COMMENTS DECEMBER 2022
Tell us what you think via @statebaroftexas, email@example.com, or P.O. Box 12487, Austin, TX 78711-2487. Letters addressed to the Texas Bar Journal may be edited for clarity and length and become the property of the magazine, which owns all rights to their use.
SUPREME COURT OF TEXAS ORDER: Preliminary Approval of a Form Sworn Application and Petition to Stop Cyberbullying, October 2022, P. 711
The October issue includes the Texas Supreme Court’s proposed form, “Sworn Application and Petition to Stop Cyberbullying . . .” In several places in the form, the applicant is told to direct questions to the court clerk. For example:
You should ask the clerk if there are any local rules you should know about.
Immediately ask the clerk how to [pay a bond if required].
Immediately ask the clerk for help arranging service
Efforts to assist pro se litigants are laudable. But court clerks are routinely advised to refrain from answering such questions because they constitute the unauthorized practice of law. Indeed, the Texas Office of Court Administration has written “Legal Information vs. Legal Advice: Guidelines and Instructions for Clerks and Court Personnel Who Work with Self-Represented Litigants in Texas State Courts,” (2015). Therein, “legal advice” is defined in part as: “a written or oral statement that . . . Interprets some aspect of the law, court rules, or court procedures.”
John R. Stoutimore
HUMOR: Lessons From Willy Wonka,” September 2022, P. 672
I enjoyed John Browning’s story about Willy and the law. I, too, have some experience in that area. Many years ago, when my grandchildren were very young, I told them the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears. You’ll remember that she went into the bears’ house, ate their porridge, etc. When I came to the end of the story, I asked my audience, “What happened next?” They, of course, replied, “They lived happily ever after!” I responded, “No! Goldilocks went to jail! You can’t break into someone’s home and steal their food! That’s called burglary of a habitation and it’s a felony.” Their eyes were as big as saucers! Just then, my daughter came into the room, yelling, “MOTHER!” Just wanted you to know you are not alone! Keep up the great work that we so enjoy!