News From Around The Bar

National Legal Aid & Defender Association Honors Chief Justice Hecht, Texas Legal Aid Leaders

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht received the Equal Justice Ambassador Award from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association at its annual conference on November 2 at the Westin Galleria in Houston. The award recognizes an individual who elevates the cause of equal justice across the country. NLADA President and CEO Jo-Ann Wallace, who presented the award, touted Hecht for helping to shape policies addressing pressing issues for low-income defendants, including expanded screening for those with mental illness and limited fines and fees in criminal cases. Hecht gave credit for the award to the court, which he says works hard to support pro bono programs and legal aid providers as well as demonstrate to the Legislature the need for public financial support for expanding access to justice. “Justice for only those who can afford it is neither justice for all nor justice at all,” he said. Other award recipients included Ashley Steele, of the Texas Office of Capital and Forensic Writs in Austin, for the New Leaders in Advocacy Award; Saundra Brown, of Lone Star Legal Aid in Houston, for the Reginald Heber Smith Award; and Allison Clayton, of the Innocence Project of Texas, for the Arthur von Briesen Award.

Above: Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht received the Equal Justice Ambassador Award from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. Photo by Eric Quitugua.

Texas Access to Justice Commission Honors Law Firms

The Texas Access to Justice Commission honored law firms and attorneys for supporting the Justice for All Campaign, which supports and sustains legal aid programs, during a reception on October 20 that kicked off the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Week (October 21-27). This year’s campaign raised more than $1.3 million from almost 10,000 attorneys across the state that made a voluntary access to justice contribution. Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman presented awards to the Champion of Justice law firms that topped the list of highest amount raised, including Wood, Boykin & Wolter (boutique firms), Zelle (small firms), Scott Douglass & McConnico (medium-size firms), and Vinson & Elkins (large firms).

Buchanan retires as TLAP director; Ritter named new director

Bree Buchanan retired from her role as Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program director on October 31. Chris Ritter, TLAP staff attorney, was named Buchanan’s replacement as director. Buchanan will continue as chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and co-chair of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. Ritter joined TLAP in 2014 as a staff attorney, previously serving as an assistant district attorney as well as a partner in two prominent civil litigation firms.

DBA hosts annual Education Symposium

The Dallas Bar Association, or DBA, held its annual Education Symposium on October 29 at the Belo Mansion. The symposium aimed to bring together community leaders in the hopes of improving public education in the Metroplex. This year’s theme was “Improving the Lives of Children Through Advocacy.” Marquis Fomby, judicial secretary for the U.S. Marshal Service, delivered the keynote address. The Jack Lowe Sr. Award for Community Leadership was presented to Reading Partners North Texas. SMU Dedman School of Law’s W.W. Caruth Jr. Institute for Children’s Rights co-sponsored the event.

51 children adopted on 17th Annual Austin Adoption Day

Fifty-one children from Child Protective Services were adopted into 24 families during the 17th Annual Austin Adoption Day on November 1. Justice Eva Guzman, of the Supreme Court of Texas, and Justice Jeff Rose, of the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin, along with 12 Travis County district judges, performed the adoptions simultaneously in three separate courtrooms.

Department of Justice recognizes Dallas-based attorneys

The U.S. Department of Justice recognized Dallas-based attorneys Cynthia Messersmith, David Adams, Jonathan Blacker, Holly Church, and Moha Yepuri of the DOJ Tax Division’s Civil Trial Section, Southwest Region, with the John Marshall Award for Trial of Litigation on October 24 at the 66th Annual Attorney General’s Awards Ceremony. The trial team successfully litigated Texas businessman Sam Wyly in one of the largest civil tax fraud cases in U.S. history, resulting in a finding of more than $1 billion in tax liabilities.

Justice Phil Johnson to retire from Texas Supreme Court

Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson submitted his resignation from the court on November 8 and will leave office on December 31. He has served as a Texas judge for 20 years, 13 years on the Supreme Court and seven as a justice on the 7th Court of Appeals in Amarillo, including time as the chief justice. His term on the Supreme Court was set to expire in December 2020.TBJ


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