National Pro Bono Week

This week (Oct. 21-27, 2018) is the 10th Annual National Pro Bono Week! Legal organizations across the country have planned events to celebrate and educate pro bono attorneys in their communities, and the Harris County Law Library is no exception. On Thursday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m., we’ll offer our first session of Free Legal Tech for the Public, which is designed to help pro bono attorneys and self-represented litigants make sense of all the great online resources available to help individuals representing themselves in legal matters. Everyone is welcome to attend this Hands-on Legal Tech Training from the Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute and Texas attorneys can earn 1.0 hour of CLE credit. Click for details and registration information.

Hats Off to Houston Volunteer Lawyers!

In the tradition of celebrating excellence in pro bono work during National Pro Bono Week, the Law Library would like to give a hat tip to Houston Volunteer Lawyers! HVL attorneys staff the “Library Booth,” which is a legal information booth where self-represented litigants with limited means can speak with a licensed attorney for free. The Library Booth is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the lower level of our downtown Houston location. Working in close proximity with HVL attorneys, our law librarians see the positive impact it has on our patrons to have ready access to pro bono attorneys who can answer basic questions. With guidance, self-represented litigants can make better use of the Law Library’s collection and have improved access to justice. Visit www.makejusticehappen.org to see all the ways HVL supports pro bono.

Further Reading

Gender Marker and Name Change Resources for Transgender Individuals in Texas

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For the transgender community, updating one's identification and other legal documents is an important and necessary step to achieving a complete transition. Finding the right resources to help transgender individuals navigate the Texas court system can be a challenge. Fortunately, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers are ready to assist. HVL offers regular legal clinics to guide individuals through the legal transition process, providing assistance in drafting the forms required for a gender marker and/or name change. Simply visit the HVL website for details about the application and pre-screening process. Submit your completed Gender Marker Questionnaire to an HVL staff attorney who will review all applicants for suitability prior to making an appointment for the next gender marker clinic. 

Travis County Law Library in Austin also provides resources for those in need of assistance in drafting documents for a gender marker and/or name change. Visit the Travis County Law Library website for detailed information and forms. These forms are drafted specifically for use in the Travis County courts.

The University of Texas Law School also offers help via its student-run initiative, the Trans Name and Gender Marker Project, whose stated mission is "to provide low-income trans applicants with free, high-quality services in preparing petitions for legal name and gender marker changes." Like the Houston Volunteer Lawyers, the Trans Name and Gender Marker Project at the University of Texas Law School requires all interested applicants to complete a short intake form, but once accepted, transgender individuals will get the help they need to both draft a petition for the requested changes as well as guidance in how to proceed with changing identification and other legal documents once a court order is granted. 

For additional information about the legal rights and challenges of transgender individuals, consult the book, Transgender Persons and the Law, which is available in our print collection at the Harris County Law Library. And don't forget to ask for assistance from our reference staff who are always available to help answer questions and direct library patrons to further resources

On a final note, sometimes the best information and support come from within one's own community. The Texas Name and Gender Marker Change Facebook group is a good place to look for answers to commonly asked questions from others who have completed the legal transition process. 

Kincare Forms for Voluntary Non-Parent Caregivers

As summer approaches, requests for information about the supervision of a child by a non-parent caregiver are on the rise. Fortunately, TexasLawHelp.org and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services have the forms and information that grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, and other blood relatives may use to establish their rights as caregivers. These rights, which are put into place as part of the Kincare program*, allow a voluntary non-parent caregiver to enroll a child in school or daycare, make decisions regarding his or her medical well-being, sign school permission slips, and take other steps to ensure the child's welfare and safety.

To learn more about the Kincare program, TexasLawHelp.org is the perfect place to start. Download a copy of the Texas Kincare Primer to find answers to commonly asked questions about the authorization agreement for non-parent or voluntary caregivers.  Also available on TexasLawHelp.org is a form for consent to medical treatment by a non-parent or voluntary caregiver. Take a look at both forms to determine which will best meet your needs and the needs of the child in your care.

As always, if you have any questions about the Kincare program, we recommend that you consult an attorney. The Harris County Law Library partners with the Houston Volunteer Lawyers, who provide free legal assistance for this or any civil legal concern five days a week in the basement at 1019 Congress. Volunteer lawyers are available Monday through Friday from 9:00 am - 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm on a first-come, first-served basis.

*Please note that the Kincare program is different from the Kinship Care program, which is designed for children in CPS care. For information about the Kinship Care program, please visit the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website. 

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