects in 2015-2016, including updates to the jury service toolkits for the public and legal profession, the launch of texasbar.com/juryservice as a hub for jury resources, and the creation of a sample thank you letter from judges to jurors. The committee also developed a news release to warn the public about common jury service scams.
The Jury Service Committee is dedicated to developing and implementing programs to ensure broad citizen participation and support of jury service. We look forward to furthering this work in 2016-2017.
Law Focused Education
Daniel David Hu, Chair
The Law Focused Education Committee members continued to meet with their local school districts, private school networks, and community groups, providing them with the latest materials developed by the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department. This year’s focus was promotion of classroom resources such as the Justiceville U.S.A.!, I was the first. Vote for Me!, and Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! websites. Committee members presented all three projects during the Bar Leaders Conference in July. Using the web-based programs, committee members presented to classrooms, community groups, and local bar associations. The committee continues to speak to participants at local law-focused education events and promote the use of the Law Focused Education website, texaslre.org, national programs such as iCivics, and the Division for Public Services of the American Bar Association. The committee is also overseeing the James Madison Legacy Project, with members volunteering to serve as judges for mock congressional hearings.
Law Practice Management
Dirk Jordan, Chair
The Law Practice Management Committee began the year by presenting a daylong seminar at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in June 2015. Throughout the year, the committee worked on and posted articles of interest on its website, including “Time Management,” “Retention of Client Files,” “Conflicts,” and “Disaster Preparation and Recovery Checklist.” The Law Practice Management website (texaslawpracticemanagement.com) has 750 to 800 visitors per month, with starting a practice as the most popular topic.
Laws Relating To Immigration And Nationality
Linda A. Brandmiller, Chair
The LRIN Committee continues to share immigration information with the bar since it overlaps with most practice areas of law. Several Ten Minute Mentor presentations were created and the committee plans to continue this practice as laws, regulations, and their interpretations continue to change.
The fall meeting was held at the Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport and included a tour of the international arrivals process. The committee enjoyed the “museum” of artifacts confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection; contraband included everything from ivory to all sorts of prohibited plant and food items.
Once again, the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, hosted a personal tour for committee members as part of the winter El Paso quarterly meeting. This behind-the-scenes tour, which included discussion of fraud detection and lunch with officers, provided invaluable insight into how family-based consular processing applications are adjudicated. Committee members even received a script and documents to play “applicant for a day” and go through the entire system as one of our clients. (Sadly, we were all sent to secondary for probable marriage fraud.)
The spring meeting in Austin provided the committee with a pro bono opportunity to assist at a free legal clinic in San Marcos hosted by the Bernardo Kohler Center.
The summer meeting continues to be coordinated with the State Bar of Texas Immigration and Nationality Section, with a quarterly meeting at the bar’s Annual Meeting held in Fort Worth this year.
Lawyers’ Assistance Program
Charles Stanton Perry, Chair
The Lawyers’ Assistance Program Committee both guides and supports the work of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, helping to carry the message to State Bar members that there is hope and help for recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues. In 2015-2016, the committee continued its Global Firm Initiative, which brings presentations regarding lawyer well-being to major law firms. Committee members also served as liaisons to the 10 law schools in Texas, allowing for outreach and support to law students. Additionally, the committee gave presentations to local bar associations regarding health, well-being, and suicide prevention, assisting staff in expanding outreach to lawyers in every region of the state.
Highlights of the year included making 10 presentations to some of the state’s largest law firms, hosting the Seventh Annual Meeting of Deans of Student Affairs, and distributing the video Courage, Hope and Help— TLAP Is There. The committee supported TLAP staff in providing assistance to more than 700 lawyers, law students, and judges and giving 158 presentations to almost 12,000 members across the state.
Legal Services to the Poor In Civil Matters
Matthew B. Probus, Chair
The Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee serves as a clearinghouse to monitor developments in, and facilitate coordination of efforts with, federally funded Legal Services Corporation providers, private organizations, and local bar initiatives. The volunteer members of the committee continue to help the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors carry out one of the bar’s core missions: to “assure all citizens equal access to justice.”
The committee continued its work on issues affecting veterans, working closely with the Texas Coordinating Council for Veterans Services to develop a toolkit for legal services programs and other nonprofit organizations that help veterans. The committee also began working on a skills-training needs assessment for legal aid programs. Members of the committee helped develop the agenda for the access to justice track at the State Bar’s annual Bar Leaders Conference. Finally, the committee received strong nominations for the State Bar’s Pro Bono Excellence Awards and recommended awardees to the bar board. Recipients of these awards were recognized during the State Bar’s Annual Meeting in Fort Worth.
Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal Matters
Catherine G. Burnett, Chair
For more than 20 years, this committee has worked to improve representation of indigent Texans in criminal matters. The committee engages in three discrete activities: (1) studying delivery systems, (2) collecting data, and (3) developing recommendations for relevant stakeholders. Committee members come from diverse experiences and backgrounds within the criminal justice system, including state and federal practice, public and private practice settings, prosecution and defense functions, the judiciary, and nonprofit organizations with an indigent defense focus. The varied perspectives committee members bring to this work are critical in achieving these aims.
This year, the committee continued its role in developing Texas-specific guidelines for attorney performance. The focus of this fourth set of guidelines is juvenile representation, which has been a multiyear project. Following an extensive comment and revision period, proposed guidelines were submitted to the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors in April 2015. Ongoing projects include: (1) language interpretation practices as an access to justice barrier, (2) mentoring and early-entry programs designed to increase capacity, (3) recognition of outstanding legal scholarship and service delivery, and (4) identification of areas for reform in the criminal justice system.
Local Bar Services
Janna Clarke, Chair
The Local Bar Services Committee has the express purpose of enhancing communication between State Bar and local bar leadership to assist local bars in the management and development of their associations. Our signature event, the Bar Leaders Conference, brings local bar leaders and State Bar officers and directors together to discover tools and resources while addressing common concerns.
The committee also plans the annual Law Day contest and Stars of Texas Bars Awards. The State Bar and Texas Young Lawyers Association presented statewide contest awards to 18 students at the Law Day ceremony in Austin. This year’s theme, “Miranda: More than Words,” encouraged students to explore why procedural protections are essential to our liberty. The Stars of Texas Bars Awards recognize the work of local bar associations. Award recipients were acknowledged at the Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon during the 2016 State Bar Annual Meeting held June 16 in Fort Worth.
Outreach to local bar associations through State Bar leadership, staff, and the committee remains strong. Resources available to local bars include speaker coordination, strategic planning, program materials and coordination, off-the-shelf projects, and law-related education.
Minimum Continuing Legal Education
Jason Honeycutt, Chair
The MCLE Committee administers the program of minimum continuing legal education as established by Article XII of the State Bar Rules. During the past year, the MCLE Committee prepared for the implementation of rules changes that eliminate the age exemption for emeritus members. As of June 2016, active emeritus members need to comply with the 15-hour MCLE requirement but are exempt from paying noncompliance penalties and initial reinstatement fees for late compliance or late reporting. Emeritus members are not exempt from fees associated with consecutive suspensions or multiple-year suspensions. The amendments repealing the MCLE age exemption were approved by the State Bar Board of Directors and the Supreme Court of Texas.
The use of MCLE online services by sponsors and attorneys continues to increase yearly. This year, the MCLE department received approximately 530,000 attendance records and 30,000 applications for accreditation of CLE activities. Eighty percent of this information was received electronically, via the MCLE website.
Pattern Jury Charges— Business, Consumer, Insurance, and Employment
LaDawn H. Conway, Chair
The committee has focused its efforts this year on updating existing material and drafting new charges to be included in the 2016 edition of its jury instructions guide. The 2016 edition, which will be available at the end of this year, will include new charges covering late payment of claims under the Texas Insurance Code, prompt pay in construction contracts, fraudulent transfer, and misappropriation of trade secrets. The committee continues to work with the other pattern jury charges committees and the Pattern Jury Charges—Oversight Committee to collaborate on issues including spoliation, fiduciary duty, and corporate gross negligence. This year, the committee also worked closely with the State Bar’s Intellectual Property Law Section to finalize charges on misappropriation of trade secrets.
Following publication of the 2016 edition, the committee will begin developing new topics to include in its 2018 edition and will complete a comprehensive update of the volume to reflect developments in both statutory and caselaw. The committee will post drafts to texasbarbooks.net prior to publication and welcomes input from the bench and bar. Comments and questions, as well as suggestions for new topics to be included in future editions, may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pattern Jury Charges—Criminal
George Dix, Chair
The Pattern Jury Charges—Criminal Committee was formed in 2005 with the goal of drafting criminal instructions in plain language and published five volumes in nine years. However, as the committee began planning for additional material, its members decided to update and reorganize the series for greater utility and expansion potential. The committee took content from various volumes of the original series and added new subject matter to create the new series’ first volume, Texas Criminal Pattern Jury Charges—General, Evidentiary & Ancillary Instructions, which was published in the spring of 2015. This was followed by the release of two additional volumes that include new cases and statutory changes, Texas Criminal Pattern Jury Charges—Criminal Defenses, published in the fall of 2015, and Texas Criminal Pattern Jury Charges—Intoxication, Controlled Substance & Public Order Offenses, published in the spring of 2016. The committee is currently working on the fourth volume of the series, consisting of model jury instructions for crimes against persons and property. This volume will be published in the fall of 2016.
