News From Around The Bar

Former State Bar of Texas Director Honored with ABA Pro Bono Award

GorsuchG. Allan Van Fleet, who served on the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors from 2005 to 2008, will be awarded a 2020 Pro Bono Publico Award by the American Bar Association at its upcoming virtual ABA Annual Meeting. The Pro Bono Publico Awards are the top honors given by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. They honor individual lawyers, law firms, and corporate law departments for demonstrating outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged. Van Fleet is an antitrust, litigation, and legal ethics lawyer based in Houston and Galveston. His pro bono work dates to 1976 while he was a student at Columbia Law School. According to his resume, he retired in July 2017 after 40 years of practice, including as a senior partner in Vinson & Elkins, Greenberg Traurig, and McDermott Will & Emery. He now handles pro bono cases and serves as an expert witness in antitrust, litigation, and legal ethics matters. The other national individual winners are Leah Godesky, of O’Melveny & Myers, and Neil Steiner, of Dechert, both from New York.

Legislative Subcommittee to Meet

The State Bar Legislative Policy Subcommittee is tentatively scheduled to meet August 13-14, 2020, to discuss all legislative proposals that have been properly submitted for consideration by the committee. To read the proposals, for details on the meeting date and location, or for instructions on how to provide comments to the committee, go to or contact the State Bar Governmental Relations Department at or 800-204-2222, ext. 6826.

Bill Kroger is New Houston Bar Association President

SmithBill Kroger, of Baker Botts, took office as the 2020-2021 Houston Bar Association president on May 12, succeeding Benny Agosto Jr. Along with a new president, the Houston Bar elected new officers, including President-elect Jennifer A. Hasley, First Vice President David Harrell, Second Vice President Diana Gomez, Treasurer Chris Popov, and Secretary Daniella D. Landers. Agosto will serve on the board as immediate past president. Kroger’s focus includes forging strategic partnerships to help Houston recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, providing enhanced services as HBA members meet new challenges in the practice of law, and increasing pro bono service to low-income Houstonians facing issues tied to the pandemic. At Baker Botts, where he has practiced law his entire 31-year legal career, Kroger has chaired the Energy Litigation Practice Group for over a decade. He has represented the oil and gas, power, renewable, and real estate industries and has been recognized for his work by several law publications and ranking services. Among Kroger’s accolades is the Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Award, which he won in 2020 for exhibiting exceptional commitment to equality, justice, fairness, and community service. In 2017, he was elected to the American Law Institute. Two years later, Kroger received the Leon Jaworski Award from the Houston Bar Association Auxiliary for a lifetime of public service. For more information, go to

U.S. 5th Circuit Chief Judge to Keynote Hemphill Dinner

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit Chief Judge Priscilla R. Owen will be the keynote speaker at the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society’s 25th Annual John Hemphill Dinner at 7 p.m. CDT on September 11. For the first time ever, the dinner will be held virtually because of concerns surrounding COVID-19. Prior to her confirmation to the federal bench in 2005, Owen served for a decade on the Texas Supreme Court. First elected in 1994, she was just the second female justice to be elected to the court in its history. More details about accessing the broadcast will be released closer to the date. For more information about the event, go to or email

Judge Sides with State Bar of Texas in Mandatory Dues Lawsuit

On May 29, Judge Lee Yeakel, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, granted the State Bar of Texas’ cross-motion for summary judgment in McDonald v. Sorrels, in which three lawyers sued the State Bar, challenging the requirement that they join the State Bar and pay mandatory dues in order to practice law. The plaintiffs have filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. “We are very pleased with Judge Yeakel’s measured and thoughtful decision,” 2019-2020 State Bar President Randy Sorrels said in a statement. “Almost six decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent supports the constitutionality of the unified bar structure. This is reinforced by the recent decisions of the court to deny the plaintiffs’ petitions for certiorari in Fleck v. Wecht and Jarchow v. State Bar of Wisconsin challenging mandatory membership in the state bars of North Dakota and Wisconsin. The State Bar of Texas is carrying out its statutory obligations by regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services in Texas.” TBJ


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