This year was the 35th birthday of the Hispanic Issues Section! Our theme this year was “Outreach to Communities, Lawyers, and Law Students.” To this end, we developed a short-term focus on building bridges with our membership, local Hispanic Bar Associations, and law schools across our state. Networking and educational opportunities were high on our radar through the year.
For the long term strategy, our leadership agreed that a strong organizational base was important and we took several steps to make this possible. We expanded our board to include committees concentrating on Access to Justice Initiatives, expanding our membership and services, and improving our student outreach efforts. Additionally, we worked with representatives of each Texas law school to form a firm foundation for the years to come. In doing so, we developed a strong relationship with the co-chairs of the Student Outreach Committee: Prof. Michael Olivas (Houston Law Center), Prof. Ana Novoa (St. Mary’s Law School), Prof. Laura Hernandez (Baylor Law School), Arturo Errisuriz (Texas A&M School of Law), Prof. Jorge Ramirez (Texas Tech), David Montoya (University of Texas Law), Dean Royal Furgeson (University of North Texas Dallas College of Law), and Prof. Olga Moya (South Texas College of Law). Finally, we divided our State into four sections, each with a Membership co-chair: Arturo Aviles, Pablo Almaguer, Larry Banda, and Judge Debra Ibarra Mayfield. These co-chairs worked diligently in our membership outreach efforts and substantially increased our membership! Thank you!
To better understand the needs of our membership, we developed a survey and received great feed-back from our members. Based on the survey’s results, we planned a Spring CLE that was both educational and allowed for networking opportunities. The program was a total success thanks to the co-chairs of the CLE committee—Joseph Escobedo and Angelica Hernandez! For next year, Joel Salazar, the chair of the events committee, is planning either a golf tournament or another exciting event in conjunction with the CLE program!
From the survey, we also determined that legislative issues are of great concern to our members. Under the direction of the co-chairs of the Legislative Committee, Celeste Villarreal and Mike Marin, we supported the LGBT Section’s proposal on the abolition of sodomy laws in Texas. Likewise, and in coordination with Betty Balli-Torres, chair of the Access to Justice Committee, the Legislative Committee is preparing to submit legislative proposals regarding the unauthorized practice of law by “notarios” in the area of immigration.
Our Bylaws Committee undertook a review to ascertain whether a continuity of leadership was in place. Judge John Vasquez, the chair of the Bylaws Committee, was also instrumental in pushing for bylaws that allowed students and newly licensed attorneys to initially join the section without having to pay dues. Steve Wolfson and Manuel Escobar took the lead presenting the bylaws to our membership and to the State Bar for approval.
The Website and Social Media Committee, headed by co-chairs Manuel Escobar and Alfonso Cabañas, did an outstanding job of building bridges between HIS and other Hispanic bars. Through the website, HIS honored its members and its founders. The Newsletter Committee headed by co-chairs Dolores Hibbs, Justice Gina Benavides, Rudy Mata and Steven Wolfson, was instrumental in our outreach efforts to link our membership with other members of other Hispanic bar associations, with the State Bar’s leadership, and with each other! A big step, a big bridge, and we succeeded thanks to the work of these two committees.
The day-to-day administration of our section was the responsibility of our Executive Committee—Betty Balli Torres, Valerie Carrillo, Manuel Escobar, Benny Agosto, and myself. This committee could not have functioned without the help of Tracy Nuckols and her team. We are grateful to them!
Finally, our Section is participating in the State Bar’s Annual Meeting. Benny Agosto, in charge of the Annual Meeting Committee, worked on two wonderful programs featuring Justice Gina Benavides, Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo, and the Honorable Jimmie V. Reyna of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The programs are scheduled for June 26, 2014 starting at 2:15 p.m. Following the first program, HIS will conduct its membership meeting and new officers will be elected. The co-chairs of the Officer Election Committee, Justice Gina Benavides and Justice David Medina, and the co-chairs of the Awards Committee, Paul Torres and Carmen Perez, worked diligently through the year to identify people who worked hard to deserve being nominated as officers or recipients of awards! Please join us in honoring these deserving members!
The success of HIS is due to the work of its Executive Committee, its Council, its Committee Chairs, its membership, and the State Bar staff. A special thank-you for allowing me to lead you this year! I am humbled by such an honor.
Patricia O. Alvarez
Justice, 4th Court of Appeals of Texas