BAR  ASSOCIATION

TEXAS AGGIE

TABA Blog

<< First  < Prev   ...   3   4   5   6   7   Next >  Last >> 
  • Thu, March 15, 2012 2:15 PM | Ross Robinson

    Vicki Niedermayer

     

    What is Helping Restore Ability?

     

    Helping Restore Ability is an independent non-profit agency that serves the entire state of Texas.  We assist people with physical disabilities so they can participate fully in society and live independent and active lives with dignity, respect, and care. 

     

    We provide home-attendant care to clients with severe physical disabilities, including senior citizens with age-related disabilities.

     

    The care includes assistance with basic daily living skills.  Our services are offered on a sliding-fee scale and are provided for those who may not have the financial ability to pay. With Helping Restore Ability's assistance, people who would otherwise most likely be dependent on institutions for care can stay self-sufficient with dignity.

     

    Helping Restore Ability is a recent Aggie 100 winner.  This is a very nice honor.  Please tell us about that.

     

    In one word, “Wow!”  As the CEO of Helping Restore Ability, the nature of the beast is that I do a lot of administrative work and don't, on a day-to-day basis, get to immerse myself in an environment in which I can learn from others in the business world.  During a typical day, I'm the leader, so I'm mentoring and teaching and coaching and educating others.  Being the CEO of one of the Aggie 100 has allowed me to be in the same room with many others I can learn from.  That has been a tremendous gift.

     

    The Aggie 100 is not really about me. It is about me in that I am the CEO and an Aggie; however, the award is a reflection of the work our team has done. 

     

    Therefore, when I accepted the award, it was with our team behind me.  I brought that back to them and said, “Look what we did!”

     

     

     

    Never mind the fact that I got to have my picture taken with Reveille.  That was a big deal for me!

     

    How did you get involved in this field?

     

    I went to Texas A&M and got a degree in Psychology. After I graduated, there was a big push to deinstitutionalize people who had mental retardation or autism.  I went to work for the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (“MHMR”) and helped open a group home in Tarrant County.  I focused on working with people with disabilities. I just loved my kids with autism.  I later became a director over all of MHMR’s residential services, which grew to 24 programs.  I worked for MHMR for 17 years.

     

    If you weren't the CEO of Helping Restore Ability, what do you think you’d be doing?

     

    I probably would be in the medical field.  Nursing or therapy of some sort.  Perhaps physical therapy.

               

    What is the best advice you've ever gotten?

     

    Pray first and then go with your gut.  There are times I have regretted thinking with my head and not listening to my heart.  I now know that I might not always be able to tell you exactly why something is not the right choice, but I often just have a feeling.  I believe that trusting those feelings in very important.

     

    What do you enjoy most about your work?

     

    Making a positive difference in the lives of others.

     

    What's the biggest challenge in what you do?

     

    In the non-profit world, the consistent struggle for funding is the biggest challenge.  As a result, my philosophy is that, if you hit a brick wall, you have to find a way to go around. I don't take “no” for an answer.  I try to be creative and come up with innovative ways to work with others to achieve the objective in question and serve others.

     

    Where is your favorite place?

     

    I have two, but not necessarily in order.

     

    Number one is underwater.  I'm a scuba diver, and I see diving as a glimpse into the majesty that heaven must be.  99.5% of the people on this planet never get to see that creation that exists, to see it and touch it and taste it and be immersed in it. The beauty that is there is unseen to the person standing on the beach.  That beauty brings tears to my eyes. 

     

    Number two is with my family.  My daughter is the apple of my eye and my husband is my partner in life. 

     

    As a $16-million enterprise, you probably come into contact with a lot of different professional service providers, including lawyers.  What advice do you have for them? 

     

    If you have a heart for what you do, then it's not just a way to earn a paycheck.  My experience has been that the biggest thing that makes a difference between someone who is a valuable partner for us versus not is those that really have developed a skill for listening. 

     

    Listen to what the person is saying to you, whether it’s a vendor, a client, or a person in the community. Don’t just hear the words.  Find the message in those words and what's being communicated between the lines. 

     

    The most valuable providers are those that truly listen to what the need is.  Not with an attitude of “what box does this fit in?” but rather “how can I really help this person?” That requires not just hearing with our ears but listening to the message and understanding what the need is and then trying to work to meet the underlying need. The truly valuable people to me are those that work with us to meet people's needs and have really learned how to and want to listen.

     

    What are you looking to accomplish in 2012 at Helping Restore Ability?

     

    We are continuing to look for ways to meet the needs of our community, our current clients, and the clients who will need us in the future.  With the decrease in funding that's happening with managed-care implementation and state budget cuts, we have to offer services that are meeting the needs of the people who have real problems. 

    We want to get better at marrying our knowledge with the people who need help so we can be sustainable into the future and serve our community. 

               

    What do you wish you were better at?

     

    Better at handling stress.  I don't always take care of myself.  I know it's an issue that I need to work on. I was in a car wreck that made me reflect a lot on what matters.  Whenever something like that happens, it makes you think about your priorities.  Taking care of myself the way I should is still a struggle.

               

    What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?

