Michael J. Black
San Antonio Bar Association
August 2000 - Of History, Legacies and Goals for a New Century
While living in St. Louis (whose residents at the time also included future Justice Tom Rickhoff, Sue Hall and Rick Casey), the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was under construction. The Gateway Arch was “topped-out” in 1965, and members of our sophomore class at St. Louis Prep South, an archdiocesan high school/college preparatory seminary, were chosen to write essays to be included in a “time capsule” placed at the top of the Arch. I wrote my essay for the time capsule but, of course, before the era of the ubiquitous copy machine, kept no copy.
I saw the Arch from above the other day, and I wondered what the essays were about: hopes and dreams, hard work and achievement, professional and personal goals, and the strength and spirit of our country (although we were beginning to be split then public and private debates over the propriety and conduct of the Vietnam War). But during the flight last week I thought most about the idea of a “time capsule” itself, an encapsulation of a people and the events of a certain place and time – essentially, history and legacy.
Right behind faith and family, I am most proud of being a member of our legal profession, the greatest secular vocation in the world. Being an attorney helps ensure the safety and preservation of our families and our country, and as Cicero believed makes possible for us all “an honourable and happy life.” Additionally, Cicero defined the Law as “one of the greatest goods” and “the distinction between things just and unjust, made in agreement with that primal and most ancient of all things, Nature; and in conformity to Nature’s standard are framed those human laws which inflict punishment upon the wicked but defend and protect the good.”
So at the dawn of our New Century, we have come to honour those in our great San Antonio Bar Association who have borne the Burdens, made the Sacrifices and fought the Good Fight in defense of Liberty and in the pursuit of Equal Justice: those of our members, attorneys and members of the judiciary, who were licensed in or before 1960. By their consummate achievements in and out of the courtroom, they have written our history to date and established our legacy thus far. Their names are revered, and their achievements legendary.
Accordingly, the San Antonio Bar Association/Bar Foundation Installation Dinner next month will be a Celebration not of or for the officers and directors, but of and for all of our SABA Membership, specifically YOU, and to honour all of our members licensed in or before 1960 – members of what the broadcaster/author Tom Brokaw calls the “Greatest Generation,” and to whom we in this Association owe so much. Please call all of your friends and colleagues licensed in or before 1960 and encourage them to sign up and come to the Installation Dinner in September, along with YOU.
Additionally the Installation Dinner, and this coming Bar year, will be a Celebration of our close relationships with our other local bar associations. We intend to recognize and honour also the presidents and members of all of our other local bar organizations: the Mexican American Bar Association, the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association, the Bexar County Women’s Bar Association, the San Antonio Black Lawyers Association, the American Inns of Court, the Federal Bar Association, the San Antonio Trial Lawyers Association and the San Antonio Defense Council and any other local bar organizations. If you belong to one of these fine organizations or know a good attorney who does, please encourage them all to sign up and attend our Installation Dinner with you.
This will be a year of continued hard work, and a coming together of all of our members and other bar associations in pursuit of professional excellence and equal justice for all persons. The Installation Dinner will be another fundraiser as well for the SABA Pro Bono Project. We will continue our work toward expanding the SABA website to be an interactive tool you will want to use everyday. We are establishing a Media Response Team Committee to respond quickly and fairly to negative, incomplete or distorted articles or broadcasts concerning lawyers, judges or legal affairs. Our Mentor/Lawyer Helping Lawyers Committee, including the new Lawyer-Call-a-Lawyer program, will serve as liaison to promote mentoring and assistance programs among respected attorneys and newer members requesting or needing seasoned guidance and professional assistance. We are establishing a new SABA Roundtable Committee to present new programs, hopefully with CLE credit, in an interactive seminar format, regarding substantive legal issues vital to the profession and the public, including MDP proposals, the role of juries, judicial selection and capital punishment issues.
None of this is possible without you. YOU are SABA, from every background, interest and practice area. You continue to write the history of and provide the legacies for our families, our nation, our great legal profession and all we serve, and SABA itself. Our Association’s thanks, of course, to Jennifer Durbin and her great officers and directors of 1999-2000, to Jimmy Allison and his wonderful staff, and certainly to each of you. Together with the new SABA Board of Directors and you, we can make this first year of the New Century an outstanding beginning for a new era of Equal Justice Under Law for All, and help ensure a continuing history and legacy of excellence in our great legal profession and through the San Antonio Bar Association. Our own “time capsule” 2000 demands no less.
September 2000 - Honoring SABA’s Past and Celebrating Our New Century
Every time I have the privilege of walking into a courtroom at the Bexar County Courthouse or the John H. Wood, Jr. United States Courthouse, into the bankruptcy courtrooms in the old United States Post Office and Courthouse, and even the courtrooms of our newer Bexar County Justice Center, I imagine, marvel again and wonder anew about all the grand memories, lessons and accomplishments of all the great courtroom dramas which must have filled and continue to fill all those hallowed halls and rooms. I have the same thoughts and feelings repeatedly when looking at the portraits of our great local Jurists of the past in these courtrooms – Justice and the Rule of Law in action. Democracy and Liberty at work. Our Constitution and Laws alive.
And these thoughts encompass not only the Judges’ great courthouse achievements but also, of course, those of all the great Lawyers in each case – the revered Advocates, the many Warriors in the Law battling for and meeting the legal rights and needs of – and achieving legal remedies for – everyday people and businesses.
