Law Day 2018 - Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom

Today we are recognizing Law Day. Our regular Tech Tuesday feature will return next week. 

Today is Law Day, an annual opportunity to reflect on the legal foundation of our nation and the fundamental role that the law plays in securing the freedoms we as Americans hold dear. At the Harris County Law Library, we're observing the day with a special Law Day exhibit, which will be on display all month long in the library lobby. We are also pleased to be featuring selected winning entries from the Houston Bar Association's annual Law Day essay and poster contest. The winning posters can be seen in the video below, along with a special Law Day message from the Harris County Law Library.

In 1957, American Bar Association (ABA) President Charles S. Rhyne, who provided legal counsel to President Eisenhower, conceived of a day dedicated to the celebration of our legal system, a vision that Mr. Eisenhower would help fulfill. The following year, on February 3, 1958, President Eisenhower issued Proclamation 3221, designating May 1st as Law Day and establishing a tradition. Every administration since has issued a Presidential Proclamation for this special occasion. The 2018 Law Day Proclamation emphasizes the wisdom of our unique structure of government. Consisting of three co-equal branches -- Executive, Legislative, and Judicial -- each with its own authority and limitations, this framework has allowed freedom to flourish for nearly 229 years.

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The legislative branch also recognized the importance of this special day. On April 7, 1961, Congress passed a joint resolution (Public Law 87-20, 75 Stat. 43) to officially establish May 1st as Law Day, codifying it into law in Title 36, Section 113. In the years since, Americans have observed Law Day with civic activities, educational programs, and special events consistent with the American Bar Association's annual Law Day theme. Based on a significant aspect of the American legal system (e.g., democracy, civil rights, legal history, the judiciary, or Constitutional law), this theme serves as a focal point for schools, libraries, courts, bar associations, community groups, civic organizations, and others to plan celebratory events.

This year's theme is Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom, which the ABA explains with a quote from James Madison in Federalist 51: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” On its website, the ABA elaborates:

Madison believed that the Constitution’s principles of separation of powers and checks and balances preserve political liberty. They provide a framework for freedom. Yet, this framework is not self-executing. We the people must continually act to ensure that our constitutional democracy endures, preserving our liberties and advancing our rights. The Law Day 2018 theme enables us to reflect on the separation of powers as fundamental to our constitutional purpose and to consider how our governmental system is working for ourselves and our posterity.

On this day, the Harris County Law Library invites you to reflect on the importance of a legal system designed to guard against tyranny and establish fairness, balance, and justice in the conduct of government. Don't forget to stop by our exhibit throughout the month of May, which explores the Law Day Dialogues presented on the ABA website, and encourages thoughtful consideration of this year's theme, Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom. Happy Law Day 2018! 

Celebrate the Texas Day of Civility in the Law by Earning Free CLE Credit in Ethics


Tomorrow, Friday, April 20, is the Texas Day of Civility in the Law. The State Bar of Texas calls upon legal professionals to observe this day by reaffirming their commitment to the Texas Lawyer's Creed, which calls for attorneys to conduct themselves with courtesy and professionalism toward judges, adversaries, peers, colleagues, and clients.

Local bar associations across the state will be celebrating, marking the day with a variety of events, several of which will offer free CLE credit in ethics.

The Dallas Bar Association, along with the Dallas Bar Foundation, American Board of Trial Advocates, AlixPartners, Inns of Court, and the State Bar of Texas Professionalism Committee will be hosting the Day of Civility at the Belo Mansion in downtown Dallas and offering 4.5 hours of CLE in ethics.

A live stream of the seminar will be available for those who are unable to attend. State Bar President Tom Vick will give the opening remarks. For more information, contact Kathryn Zack at (214) 220-7450 or

The Houston Bar Association will be hosting a number of events as well, including an open CLE video-watching event, the perfect opportunity to earn CLE/ethics credit at no charge. Bring your lunch or snacks the HBA office between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm to view the videos. The office is located at 1111 Bagby Street, FLB 200, Houston, 77002.

Finally, the Texas Center for Legal Ethics will be offering free online CLE ethics credit online. Topics include The Noble Lawyer and Developing Your Professional Reputation.

Whether you're approaching your birth date and need to earn CLE credit in a hurry, or you'd just like to log your ethics credit now in preparation for your Bar license renewal date, these offerings are excellent opportunities to reflect on professionalism and civility in the law as you learn. 


Court News: March Madness Research Guide, Promoting Successful Brackets for All

March Madness has struck, and the Harris County Law Library has a cure. If you are a Houston Bar Association member who is participating in the Bracket Challenge, or just a college basketball fan in need of some guidance in completing your bracket, the Harris County Law Library can help! We have assembled a March Madness Research Guide with information and links to insider data from sports experts at ESPN, SB Nation, Sports Illustrated, FoxSports, the Bleacher Report, and more. Get the inside scoop from experienced basketball pros, such as statisticians, researchers, and correspondents, as well as former players who know the game from the inside out. On the line-up are:

Chris Dobbertean: College basketball contributor and resident bracketologist at SBNation and editor of Blogging the Bracket

Reid Gettys: Part-time NCAA basketball analyst for ESPN, lead attorney for ExxonMobil, and part of the "Phi Slama Jama" era of the early 1980s, who participated in three Final Fours and had two national championship appearances. Follow him on Twitter @reidgettys.

Joe Lunardi: College basketball analyst for ESPN who is best known for creating Bracketology. He correctly predicted all 65 teams to appear in the 2008 NCAA Tournament and all 68 teams for the 2013 tournament. Wow!

Jerry Palm: Resident Sports Geek at CBS Sports and a pioneer in predicting the March Madness bracket and in understanding the tournament selection process. Follow him online at CBS Sports, NCAA Basketball.

