State Bar Board Update
By Lowell Brown
Board Approves President-elect Nominees, IOLTA Deposit Exemption Study
The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors voted on September 20 to approve two president-elect nominees and agreed to study a potential interest on lawyers trust account, or IOLTA, deposit exemption for advanced flat fees below a certain amount.
Holding its quarterly meeting in Corpus Christi, the board also made appointments to two judicial commissions, approved policy manual updates, and streamlined the accreditation fees that MCLE sponsors pay. Highlights of the meeting appear below.
President-elect nominees Pablo Almaguer of Edinburg, and Sylvia Borunda
Firth of El Paso. Photos by Eddie Seal.
The board approved the nominations of Pablo Almaguer, of Edinburg, and Sylvia Borunda Firth, of El Paso, as candidates for 2020-2021 State Bar president-elect, accepting the recommendation of the Nominations & Elections Subcommittee. The candidates will appear on the ballot in April 2020 along with any certified petition candidates. Potential petition candidates have until March 1 to submit nominating petitions to the State Bar for certification.
The board voted to delegate authority to its Administration Committee to study, in coordination with the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, potential rule updates that would allow an IOLTA deposit exemption for advanced flat fees below a certain amount. State Bar President Randy Sorrels said at least one other state, Missouri, has adopted the change and that it would save lawyers time by simplifying deposits.
The board appointed Steve Fischer, of El Paso, to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and Lynne Liberato, of Houston, to the Texas Commission on Judicial Selection. The board also added seven people to its Social Media Engagement Team.
The board approved updates to its policy manual regarding codes of conduct, including anti-harassment requirements for State Bar activities, meetings, and events.
The board amended MCLE regulations to simplify accreditation fees paid by MCLE sponsors. The changes, effective January 1, 2020, will create one accreditation fee based on the number of hours submitted for accreditation. Current fees are based on either the number of attendees or the number of hours. John Boyce, chair of the State Bar Minimum Continuing Legal Education Committee, said the changes would not adversely affect costs for attorneys or MCLE sponsors. For more information on the fees, see page 801.
Insurance Exchange Contract
The board authorized its Insurance/Member Benefits Subcommittee to negotiate and finalize the renewal of an agreement with Member Benefits, the provider of the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange. The exchange is a multicarrier marketplace launched by the State Bar of Texas as a clearinghouse for health insurance choices and other benefits for bar members, their staff members, and their dependents.
Disciplinary Rule Proposals
The board received an update on the status of potential disciplinary rule amendments under consideration by the board and the Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda. Any proposed disciplinary rule updates ultimately would be subject to a vote by the State Bar membership and approval by the Texas Supreme Court. Go to texasbar.com/CDRR for details on the proposals.
Prevention and Attorney Well-Being
Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program Director Chris Ritter provided an update on the State Bar’s efforts to promote well-being and suicide prevention among attorneys. Ritter presented a new TLAP video, It’s Good to Get Help, which can be viewed at tlaphelps.org. He also reported that 1,200 attorneys registered for a free webcast on September 10 titled “What Lawyers Need to Know About Depression and Suicide.” The webcast is available for free in the TexasBarCLE Online Classroom, where attendees can obtain 0.5 hours of MCLE ethics credit.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Bert Richardson administered the oath of office to two new board members. Justice Gina Benavides, of the 13th Court of Appeals in Edinburg, is the board’s new Judicial Section liaison, and Denise Reid Hoggard, of Little Rock, Arkansas, is the out-of-state lawyer liaison.
State Bar of Texas President Randy Sorrels honors Corpus Christi
attorneys Tracy Figueroa (top) and Audrey M. Vicknair for exceptional
service to the legal profession. Photos by Patricia Busa McConnico.
The board approved resolutions honoring Corpus Christi attorneys Tracy Figueroa and Audrey M. Vicknair for exceptional service to the legal profession. Figueroa leads Texas RioGrande Legal Aid’s Disaster Assistance Group, which coordinates outreach in communities affected by disasters. Vicknair, who handles civil appeals and is certified in civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, has been active in volunteer service to the profession and the Corpus Christi community.
Also, Executive Director Trey Apffel presented quarterly Staff Excellence Awards to State Bar Accountant Candace Miller and TexasBarCLE Senior Program Coordinator Michelle Townley.TBJ