So when President Jenny Durbin invited all of our SABA past presidents to the Association’s Annual Meeting in July as guests, for the second consecutive year, those thoughts and feelings recurred. If you look at the list of our great past presidents in the current SABA pictorial directory, and continue to deal with all those yet among us, don’t you have similar feelings?
I felt as though I was attending the 1962 dinner for winners of the Nobel Prize, when President Kennedy declared the assemblage as “the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
The theme of our SABA/SABF Installation Dinner this year (beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, September 22, 2000 at the Club at Sonterra in San Antonio) is “Honoring Our Past and Celebrating Our New Century.” We will pay special tribute to the accomplishments of all the great attorneys and judges of this Association, especially those of the “Greatest Generation” – lawyers and judges licensed in or before 1960.
To all the great SABA men and women of the Bar and the Bench – who (1) endured the Great Depression, (2) courageously fought and won World War II, (3) valiantly fought for our country in Korea, (4) tirelessly fought for our families and descendants in the early civil rights movement (both in and outside of capitols and courtrooms) and in other great legal matters, and (5) later or contemporaneously raised their own families and pursued great careers in private practice or public service – We honor you. We salute you. We thank you. We are forever indebted to you.
Additionally, again the Installation Dinner proceeds benefit the SABA Pro Bono Project, which has done so much good for our community in less than two years. As of this writing, we have at least 20 table sponsorships for the event, but we need more. Individual ticket sales are going fast. We will have silent and live auctions of many great items also to benefit the SABA Pro Bono Project. So please sign up now, as a sponsor and/or attendee, and please make a special effort to be there. This year's SABA/SABF Installation Dinner will be a great success because of you, and of course all those we will honor. We specially invite you, and we hope sincerely to see you there. As President Kennedy said (and intending here to include not only our SABA past presidents but also our many other esteemed members), our SABA Annual Meeting this year was – and our SABA/SABF Installation Dinner this year will be – “the most extraordinary collection of (legal) talent . . . and accomplishment . . . ever . . . gathered together (in San Antonio) – with the possible exception of when (Judge Solomon Casseb, Jr., Ralph Langley and/or [insert other SABA members' names here]) dined alone.”
P.S. Kerri’s father, Hank Fraser, is also in President Kennedy’s “Jefferson” class. A most extraordinary person and father-in-law, Mr. Fraser is the artist of the portrait above.
October 2000 - Tell the Truth. No Cheating.
The 2000 San Antonio Bar Association/Bar Foundation Installation Dinner was a great success, thanks to you. Thirty two law firms and corporate sponsors stepped up to the plate with table sponsorships and other donations to ensure more than $18,000.00 in dinner proceeds would benefit the SABA Pro Bono Project, and Kerri and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Additionally, nearly two dozen contributors donated silent auction items, providing nearly $4,000.00 in proceeds for the project, and for that we give you our special thanks. Judge Biery served well as master of ceremonies for the evening, George Spencer received a richly deserved Professionalism Award from SABA and the Texas Center for Professionalism and Legal Ethics, last year’s boards were honored and the new SABA and SABF boards were recognized. Great mariachis and a wonderful jazz band helped make the evening very special. Our special thanks to: (1) all of you who attended, (2) all of our friends and family (including our daughter, Anne-Marie, who came in from College Station, and Mary Jane Fraser, Kerri’s mom, and my mother, Evelyn Black, and my sister, Mary Flodin, who came in from the Chicago area, and the rest of our family), (3) to our daughter, Evan Michelle, who did a wonderful job singing the National Anthem, and (4) ileta Sumner, Jennifer Rosenblatt, all the other members of the planning committee and their families for planning, organizing and presenting this splendid New Millennium event.
But the Dinner was not only a celebration for a new SABA president or Bar Foundation chair, nor for newly elected members of the SABA board of directors or the Bar Foundation board of trustees. It was, in fact, truly a celebration and a heartfelt thanksgiving for all of our great members, lawyers and judges, who have done so much for our profession, for the law, our country and our community. It was impossible to recognize each by name, but we all know who they are. There were 247 names set up on a spotlighted marquee adjacent to the ballroom at the Club at Sonterra, legendary persons all, the best of the best: SABA members who have excelled in their service to our great legal and judicial professions. All those attending were recognized. These included all of our SABA past presidents still with us, whom we specially honor and recognize, all of the leaders of our other local bar associations, all of our distinguished members of the judiciary, and especially the 247 current San Antonio Bar Association members who were licensed to practice law in or before 1960 – our SABA “greatest generation” members. We honor you and thank you again most sincerely for the great work you have done, for the inspiration, examples and leadership you have provided, and most of all for being our mentors, colleagues and friends.
At the Dinner I read an excerpt from a 1964 letter written to me (at age 14) by my nearly-80 year old grandmother, Katherine Zinta, a turn-of-the-last-century Polish immigrant who worked very hard all her life at mastering the best life had to offer, especially including family – and the English language. Grandma wrote: “So you did not stop to think about going in to priesthood. I tought you would by now but you must know what you want but I heard you saying you want to be a President in Washington if so you have to be attorney first I think and you would make a good one because you can talk so fluedley, but it's up to you to make up your mind what you want to be so God help you... Love, Grandma(.) P.S. Don't count the mystakes in this letter. My excuse is I didn't graduate yet.”
