In 1991 when Brad Toben became dean of Baylor University School of Law, the Lone Star State was headed by Texas Gov. Ann Richards, the U.S. president was George H.W. Bush and the Soviet Union dissolved, ending the Cold War.
Now on the job for more than 26 years, Toben is the second longest-serving law dean in the whole country, according to Rosenblatt’s Deans Database, a repository of information about law deans at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. Toben’s tenure is beat only by the first longest-serving dean, John O’Brien, the 30-year dean of New England Law Boston.
Toben has far outpaced the average of four years of service that most law deans put in and also beat all other Texas law deans by a long shot. In fact, the Texas dean who comes closest is South Texas College of Law Houston dean Donald Guter, who is the 21st longest-serving law dean with nine years of service and who plans to retire next year.
State Bar of President Joe Longley issued a call to arms for Texas attorneys to put their minds together and find a way to reunite immigrant children with their parents and protect their rights to due process.
Just after taking the oath of office to become this year’s bar president—a historic event, as Longley is the very first state bar president elected by seeking lawyers’ signatures on a petition—Longley said that the family separation crisis has become a national disaster in his view.
“We have got to figure out a way as lawyers and members of this noble profession to give honor to the words on the statute of liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,’” said Longley to applause. He showed an image of a toddler girl wailing as an officer arrested her mother shortly after they crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico to Texas.
Being an openly LGBT judge in Texas has its challenges, but also benefits.
At a panel discussion at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Houston, four LGBT judges—from municipal court to district court benches—talked about their pathways to the bench, how they can be role models and help other LGBT lawyers and litigants, and the personal challenges they’ve faced by breaking into the judiciary.
One good pathway for an LGBT lawyer to become a judge is to seek an appointment to a municipal court bench—that was the path for Houstonites Phyllis Frye, a transgender judge, and Steven Kirkland, a gay judge.
It’s poetic coincidence that the biggest U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the LGBT civil rights movement bore the date June 26, said high court litigator Paul Smith, who argued the landmark case that laid the foundation for same-sex marriage equality.
In Lawrence v. Texas, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home for alleged “deviant sexual intercourse” that violated the Texas criminal sodomy statute. Fifteen years ago on June 26, 2003, the high court ruled in Lawrence that criminal sodomy statutes were unconstitutional. It paved the way for the high court on the same date—June 26—nine years later in Windsor v. United States to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act’s definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” as limited to opposite-sex couples. And in 2015, again on June 26, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump is well-known nationally for representing families of unarmed black people killed by police, like Michael Brown and Stephon Clark, in wrongful death and police brutality cases.
In his latest role, he’s the host of “Evidence of Innocence,” a new show on TV One about wrongful convictions with episodes running on Mondays in June.
Crump, president and founder of Ben Crump Law in Tallahassee and Los Angeles, narrates the stories and interviews the four wrongfully convicted African-Americans who are featured in the show. As the survivors—and the defense lawyers and investigators who won their clients’ freedom—sit under studio lights telling their stories, actors and actresses re-enact the drama, with intense music in the background.
We caught up with Crump, a former National Bar Association president, to ask about his role in the show, how it’s affected him personally and the larger impact he hopes to see from it. Here are his answers, edited for clarity and brevity.
Former U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, now working in private practice in Austin, was hired to investigate alleged fraudulent activities by a former employee of the University of Texas School of Law.
Texas Lawyer used the Texas Public Information Act request to get a copy of the legal contract for the lawyer that the University of Texas system hired to investigate Jason Shoumaker, who faces six counts of tampering with a government record for allegedly falsifying his time sheets. Prosecutors claim he filled out time sheets claiming he was working in his job as facilities director at Texas Law during times that his credit card statements showed he was actually making travel charges to lavish vacation destinations like Las Vegas, Miami, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and more. Shoumaker was arrested and booked into jail on May 4; he bonded out May 7.
The reporter who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for feature writing initially thought she was in Charleston, South Carolina, to chronicle the lives of nine church-goers who died in 2015 when a stranger with a Glock murdered them while they were praying.
The names, mug shots and one paragraph each about the lives of those nine victims did make it into Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s story, “A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof,” published in GQ in September 2017.
But the rest of her over 12,000-word story told the tale of their killer instead. Ghansah spared nothing in tracking down intimate details of the shooter’s life, coming from his childhood friends, elementary school principal, church minister, co-workers, teenage pals and more. The reporter went back to his birth, telling of the isolation of his school years as a low-income white boy, can’t-get-out-of-bed depression, rancid racism, incessant preparations for killing African-American parishioners and his death sentence for a federal hate crime conviction.
It’s an incredible work of journalism, but also an example of the type of mass shooting coverage that’s maddening to advocates who, for years, have tried to little avail to persuade the media to stop publishing the names and images of mass shooters.
This article first published in Quill Magazine in June. It’s available for reprints. Contact me for details.
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