Houston law graduates Ieshia Champs and Shartory Brown have inspired many people with their stories surviving childhood homelessness and teenage pregnancy and then succeeding in law school while raising multiple kids.
Texas Lawyer spoke with Brown and emailed Champs for advice for other law students about juggling a strict schedule, coping with overwhelming demands, and tapping into their inner strength and resiliency. Here are their answers, edited for clarity and brevity.
Two Houston law graduates who defied tough odds to succeed in law school have inspired people across the country.
Other law students can learn about resilience and the power of priorities through the stories of May graduates Ieshia Champs of Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law and Shartory Brown of South Texas College of Law Houston.
Both Brown and Champs were homeless at times during their childhoods and became teenage mothers. Tragedies and heartache could have derailed their lives—yet they persevered through college and law school, all while raising multiple children. The two women share so much in common that they became good friends while interning together at the Harris County Attorney’s Office in the spring of 2018.
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.
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.
Everyone knows that eating fast food, candy and sugary drinks can cause weight gain, but aside from the battle against the bulge, there’s another great reason for law graduates to strive toward more healthful eating while studying for the Texas bar exam. Science has shown that a good diet can boost brain health and mental functioning, helping good eaters to acquire knowledge, retain memories and better process mood and emotions. Even though it’s difficult to find the time, there are strategies that law students can use to change their eating habits for the better, whether they cook at home or dine out.
A district judge who was wrongfully convicted of nine felonies has sued the prosecutors involved in the case, alleging they prosecuted her maliciously for a political agenda.
Because of the convictions, former 380th District Judge Suzanne Wooten of Collin County had to resign her bench and saw her law license suspended, but last May a court acquitted her of all charges, declared her actually innocent, and she became a licensed lawyer again in June 2017. Wooten has now brought a federal civil rights lawsuit against the prosecutors she claims conspired to wrongfully indict and prosecute her by “inventing and perverting law, misleading judges and juries” and dismantling Wooten’s life and career.
“She wants to be vindicated. This lawsuits serves as the last chapter in her struggles to vindicate herself and show what happened to her was wrong and unjust. They ruined her life,” said Dallas solo practitioner Scott H. Palmer, who represents Wooten. “Her civil rights were trampled on, and she wants to prove that.”