Being your president and serving this the greatest local bar association in the state right here at our Bexar County Courthouse is much preferable to me, and I thank you again most sincerely and with humility for the opportunity. With all your hard work and dedication, we will come together again to make this another outstanding year for our Association, our legal community and the people we serve.
Finally, speaking of Justice at the Dinner, I told the story of Kerri’s father, Hank Fraser, teaching our nearly-four year old daughter, Skylar Rose, about fairness. After their discussions over several days, I was encouraged to ask Skylar the meaning of the word “fair.” Without hesitation, and with great confidence, Skylar replied: “Truth. No cheating.” To the best of our abilities, within the Rule of Law and the moral and ethical roadmaps set forth in our lives and our profession, that's what it's all about. Our “greatest generation” lived by it, and it’s up to all of us to continue that commitment, to Justice and fairness for all.
November 2000 - The Importance of Being a Pro Bono Volunteer
Time is such an elusive concept. Physicists, poets and everyone else have struggled for centuries to define and understand “time.” One vanguard of historians holds that history itself is the study of politics and war throughout recorded time. Oftentimes such history records primarily the negative influences and events at the expense of the positive or the good. And certainly nearly all recorded history–including even the daily reporting of events by publication or electronic means–ignores the everyday achievements of individuals, families and businesses around the world except as they may relate in the most general sense to a political or social event made the subject of the written record.
So it is that we come to recognize at the beginning of our new century that History is so much more than the historians’ definition. We find ourselves at a crossroads of History and everyday achievements, with renewed opportunities for all of us, from all walks of life yet certainly those of us in the legal profession, to make a profound, positive difference in the lives of all in our communities and state, and in our nation and the world.
As you read this piece, the 2000 general election will be near or perhaps just concluded. Decisions concerning the future of all our branches of government will be or will have been decided at different levels, but likely by a percentage of voters at or near approximately only half of those otherwise able to vote. This is Democracy in America 2000. Although millions vote, such a state of affairs demonstrates to us without question that we must rekindle the flame of participation, interest and devotion in our democratic enterprises, in our system, our way of life, among the unaffected, the disillusioned and the apathetic. All of us can help in this endeavor every minute of the day, among family, friends, clients and colleagues, by using our best efforts not only to better our own lives but also toward the greater common good.
And so the election reminds us that each of us makes choices everyday, conducting our own “elections” continuously through time. It reminds us that there are people, families and consequences involved in every lawsuit, in every legal transaction, in every judicial decision. It reminds us that we are all well able to make the “election” to help others everyday in our personal and professional lives as well.
Accordingly, it is up to you to make the “election”–now–to serve as a Volunteer Attorney in the San Antonio Bar Association’s Pro Bono Project.
Only 195 SABA attorneys have volunteered so far in a program just over two years old. The Project has received nearly 600 cases this year. We have been able to fund the SABA Pro Bono Project as a self-supporting, very important community service due to extraordinary fundraising efforts and your generosity. But the Pro Bono Project, and the poor people of our community, mostly need–your “time.”
The State Bar of Texas tells us that only seventeen percent of Bexar County attorneys volunteer in pro bono cases, compared to 37 percent elsewhere. We need to step it up.
We need–at least–to triple the number of our 3,200 members who volunteer to represent needy people through the SABA Pro Bono Project. We would like to see at least 600 volunteers (up from the current 195) as soon as possible.
Becoming a San Antonio Bar Association Volunteer Attorney in our Pro Bono Project is an “election” YOU should make today. The San Antonio Bar Association Pro Bono Project NEEDS YOU. Please call Jimmy Allison or project coordinator C.J. Troilo to sign up today.
It’s your “time” well spent, toward a better History for all.
December 2000 - The Spirit of the Law
To watch my best friend and bride work her magic with family, children and animals is a continuing wonder. Kerri has the Gift, and thus in our family we are all recipients of her gifts: all those she loves and cares for are endowed (in large part, no doubt, by her love, care and teaching) with indomitable strength, independence and spirit.
And so we too, in this great San Antonio Bar Association, are endowed and filled with an indomitable Spirit of the Law, and we are compelled to share it with all of our membership and all we serve.
It is always a good time to give back more than we receive. So we are planning great things again this year for all of you and for the public:
1. On December 14, 2000, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. the San Antonio Bar Association presents the first in our SABA Roundtable Seminar series. Our thanks to CLE committee chair James Woo, and to Warren Weir, John Dwyre and their hardworking CLE subcommittee, for putting this event together. We hope to “institutionalize” this series several times every year for our membership and many times for the public. This is a three-hour FREE CLE event, with a nominal charge only for written materials. Our first SABA Roundtable Seminar topic is Redefining Privacy in the Internet Age. Great presenters will share discussions and written materials concerning using the Internet lawfully to obtain information on just about anyone or anything, identity theft, consumer credit issues, media and privacy issues. Please help us fill this seminar by signing up now. We have space in the Central Jury Room of the Bexar County Justice Center, but we need YOU to sign up now by following the instructions found elsewhere in this issue. It will be an important seminar for your practice, your clients and for you personally.
2. Our CLE committee, under the able leadership of James Woo, and the fine direction of Judge Andy Mireles, is also putting together an all-day seminar – coming soon! – about Bexar County Systems; in other words, how things really work in each local courtroom and agency.