Pattern Jury Charges—Family and Probate
Hon. Kathleene Dennise Garcia, Chair
The committee published its 2016 edition of Texas Pattern Jury Charges—Family & Probate. Questions and instructions were amended throughout the volume to reflect the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584. Incorporation of 2015 legislative amendments in the family law chapters includes jury instructions for consideration in determining conservatorship of a child, including those concerning history or pattern of family violence, history or pattern of child abuse or neglect, or rendition of a protective order against a party. As a part of reflecting 2015 legislation in the probate chapters, the committee faced the challenging task of incorporating revised guardianship provisions that require consideration of both alternatives to guardianship and of available support and services. An instruction and commentary on spoliation of evidence was also added.
The committee expects to continue work on new topics for inclusion in the 2018 volume. Drafts of the committee’s work will be posted on texasbar books.net before publication, and the committee welcomes feedback on those. Comments and questions, as well as suggestions for new topics, may be sent to email@example.com.
Pattern Jury Charges—General Negligence, Intentional Personal Torts, and Workers’ Compensation
Brock C. Akers, Chair
The committee continued to review the 2014 volume to accommodate changes in the law. Likewise, the committee has been focused on providing new suggested pattern questions for different types of causes of action that fall within our purview.
For many years, the committee has struggled with the propriety of an instruction or other mention of the failure to wear a seat belt. The Supreme Court resolved this issue in a recent opinion, and the committee has been able to generate an appropriate treatment for this thorny issue.
Following the addition of a section on nuisance in the most recent volume, the committee has been hard at work on a new section for trespass. The committee has been working with other pattern jury charges committees on various common issues, such as slight modifications to the instruction on spoliation. A suggested change relating to the Rule 226a instructions has been circulated, as has an observation relating to the decades-old definition of circumstantial evidence.
The committee welcomes input and suggestions from all practitioners. Please offer any constructive advice, comments, or recommendations for future topics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pattern Jury Charges— Malpractice, Premises, and Products
Jeffrey S. Levinger, Chair
Over the past 18 months, the committee has worked diligently and tirelessly to revise, add to, and improve upon the 2014 edition of Texas Pattern Jury Charges—Malpractice, Premises, and Products. We are looking forward to the fruits of our labor—the publication of the 2016 edition—and we believe it will greatly assist the bench and bar.
Among the more significant additions anticipated for the 2016 edition are a new stand-alone chapter on attorney malpractice (with questions and comments on breach of fiduciary duty and fee disgorgement); statute of limitations questions and comments for medical and attorney malpractice cases; proximate and producing cause instructions for toxic tort exposure cases; and the remainder of the exemplary damage “cap-busting” questions currently summarized in PJC 85.11. We have also devised an improved “additional certificate” for juries to use in exemplary damage cases involving multiple parties or multiple claims. And we have updated a number of comments based on recent Texas Supreme Court opinions.
The members of this committee have given unselfishly of their time, displayed a spirit of nonpartisanship, and provided practical solutions to difficult problems. Our mission remains the same—to “get it right.”
Pattern Jury Charges—Oil and Gas
Ricardo E. Morales, Chair
The Pattern Jury Charges—Oil and Gas Committee has completed its inaugural edition of Texas Pattern Jury Charges—Oil & Gas. The committee began its work on the volume three years ago, building on the efforts of the State Bar’s Oil, Gas, and Energy Resources Law Section, which had previously drafted charges for use by its members. The committee met throughout this year to finalize updates before publication and also worked closely with the Pattern Jury Charges— Oversight Committee to complete a comprehensive review of the material to ensure usability, accuracy, and consistency with the other pattern jury charges volumes.
The committee’s first published edition, which is now available, includes charges on adverse possession, trespass, lessor-lessee issues, executive rights, contracts between working interest owners, defenses, and damages. The committee will now focus on planning for the 2018 edition. In addition to updating the charges as needed to reflect new caselaw and statutory law, the committee will develop charges as needed to address emerging areas in oil and gas law.
The committee welcomes comments and questions, as well as suggestions for new topics, which may be sent to email@example.com.
Pattern Jury Charges—Oversight
Hon. Jane Bland, Chair
The Pattern Jury Charges—Oversight Committee resolves inconsistencies among the various pattern jury charges volumes. Its goals are to: (1) assist in determining the best approach for alerting the practitioner about changes in governing law; (2) refer to the appropriate committees any legislative or jurisprudential changes that require an update to existing pattern charges; and (3) review proposed additions or revisions to the PJCs and relay feedback in a timely manner. This year, the committee completed review of the PJC Oil & Gas volume and offered suggestions to that committee ahead of its inaugural publication date. The committee finalized instructions for spoliation of evidence and preservation of error. It also reviewed new PJC Criminal sections relating to obstruction of justice, online solicitation of minors, and gambling offenses. The committee continues its work on proposed revisions to the gross negligence pattern charge and to verdict forms for exemplary damages in multi-defendant cases. Finally, the committee plans to approve a uniform update to the general negligence charge in light of Nabors Well Services v. Romero, 456 S.W.3d 553 (Tex. 2015) before publication of the fall 2016 volumes.