John Rothstein: College Basketball Insider for CBS Sports and host of the College Hoops Today podcast, as well as a driving force behind Bleacher Report. Get the app here for Apple and Android.

Check out what these and other NCAA basketball experts have to offer in helping you build your bracket. Click on the image above to view the Harris County Law Library Research Guide for even more tips from the pros. Good luck, bracket hopefuls. May the best bracket win!

Free Legal Assistance via the Houston Bar Association LegalLine

Houston Bar Association Legal Line 713-759-1133

On the first and third Wednesdays of every month, the Houston Bar Association provides an invaluable community service -- free legal assistance for residents of Harris County via the HBA LegalLine. Most callers ask questions about family law matters, such as divorce, child custody, child support, and adoption, but other legal topics -- consumer law, neighborhood disputes, immigration, and legal issues arising from special events like Hurricane Harvey -- are addressed as well. 

Volunteer attorneys licensed in the state of Texas will answer your legal questions from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm tonight, December 6, and again on December 20. Spanish speakers can call from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on the first Thursday of every month, including this Thursday, December 7, to ask questions in Spanish.

Volunteer attorneys will offer legal information and assistance and, depending on the situation, they may refer callers to additional resources in the community, including legal aid organizations, helpful websites, or lawyer referral services. The volunteers will not represent the callers in any way, and, to protect confidentiality, all callers remain anonymous. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with a legal issue or just needs some helpful legal infomration about a pending case or what to expect at an upcoming court date, the Houston Bar Association LegaLine is here to help!

Mediation at the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center

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Alternative Dispute Resolution can be a helpful way to handle conflict between two parties in a disagreement. It's often a good and less expensive alternative to hiring an attorney and taking your case to court.  The Harris County Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), which is sponsored by the Houston Bar Association and funded through the Harris County Courts System, offers mediation for general disputes, divorce, and active civil cases, free of charge to Harris County residents. (For examples of the kinds of disputes handled in each category, please refer to the list at left.)

Mediation for general disputes typically involves money, automobiles, landlord/tenant issues, or property damage. The DRC mediation program for general disputes is for resolving disagreements before a lawsuit is filed.

Divorce mediation is for all issues related to divorce either before or after a suit is filed. Child custody, child support, and visitation can be addressed through mediation, along with related family law matters such as property division, common law separations, and LGBT divorce issues. 

For mediation in active civil cases, the DRC can only mediate for parties with a court pleading or disputed dollar amount of $100,000 or less. Also, the Dispute Resolution Center does not mediate suits involving more than three named parties.

Other types of disputes that can be resolved through mediation typically involve Children’s Protective Services, juveniles, special education, or truancy. To speak with a Case Manager and request mediation for any of the issues mentioned above, please contact the Dispute Resolution Center at 713-755-8274 (8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday) or email and briefly explain the nature of your dispute.

Houston Bar Association & Houston Volunteer Lawyers Help the Community


June marked the end of the Houston Bar Association's calendar of activities. Looking back, it's clear to see that the HBA was quite active indeed, providing valuable service to HBA members, the profession, and the public. 

Houston Volunteer Lawyers provided in-person, one-on-one legal advice to more than 6,100 applicants at no expense to those served. Nearly 1,200 cases were referred to pro bono attorneys for long-term representation. Over 2,300 of those helped were U.S. veterans or spouses of deceased veterans.

HVL also assisted 6,561 pro se litigants with family law matters at the courthouse information both on the 17th floor of the Civil Courthouse, and expanded the pro se clinic to the Harris County Law Library where attorneys now meet with self-represented litigants five days a week from 9:00 am - 12:00 noon on a first come-first served basis. 


More than 700 LegalLine volunteers answered 5,386 calls from residents of Harris County, and the Houston Lawyer Referral service made over 26,000 referrals to attorneys and other agencies. 

These are just a few of HBA's achievements over the last twelve months. Additional successes of the previous year are detailed in the May/June 2017 issue of the Houston Lawyer magazine. See page six for President Neil Kelly's message where he reflects on the HBA's service to its members, its initiatives in educating the public about the law, and its efforts to help the residents of Harris County. 

HVL Self Help Divorce Clinic, August 18

August is Self-Help Resource Month at the Harris County Law Library. As a service to the community and the residents of Harris County, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers are hosting a Self Help Divorce Clinic on August 18th at 1019 Congress Avenue. Details are provided below.

Are you filing for divorce? Are you representing yourself because you cannot afford an attorney? Do you and your spouse agree to the divorce? The Houston Volunteer Lawyers can help. Sign up for the HVL Self Help Divorce Clinic, and meet with a volunteer attorney, one-on-one, to prepare what you need to complete your own divorce.

WHEN:         August 18, 2017 9:00 a.m.

WHERE:       HARRIS COUNTY LAW LIBRARY (1019 Congress Avenue)

To sign up, complete this questionnaire.

If your case qualifies, a Houston Volunteer Lawyers staff member will call you to confirm that you qualify and to schedule your clinic appointment.

Houston Bar Association Veterans Legal Initiative Clinic – Tomball August 5, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Veterans who need legal advice or legal assistance can visit a free legal clinic on Saturday, August 5, from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., at the Tomball VA Outpatient Clinic, 1200 W. Main Street, Tomball, TX 77375. The clinic is a public service of the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative and will be held in conjunction with a free Veterans Benefits Fair sponsored by the Texas Veterans Commission, the Veterans Land Board and the Department of Veterans Affairs.⠀

No appointment is necessary. Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, can receive advice and counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case.⠀

For more information on the August 5th clinic and other services for veterans, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at 713-759-1133 or visit HBA VLI online