3. Additionally the committee, and its great subcommittee chairs Jim Branton and Tom Crosley, are working on the Sixth Annual SABA Anatomy of a Civil Trial seminar, to be presented in February 2001 by many great judges and lawyers. It is also a “don't miss it” event.
4. Our Bench-Bar Conference, under the fine leadership of chair Jo Beth Eubanks and honorary chair Justice Paul W. Green, will return this spring to the friendly atmosphere of Tapatio Springs. Please sign up early for this event as well; it is a great time to meet most all of our federal, state and local judiciary and to share discussions of importance to all.
5. Our Media Resources Committee is doing important work too, under the great leadership of chair Fred Jones, in creating the first-ever SABA Media Resources Guide to provide good, reliable sources for our friends in the media (at newspapers, radio and television stations) in many areas of the law. Additionally the committee is preparing important articles of interest to the public concerning various legal issues.
Look for more information on each of these great events in this and other issues of the Subpoena, and also by electronic and facsimile correspondence and reminders from SABA staff.
Taken altogether with the hard work of your SABA Board of Directors and staff, and all of our other SABA committees and sections, these important projects comprise the great Spirit of the Law which we are working hard to share with YOU and all we serve. Join us now (on a committee, as a new SABA member or as a participant in one or more of these events) and help us to ensure that the Spirit of the Law remains vibrant and important to all throughout the New Year and beyond. May you all have a Happy (and “Spirit” -filled) New Year!
January 2001 - The Important Choice(s) 2001
Many believe that the broadcast/cable television news coverage of the recent election of the President created the vote-counting disputes in Florida, and resulted in numerous lawsuits and the lightning-speed litigation concluding the election in the Supreme Court of the United States. In this great, good country, our constitutional election process is the “important choice,” indeed, as Alexander Hamilton said, for ensuring “a constant probability,” within a degree of “moral certainty,” that the “distinguished office of President of the United States” is “filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” And even in “Decision 2000,” the pretentious moniker conferred upon the election by at least two of the television news networks, Hamilton's appraisal of the process holds true.
So too in our great, good legal profession are we entrusted with “the important choice(s)” everyday: to do our very best in our practices or on the bench, and to ensure Equal Justice for All, by choosing to re-dedicate ourselves to excellence in our personal and professional lives everyday. This includes re-dedicating ourselves to our clients and the public service, AND to active involvement in our San Antonio Bar Association and Bar Foundation. Besides recruiting new members, and staying active with one or more of our great SABA committees, YOU can do so by –
1. Signing up for and attending our rescheduled, new SABA Roundtable Seminar (RTS) Series, designed to be a great benefit for all our members: FREE CLE (3 hours for the first one), and a vigorous roundtable discussion/debate involving the great legal issues of the day. Redefining Privacy in the Internet Age (RPIA) is the first seminar of the series, with great presenters and panel members lined up, and featuring important topics including how to find out anything on the worldwide web (including what the Web knows about you), identity theft, consumer credit issues, privacy issues involving medical records, electronic privacy in the workplace and media disclosure/privacy issues enveloping our use of the Internet. The RPIA-RTS is being rescheduled to accommodate one of our distinguished presenters and panelists, United States Congressman Charlie Gonzalez. PLEASE SIGN UP TODAY – and get all of your attorney and/or judicial colleagues to sign up and attend with you. We are planning additional RTS presentations on other very important topics, including the evolving role of juries in civil litigation and criminal cases, judicial selection, and capital punishment. We envision the RTS Series as presenting several important FREE CLE seminars to our members every year, and as an integral part of your CLE and SABA participation throughout the year.
2. Signing up for and attending our great new SABA Local Procedures (“the Rules”) Seminar, featuring many of our fine local Judges, all day on January 26, 2001. Our special thanks to District Judge Andy Mireles for bringing together this fine presentation essential for all attorneys litigating matters in Bexar County.
3. Signing up for and attending the 6th Annual Anatomy of a Civil Trial seminar, coming in March 2001. This is another “must-attend” SABA seminar, put together very well this year by former SABA and State Bar President Jim Branton and Tom Crosley.
4. Signing up for and attending the Bar Foundation's renewed Peacemakers Awards banquet on March 8, 2001, a wonderful event presented this year under the fine leadership of SABF Chair Diann Bartek and event co-chairs Laurie Weiss and Abigail Kampmann.
5. PLUS: (a) signing up NOW as an Attorney Volunteer for our very important SABA Pro Bono Project (“WE NEED YOU!”), (b) signing up early for the 38th Annual Seamann Criminal Law and Procedure Seminar in March and the 4th Annual SABA Bench-Bar Conference (April 6-8), AND (c) marking your calendar now for a very special Law Day 2001 on May 5.
Our great country remains safe and strong following its most recent “important choice.” Our San Antonio Bar Association continues to be so, too, because of YOU and the “important choices"”YOU make everyday (both in a legal sense and within a degree of “moral certainty”) for the benefit of our Association and the public we serve. THANK YOU, and God bless us everyone in this wonderful New Century and New Year.
February 2001 - Of Justice, Generosity and Opportunity for All
Over the past couple of months, many of us devoted too much time, voluntarily or by compulsion, to the presidential election litigation. Regardless of political affiliation or expectations, for all it was time well spent. In issuing its per curiam opinion in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court of the United States assumed its “unsought responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront.” Following such resolution, and essentially the judicial conclusion of the election, millions in our country – within an aura of (mostly) “good feeling” – closely followed the inauguration, wishing our new President George W. Bush good luck and Godspeed.