Kenda Culpepper, Chair
The Professionalism Committee enjoyed another productive year. Members rolled out Need Ethics? A Directory of Speakers, an online database that provides local bar associations with a list of knowledgeable orators who are willing to travel to discuss ethics topics. In partnership with the Texas Bar College, members continue to travel throughout the United States to discuss the significance of professionalism and mentoring in the legal profession. A regional mentoring initiative, in partnership with Kaufman and Rockwall counties, is scheduled to start this summer.
The committee created a mentoring video featuring Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht and produced a CLE presentation on professionalism and ethics that State Bar board members can use in their respective districts. The Professionalism Committee has also been pivotal in promoting the importance of civility through the Texas Lawyer’s Creed. For the past three years, the committee has distributed more than 1,500 creed posters and 4,228 creed brochures (and an additional 638 in Spanish) statewide. In the upcoming year, the committee is looking forward to revamping the SBOT Advisory Network, a databank of names available to attorneys seeking mentors throughout the state. For more information on the committee, go to its newly launched webpage at texasbar.com/professionalism.
Rudy A. England, Chair
During the 2015-2016 bar year, the Public Affairs Committee saw the continued success of its Texas Gavel Awards program and planned a timely and engaging Open Government Seminar, co-sponsored by the Government Law Section, for the 2016 State Bar Annual Meeting.
The committee’s mission is to expand public understanding of the legal system and to foster relations with the news media to advance that goal.
The Open Government Seminar, hosted June 17, provided valuable panel discussions to lawyers, the media, and the public on the subjects of Defining Media in the Digital Age, and the regulations, ethics, and controversies surrounding Body Cameras and Photography of Police.
The 2015 Texas Gavel Awards, which recognize outstanding Texas journalism that enhances public understanding of our legal system, attracted a record number of entries. The committee is proud to continue its partnership with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas to present the awards at the FOIFT annual conference in September 2016.
Real Estate Forms
Richard L. Spencer, Chair
The Real Estate Forms Committee is responsible for maintaining the utility and legal rigor of the Texas Real Estate Forms Manual. The committee monitors changes in real estate and related areas of law and practice at the state and federal levels. In bar year 2015-2016, these included changing federal home loan regulations and statutory changes made by the 84th Texas Legislature. State and federal cases are also reviewed and incorporated to keep the manual up to date. A supplement to the manual was published in spring 2016.
Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors
John G. Browning, Chair
The Texas Bar Journal is the official publication of the State Bar of Texas. In print since 1938, the magazine serves as a publication of record for the Supreme Court of Texas, a scholarly legal journal, and the association magazine for the State Bar of Texas. Each month (except for August), the Texas Bar Journal is distributed to approximately 100,000 subscribers—and is the only publication reaching every lawyer in Texas. The board of editors reviews legal article submissions, develops issue topics, and helps set the general editorial direction for the magazine.
In 2015-2016, the Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors examined a number of subjects, including disability issues, professionalism, the legislative session, law schools, energy, and the judiciary. The Journal also featured coverage of the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s campaign to fight wrongful convictions. The board offered an informative “Year in Review” issue, brought back a recurring humor component, and worked with staff members to create a work-life column.
Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct
Gregg McHugh, Chair
The committee reviews and, if necessary, suggests revisions to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and their comments. Any suggested changes are intended to assist lawyers, their clients, and the broader public. This year, the committee considered, among other things, the adoption of rules concerning clients with diminished capacity, the disposition of client records, the sale of a law practice, and conflicts of interest arising from work as a law clerk. The committee expects to continue many of these projects into next year.
Women in the Profession
Elizabeth M. Marsh, Chair
The Women in the Profession Committee is committed to promoting the status of women attorneys in Texas. The committee met regularly in Austin to discuss current issues affecting the practices of women attorneys in Texas.
The committee continued its work on a presentation titled The Next Generation of Solutions to Retain and Advance Women Lawyers. The presentation includes steps to prevent bias in the workplace against women lawyers. Portions of the presentation were the subject of a roundtable discussion during the Diversity Forum of the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Fort Worth.
The committee also continued its promotion of Rough Road to Justice: The Journey of Women Lawyers in Texas, by Betty Trapp Chapman. The book highlights the history of the careers and accomplishments of women lawyers in Texas.
A committee representative also participated in interviews for the selection of two new State Bar minority directors. The committee receives an annual update on the status of women lawyers in Texas from the executive director of the University of Texas Center for Women in Law and continues to gather and post statistical data regarding women lawyers in Texas. TBJ