Directors Vote on New Chief Disciplinary Counsel, Reaffirm Election Rules

By Lowell Brown

SBOT Board Update Main
Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann swears in Marc E. Gravely as the new State Bar director for District 10, Place 1.

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors voted January 18 to endorse the selection of a new chief disciplinary counsel and to maintain current practices regarding State Bar and Texas Young Lawyers Association elections.

The board voted unanimously to consent to the Commission for Lawyer Discipline’s selection of Seana Willing, executive director of the Texas Ethics Commission, as the new chief disciplinary counsel. Willing replaces Linda Acevedo, who retired in January after 10 years as chief disciplinary counsel and 33 years of State Bar service. Willing previously served the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for 18 years, including 14 years as executive director. She will now lead the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, which administers the state’s attorney discipline system and represents the Commission for Lawyer Discipline in disciplinary litigation.

Regarding elections, the board voted unanimously—with President Joe K. Longley abstaining—to reaffirm section 1.23 of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors Policy Manual to maintain current practices regarding voting in State Bar and TYLA president-elect races. Longley had proposed allowing all active State Bar members to vote in the statewide election for TYLA president-elect. Currently, voting for TYLA president-elect is restricted to TYLA members (Texas lawyers age 36 or younger or in their first five years of practice, regardless of age).

Longley, without seeking the board’s approval, submitted a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on January 22 requesting an opinion on the legality of issues related to State Bar operations and elections, including whether voting for TYLA president-elect can be restricted to TYLA members. (Longley addresses this issue in his monthly column on page 148.) The attorney general is expected to issue an opinion within six months.

Other meeting highlights appear below. To watch a video of the meeting, go to

New bar exam. Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann updated the board on the court’s October 8 order to replace the Texas Bar Examination with the Uniform Bar Examination starting in February 2021. The court also ordered that a Texas law course and examination be developed to cover Texas law, ethics, and procedure. Both changes were included in a May 2018 report by the Task Force on the Texas Bar Examination. The court is working with the Texas Board of Law Examiners to develop the Texas law course and Texas law exam.

Finance and budget. The State Bar received an unmodified, or “clean,” opinion for its 2017-2018 fiscal year financial audit. The board voted unanimously to approve the proposed 2019-2020 fiscal year budget for publication in this issue of the Texas Bar Journal. A public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. April 2 at the Texas Law Center in Austin, followed by a vote of the board on April 26 to submit the proposed budget to the Texas Supreme Court for review and approval. For the second straight year, the proposed budget will hold total general fund expenditures to under $44 million without a reduction in State Bar programs or services.

In Recess Minor
Top:Retired Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson (far right) with his wife, Carla, after receiving a resolution presented by State Bar President Joe K. Longley (far left) and State Bar Executive Director Trey Apffel. Bottom: State Bar President Joe K. Longley (left) and State Bar Executive Director Trey Apffel present Linda Acevedo with a resolution for her more than 30 years with the State Bar, most recently as chief disciplinary counsel.

Transparency audit. Directors accepted a transparency audit report by Weaver, an independent assurance, tax, and advisory firm. The February issue of the Texas Bar Journal included a full report on the audit.

Committee review. The board approved the recommendations of its Committee Review Subcommittee, which conducted a comprehensive review of the bar’s standing committees as required every two years by the State Bar Act. Read the subcommittee’s report at

Board chair election. Directors heard comments from the four candidates for 2019-2020 chair of the board: Jerry Alexander (Dallas), Alison Colvin (Brownsville), Leslie Dippel (Austin), and Neil Kelly (Houston). The board will vote by written ballot to elect a new chair at its April 26 meeting in Georgetown.

New court liaison, San Antonio director. The board welcomed Lehrmann as the court’s new liaison to the State Bar of Texas. She replaced Phil Johnson, who retired from the court on December 31. Also, San Antonio attorney Marc E. Gravely was sworn in as the new State Bar director for District 10, Place 1. He replaced Tom Keyser, who resigned from the board.

Attorney honors. Directors approved resolutions honoring Johnson, the former Supreme Court justice, and Acevedo, the former chief disciplinary counsel, in recognition of their years of service.

Staff awards. Executive Director Trey Apffel presented Staff Excellence Awards to two longtime facilities department employees, Jerry Cisneros and Michael Slone.TBJ


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