Before the president delivered his inaugural address, pledging “to build a single nation of justice and opportunity,” I reviewed many of the fine inaugural addresses of previous presidents, including one of the best, Theodore Roosevelt’s in 1905. President Roosevelt’s strong words also echo clearly and profoundly today, not only to all our citizens but especially to those of us blessed to be part of our great legal profession:
“Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. . . . (J)ustice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most when shown not by the weak but by the strong. . . . We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. . . . (W)e must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practical intelligence, of courage, of hardihood, and endurance, and above all the power of devotion to a lofty ideal . . . .”
Indeed devotion to lofty ideals is greatly important to lawyers and judges alike, and the clients and public we serve. So let us renew our devotion to: (1) our families, (2) the rule of law, (3) our clients, partners and associates, and our community, (4) all in our profession with whom we have cases or other dealings, and (5) [but not least] our professional associations and projects.
So, for the sake of justice, generosity and opportunity for all – (1) please sign up NOW to be an all-important Attorney Volunteer in our SABA Pro Bono Project! And also – (2) please come to the February 14, 2001 Fourth Court of Appeals Memorial Tribute to our beloved late Fourth Court of Appeals Chief Justice Carlos Cadena, (3) come to the February 22, 2001 SABA monthly luncheon featuring the State of the Law address by Chief Justice Thomas R. Phillips of the Supreme Court of Texas, (4) sign up for and attend the free SABA Roundtable seminar on Redefining Privacy in the Internet Age on February 22, 2001, (5) attend the great San Antonio Bar Foundation Peacemakers Awards banquet on March 8, 2001, (6) sign up for the 38th
Criminal Law Institute on March 2-3, 2001, (7) sign up for and attend the Anatomy of a Civil Trial VI to be held on March 9, 2001, and (8) sign up for the great Fourth Annual SABA Bench-Bar Conference to be held in April 2001, again in Tapatio Springs, and our distinguished Law Day Luncheon on May 5, 2001.
The time is ours, the responsibility is unique, the goals are lofty and the opportunity is great. Let us work together with renewed enthusiasm and spirit to build a great new Century of Justice together.
Congratulations to our January 2001 SABA President’s Award recipients [United States District Judge Fred Biery, Branton & Hall, P.C. and its shareholders, and Wallace B. Jefferson] for their unparalleled, exemplary service to this Association and our legal profession. Each of these fine recipients makes us proud to be attorneys or judges, and exemplifies the best that our profession, community and country have to offer. And they help us all reach those lofty ideals of justice, generosity and opportunity for all that all in the legal profession are working so hard to achieve. Deepest thanks to each of you, from all of us in our great San Antonio Bar Association.
March 2001 - The Importance of “Deep Roots and a Firm Foundation”
Your San Antonio Bar Association Board of Directors passed several noteworthy resolutions over the last several months. The Board resolution supporting security clearance procedures for attorneys was passed, but the concept requires consideration by Commissioners Court. The Board passed resolutions honoring four distinguished jurists, Judge H. F. (“Hippo”) Garcia, former Chief Judge Lucius D. Bunton and Senior Judge William Wayne Justice, each of whom have served our United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, and former Chief Justice Carlos C. Cadena of the Fourth Court of Appeals of Texas. The Board passed a resolution supporting St. Mary's University School of Law in the American Bar Association's ongoing reaccreditation process, and a joint resolution, submitted to the ABA by SABA and other major local bar associations of Texas, urging an ABA study on increasing jury support; the resolution was passed by the ABA House of Delegates at its recent mid-year meeting.
As you read this, the San Antonio Bar Foundation Peacemakers Banquet will have been concluded, and we are sure of its great success. Thanks to SABF Chair Diann Bartek and event co-chairs Laurie Weiss and Abigail Kampmann for ensuring another landmark Peacemakers evening. (P.S.--Remember the Foundation’s People’s Law School, with four-tiered tracks of substantive law free for the public, on Saturday morning, March 31, 2001 at St. Mary’s University School of Law. Spread the word among your friends and clients!)
The first free SABA Roundtable Seminar on internet privacy issues for lawyers and the public, and the sixth annual Anatomy of a Civil Trial have concluded as well, also with great success. Our thanks, too, to Warren Weir and John Dwyre who organized the successful first Roundtable seminar, and to Jim Branton and Tom Crosley, who put together another great Anatomy seminar. And of course the wonderful 38th Annual SABA Criminal Law Seminar was a huge success, too, thanks to the strong leadership of John Convery and our Criminal Law and Procedure Committee. And we extend a hearty “Thank you!” as well to all of the dedicated lawyers and judges who helped present these wonderful programs.
Congratulations to Judge Andy Mireles of the 73rd Judicial District Court of Bexar County for his boundless dedication and contributions not only to our San Antonio Bar Association but also to our state and community, on and off the bench. Judge Mireles organized the outstanding first SABA local rules/systems seminar, presented by many fine local judges, and we recognized Judge Mireles with a SABA President's Award for his great accomplishments.
Thanks also to Chief Justice Thomas R. Phillips of the Supreme Court of Texas for his very fine remarks at the February SABA luncheon concerning the legislature and the courts.
