As executive director of Step Up to Justice, a Tucson, Arizona-based privately funded legal aid nonprofit, Michele Mirto wields a shoestring budget and just three staff members armed with legal technology. They lead an army of volunteer lawyers in resolving low-income clients’ civil matters—mostly family law but also guardianship, consumer law, bankruptcy, and wills and probate.
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.
Pummeled by Hurricane Harvey, federal and state courts along the Texas Gulf Coast have closed their doors and suspended all operations, grinding to a near halt one of the busiest jurisdictions in the country.
PDF: Houston-area Courts Crippled by Hurricane Harvey _ Law
In light of a recent study showing female lawyers aren’t getting many speaking roles in the courtroom, one federal judge in Texas noted that she’s indirectly increased opportunities for women attorneys by encouraging firms to send young lawyers to argue at hearings.
While trying to provide courtroom experience to young lawyers in the age of the vanishing jury trial, Chief Judge Barbara Lynn of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas created a voluntary rule in her court about 10 years ago that said if firms sent young attorneys to argue their own briefs and motions at hearings, she would be more likely to grant an oral argument. Even though her main goal was training the lawyers of the future, many of those getting opportunities are women and minorities—something she hoped would happen. Those opportunities have been amplified as 20 to 30 other federal judges have followed Lynn’s lead and created young lawyer rules of their own.
Published on Law.com on August 9, 2017.
PDF: Federal Judge’s Incentive Gives Women Lawyers More Speaking Roles in Court