All these events and the Board’s resolutions, along with the many other projects and programs being pursued vigorously by our SABA committees, members and staff, underscore the deep commitment we all have to our profession and our community. Borrowing from a great ancient philosopher, all of this hard work and effort collectively serve to expand our “deep roots and . . . firm foundation” in striving with the highest purpose and dedication toward equal justice for all under the rule of law.
We are fortunate to have more than 3,400 members out of 4,200 lawyers licensed to practice law in Bexar County. But realistically we should see an even higher percentage of local attorney membership in SABA. So if you know a judge, a lawyer in private practice (whether as a sole practitioner, a member of small to large firms, or as corporate counsel) or a lawyer in public service (as a briefing attorney, a court staff attorney, a state or federal prosecutor or an attorney for any public agency) who does not belong to our San Antonio Bar Association, or who has let her/his membership lapse, please encourage her/him mightily to JOIN or RE-JOIN our great San Antonio Bar Association right away. We are working very hard to keep SABA as one of the premier local bar associations in the country. YOU make it happen. Thank YOU very much.
April 2001 - Celebrating Life and Our Freedom 2001
Kerri's grandmother, Jennie Rodgers, was a saint. Until her recent illness and passing at age 87, “Mimi” would kneel beside her bed every night for prayers and thanksgiving. With a large family and throughout a long and wonderful (but sometimes hard) life, she had much for which to give thanks and much to celebrate.
Our nationwide and local celebrations of Law Day each spring give us much to celebrate and give thanks for, too, not only professionally as lawyers but also, and most importantly (under our Constitution and laws), personally because of the concurrent freedoms we and our families enjoy in our great democratic Republic.
This year’s Law Day theme is “Celebrate Your Freedom: Protecting the Best Interests of Our Children.”
The San Antonio Bar Association is very pleased that one of our own, former FBI Director and Chief Judge William S. Sessions, has been named by American Bar Association President Martha Barnett as National Chair of Law Day 2001. President Barnett aptly described the emphasis of our Law Day celebrations this year as “our nation's most precious resource: our children.”
We will have events and celebrations all week long throughout San Antonio and Bexar County, in our schools and courthouses, in the media and hopefully in all our families. Capping off the week's celebrations, in conjunction with all our other great local bar associations, we will have another outstanding San Antonio Bar Association/Bar Foundation Law Day Luncheon and speaker – on Friday, May 4, 2001 at the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel in downtown San Antonio. At the luncheon, SABA will present our 8th Annual Judge Joe Frazier Brown Award of Excellence, and the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association (SAYLA) will present its Outstanding Young Lawyer and Liberty Bell Awards. We will honor and celebrate the centennial – and continuing great legacy – of one of San Antonio's most outstanding law firms, Clemens & Spencer. And, of course, we look forward to seeing you there.
We have more great reasons to celebrate! As you know, Governor Rick Perry has made an excellent nomination of our 1998-1999 San Antonio Bar Association President Wallace B. Jefferson as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. By the time you read this piece, Wallace may well have been confirmed, and consequently serving on our state’s highest civil court. By nominating Wallace B. Jefferson, and in confirming his nomination, Governor Perry and the Texas Senate have ensured that equal justice is not just a lofty goal in Texas but a living principle embodied in our laws and the decisions of our state Supreme Court. Justice Wallace B. Jefferson surely will be a justice in whom every SABA member, every San Antonian and every Texan rightly will be proud.
Finally, I received a letter today from United States Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison. The senators invited “attorneys (in our San Antonio Bar Association) possessing high moral character and exceptional judgment, credentials and experience to seek appointment to . . . critical (federal) positions (in Texas) (i.e., four vacant federal district court judgeships including one in the Western District of Texas and all four Texas districts’ United States Attorney posts), as well as positions that may open in the future. After carefully reviewing all of the applicants, we will give our recommendations to President (George W.) Bush so that he may select nominees who support the Constitutional principles that we all hold dear. . . . We thank you for your commitment to the principles of justice in Texas and our nation.”
Any qualified candidates may submit resumes and a brief cover letter to our Senators at their Washington, D.C. offices. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more particular information.
Our everyday, Law Day and future (personal and professional) accomplishments and celebrations proceed apace. In all that we have great faith, and for it all, on bended knee and otherwise, we give our thanksgiving. And so, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Let us (continue to) have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
May 2001 - Everyday Heroes
There is an unbreakable continuum touching each one of us on this sacred journey of life, with family, other people, influences and opportunities helping shape our own experiences and lives, and (directly and indirectly) those of many others along our path.
In the summer of 1964, a newspaper Sunday supplement magazine published a drawing of each United States president in a continuous line from the tip of George Washington’s sword to the edge of Lyndon Johnson’s necktie. The image illustrates the political cycle of our country’s life to that point, and certainly could be revised now through President George W. Bush.
But the artist could draw such a continuum also illustrating the life cycle of the legal profession and, certainly, our great San Antonio Bar Association. We are blessed with many leaders and members who are personal heroes to many of us.
If you attended our sold-out Law Day 2001 celebration, “Celebrate Your Freedom: Protecting the Best Interests of Our Children,” you saw at the luncheon -- the many living past presidents of SABA from Ralph Langley (1952) to the present; the many former and current judges, including our keynote speaker (our recent past president) Justice Wallace B. Jefferson of the Supreme Court of Texas; honorees Roy Barrera, Sr. and Hubert W. Green, recipients of the SABA Judge Joe Frazier Brown Award of Excellence; Clemens & Spencer, in honor of this outstanding law firm’s centennial celebrations, among other venerable San Antonio law firms with 100 years service and more; Judge William S. Sessions, ABA National Chair of Law Day 2001, in honor of his exemplary service to our country; our federal court; the ABA and SABA; Associate Judge Peter Sakai, recipient of a Bexar County Proclamation of Judge Sakai Day in honor of his outstanding efforts on behalf of the children of our community; Lucien B. Campbell, in honor of his outstanding service as our Federal Public Defender for more than a quarter century; and Jimmy Allison, in honor of his outstanding service as SABA executive director for 35 years. Along with many others in the San Antonio Bar Association/Bar Foundation, past and present, these persons are true heroes to us all.
But our successes in the legal profession and the judiciary are possible only with love, support, example and encouragement of our families, mentors, friends and clients. THEY are the real everyday heroes to whom we owe so much and for whom we work so hard to excel. May our own continuum in our personal and professional lives thus forever reflect our individual and collective goals of excellence, of which we and those who follow us always can be proud.
June 2001 - The Calling
A vocation is a calling to a life of dedicated service, personally and professionally, and in the legal profession each one of us has a vocation - a calling - to a lifetime of personal and professional excellence, devotion, duty and trust. For our professional vocation - our calling to the legal profession and the judiciary - consider the following credo:
To the highest degree humanly possible, I am proud to be a lawyer (or a judge), the greatest secular vocation in the world. I have the calling. I am dedicated unwaveringly to the legal profession and justice system. Consequently, I am committed to the highest principles of equal justice for all under the rule of law. For me the law is a sacred profession. I am a lawyer (or a judge) because I am committed to the greater good of all.
I am a good person, an earnest and understanding listener, a trusted adviser, a zealous yet realistic advocate, and a peacemaker. I am a unifier, not a divider. I believe in justice, fairness and equal opportunity for all. I am honest; my word is as good as gold. I am loyal, faithful and reasonable. I will do whatever is necessary and fair (under the law, the lawyer’s creed [or the judicial conduct code] and the rules of ethics) to ensure always that right is achieved.
I will follow the law without fail, or in meritorious circumstances, I will be a reasonable advocate for the modification of existing law or the establishment of new law. As a lawyer I will fight for justice and right forever, in civil or criminal law, whether prosecuting or defending. Where there is wrong and injustice, I will work hard, tirelessly and always to correct it and ensure that justice is done.
I will speak out whenever necessary to protect our courts and the rule of law from unfair criticism or untrue attack. I will speak out consistently, strongly and passionately, privately and in public forums, in support of our Constitution and laws, and the legal/justice systems.
I will comply at all times with the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. I will adhere always to the principles of the Texas Lawyers Creed, and I will never adopt or pursue a Machiavellian approach to the practice of law.
I treat judges, opposing parties and counsel, witnesses, and all other persons in every matter with dignity and respect, and at all times, personally and professionally, I am truthful and trustworthy, and act with the highest degree of civility. I am always well prepared. I work harder than anyone so that all my good work looks effortless.
I rededicate myself to a professional collegiality (among attorneys, other law firms, judges, clients and staff, and with the law schools and public sector organizations), and to voluntary service for the greater good throughout my community and in professional associations, activities and events. In every endeavor I try very hard to give back more than I receive.
I am committed to representing my clients vigorously and to the best of my personal and professional abilities regardless of the client's economic or social status. I vow to provide pro bono legal representation to those who are unable financially to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees, and to support the organized pro bono projects and efforts of my local bar associations and the state bar. I will pursue professional development and continuing legal education fervently so that the best interests of my clients and justice will be served.
I am passionate about the legal profession, and compassionate toward those we serve. I respect and honor the best of all those whom I have followed as a lawyer (or a judge). I give thanks to them, to my mentors, and to all with whom I have had the privilege of working as a lawyer (or a judge). I pledge to share my thanks specially with those of my colleagues who have achieved great personal or professional accomplishments or goals, or who have by commendable efforts contributed to better individual or public understanding of our legal system.
I try to be a prime example always - of all the best our beloved legal profession has to offer - to our community and clients, and to those lawyers and judges with whom I serve and those who will follow us. I am a mentor and a teacher, and I am patient, kind, caring and understanding. I remember my roots, and who I am. I am committed to personal and professional goals of excellence, opportunity and true justice for all.
I give my helping hands, personally and professionally, to those who need my assistance. I always try to do right, and to do it right.
I work hard for balance and happiness in my life so that I may best serve my spouse, children and family, my law practice and clients (or - the law, and all persons in my court), and the legal (or judicial) profession. I am grateful most of all to my spouse and family for their love, understanding and support, without which I would not have been or be able to succeed, and I am committed to give my time, devotion, love, understanding and support always to them.
I want people to see me and remember me most for being a great family person (as a loving and devoted spouse, parent or other family member) and friend, as a good neighbor and citizen, and then for all my hard work as a lawyer (or a judge). I do not want to be remembered for the number of billable hours I was able to achieve or how long I worked at the office (or courthouse). Such an achievement may be important, but it is only temporal at best and quickly forgotten; the memory and achievement of the kind of good person and example I was able to be for my family, friends and community is much more important, lasting and well remembered.
I will do my best always to do my duty to God, family, country, state and community, to the courts and my professional colleagues, to my clients and the entire legal profession.
I am proud to be a lawyer (or a judge). I have the calling.
July 2001 -30-
The headline above portends the sum and substance of this column. For several days I have been debating myself about the focus of this final president’s column for the Subpoena during the 2000-2001 term, and the headline gives you a clue.
Thank you again to the many SABA members who have contacted me throughout the term concerning the president’s columns and the many great projects and accomplishments of the year.
I have enjoyed writing these columns, along with the president’s messages for our San Antonio Lawyer magazine, and I thank you again sincerely for the great opportunity to do so.
Thanks also to the best local bar Board in the world, including our peerless SABA officers and directors, and to our great Executive Director, Jimmy Allison, and his outstanding staff, for working so hard and well to make this a remarkable year for our San Antonio Bar Association. You are great friends, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of you. Additionally our many fine committee chairs and members, and our seminar speakers, have all done such outstanding work this year; I am especially grateful to each of you for your friendship and dedication, and for all your efforts and achievements.
Also special thanks to our own San Antonio Bar Foundation and its preeminent chair, Diann Bartek, for another great year, and to our other local bar associations and their officers, directors and members for all your great work.
I want to give special thanks, too, to all those who have helped with the radio and television broadcasts about the law over all these years. The support of the bar and the bench, the public, KTSA, the State Bar of Texas and (previously) KENS-TV for the law programs and broadcasts is remarkable and very much appreciated. Special thanks to the many guests and guest hosts of the programs (especially on the radio program Legal Line) who have done such an outstanding job -- thank you so much again.
I hoped to share more columns and stories with you this year about other extraordinary people in my family and professional life, especially Kerri (the best and most supportive spouse/partner/friend in the world; I am particularly well blessed) and our great daughters (Anne, Evan and Skylar, with each of whom we are very well pleased), other family members (e.g., especially Kerri’s mom and dad, Mary Jane and Hank Fraser [who is very much loved and missed]), and important mentors and/or partners in the law (basically here in chronological order) such as Judge Fred Biery, Sam and Charles Biery (and all at their firm), Judge Jamie Boyd, all at our federal courts, Charlie and Justice Shirley Butts, Sam Millsap, Judge Terry McDonald, Carroll Schubert, George Hernandez, Fred Jones, Joe Meador, 1970-71 SABA President Harry Burns, Keith O’Gorman, Hugh McWilliams, Dale Weyand, Gordon Stafford and many other great lawyers and judges who have been my friends, colleagues, partners mentors and/or inspiration(s). And I must mention and thank my close advisors for the term, including but not limited to all of our great SABA officers (Jim Hall, Van Hilley, Judge Karen Pozza, Justice Karen Angelini and Jennifer Durbin) and directors, our State Bar directors, many committee chairs and members, the leaders of our other local bar associations, Richard Pena, Tony Alvarado, and everybody else including -- well, you all know who you are (especially many judges, past SABA presidents, great attorneys, Marylou and the rest of our staff, and many friends); I appreciate our friendship and collaborations very much, along with all of your sage advice and help.
I wanted to write columns this year also about Tom Franey (my close high school friend, and his family, who lived courageous lives in the face of great medical and other adversities), about my mom and other family members (ditto), and about Father Tom Croak (my favorite college [history] professor/inspirer and “dean of men,” who went on to be Dean of Students at De Paul University and also became a lawyer himself; Father Croak teaches United States history [including the Supreme Court] at De Paul, and represents the disadvantaged in pro bono matters). I wanted to write columns about “the canoe trip,” working in our college book bindery, teaching, summer camps, our horses, and broadcasting and litigation “war stories,” relating them all to practicing law and judging.
But the columns I did get to write addressed issues important to all of us and were very well received. I appreciate your time in reading them.
In the (ongoing) final analysis, our great legal/judicial professions and the Bar at all levels continue to face critical issues and challenges -- providing legal services and equal access to justice for the financially disadvantaged, providing legal services to the indigent in criminal cases, considering proposed reforms in the judicial selection/election/retention process(es), exploring better ways to mentor and promote successful new attorneys, increasing knowledge-based services to bar members and the public, providing better opportunities for balancing family life and the professional demands of our law firms and/or the workplace, considering multi-disciplinary practice proposals and possible revised definitions or guidelines for the practice of law, revising the grievance system to be balanced better between complainants and respondents, providing helping hands to lawyers and judges in need, and continuing efforts toward greater public confidence in the justice system.
The work is important, ever-evolving and continuing. Incoming SABA president Jim Hall and his new officers and directors will do a great job for all of us again this coming year on many of these issues so critical to the profession and our society. Let’s all work hard to contribute to their good efforts for the benefit of the bar, the bench and the public.
As deeply and sincerely as possible, I thank you for the great opportunity, privilege and honor of serving as your San Antonio Bar Association president this year. Thanks again especially for all your help and support throughout the year. I will remember and cherish this time always. Together we tried to do a great job, and we hope that this year will be so remembered.
So that’s the end of my San Antonio Bar Association president’s columns (and the term of the first SABA president of the New Century/New Millennium). Accordingly, as promised, here’s the solution to the clue about the headline -- it’s an old reporter’s code for the end of the copy: “That's it.”