     

    I took improvisational comedy classes and just loved them.  I was not very good at it, but it was a lot of fun.

               

    How can someone get more information about Helping Restore Ability?

     

    Just go to our website at www.helpingrestoreability.org.  If they have more questions, they can just give me a call and I’ll be glad to help however I can.

     

  • Tue, March 13, 2012 3:46 PM | Dan Price

    The 7th Annual Tarrant County Courthouse Aggie Muster will be held at the Railhead Smokehouse in Fort Worth on Friday, April 20, 2012, starting 2:00 PM. 

    This Aggie Muster started out very informally, but is now an event attended by many Aggie lawyers, including several Aggie Judges who look forward to the event every year. 

    All the Aggies in the area are invited to attend.

  • Tue, February 28, 2012 5:44 PM | Sam Udovich (Administrator)

    Mickey L. Washington is a Houston-area labor and employment lawyer and a former professional football player.  He will be speaking at the Texas Aggie Bar Association Annual Conference on March 3.  His presentation is entitled Are You Ready For Some Football - A Discussion of the Legal Issues Related to NFL Football.

     

     

    Mickey L. Washington

    The Texas Aggie Bar Association recently spoke with Mr. Washington:

     

    Q.   What leads a gifted athlete to pursue a legal career?

    A.   Well, for me, there were four things that I wanted to do: I wanted to own my own business, I wanted to play professional football, I wanted to be an attorney, and I wanted to major in accounting.  I got three out of the four. I actually did not major in accounting because I found I didn’t like it and it didn't work well with the long football practices.  From a young age, I wanted to be an attorney because I thought that, if I was going to be an impact or an influence in my community, I needed to understand how our laws are written and possibly help write something to make a difference our communities.

    Q.   What aspects of being a player have changed over the years?

    A.   When I played, we didn't have personal trainers and, coming out of college, we didn’t have to fly somewhere different from our home towns to go workout for the pro day.  You just really tried to perform within those four years.  We weren't caught up in the commercial aspect of it.  It was more about the camaraderie and no one was really focused on the money.  We wanted to be the Franco Harris and the Walter Payton-type people, but we weren't looking at it from a standpoint of getting all the material things.  It was a brotherhood that was very, very fun.  

    In college, I wouldn't even allow myself to focus on the NFL until my senior year.  I always thought that if you're too focused on getting to the pros, then you're looking so far ahead that you don’t take care of today.  I think the majority of our kids now are not looking at education.  They're looking at trying to make the LeBron James-type money and the odds are just very, very slim.  

    For example, I wasn't the guy in my high school that was supposed to go pro.  There was a buddy of mine who was a superstar.  He was very talented, but he never appreciated the talent that he had; whereas, I had to work and continue working.  That's why I say that the kids who take care of the day-to-day business will be the ones who will typically succeed.  

    Q.   Do you think the league has a challenge preparing younger players for life after football?

    A.   It is a huge challenge, but it's a two-way street.  The guy has to be extremely confident and have faith in himself to get to that level.  The confidence and arrogance that makes him great, also will, at times, make him think he's invincible.  He'll think that he can't be vulnerable to the things that other players before him had.  There is a challenge by the league to get guys to the mindset that this game ends for everybody.  Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant Emmitt Smith, whoever their heroes are, they had to end at some point in time.

    Q.   Tell me about your law practice.

    A.   We primarily practice labor and employment law. We litigate primarily for plaintiffs but also a good portion for defendants.  We handle labor and employment, business law, personal injury, and catastrophic personal injury.  I also do transactional work and I represent companies like CITGO, some accounting firms, and franchisees and franchisors.  We will also handle drafting basic policies and procedures for companies.  On the labor and employment side, we typically get the majority of our calls from individuals so we have probably more plaintiffs' employee cases than we do defense cases.

    Q.   What is your role with the NFL Players Association ("NFLPA")?

    A.   Oh man, that keeps me so busy.  I am one of the executive directors for the NFLPA and I'm also the Houston-chapter president for the NFLPA.  During the lockout, we were voting on proposed terms and trying to communicate to all the current and former players around the nation as to what was going on. 

    Many people don’t realize that there are two segments of the bargaining process.  The lockout involved the active and former players.  However, the agreement for the former players was not completed until later.  That portion of the agreement was not finalized until November or December.  We are now educating everybody, including former players, as to what they're entitled to under this this new agreement.

    The NFLPA keeps me in tune with what's going on with football.  I was a union rep for about four years as a player.  I also clerked at the NFLPA's office when I was in law school.  So it's almost a no-brainer that I would work with the NFLPA in some capacity.  As a baby player, I was trying to learn from the Reggie Whites of the day.  I didn't have to necessarily go study the information; I lived it when guys were arguing with Gene Upshaw and the NFL.

    Q.   What do you like most about your job?  What is the biggest challenge you face?

    A.   The thing I love most is I can step into any arena and have some degree of knowledge or know where to go to get the information.  I can get involved and impact situations that I come across.  

    The downside is that I can't help everyone.  I get tons of calls from employees, small-businesses, and football players who really need help.  I'd love to be able to help more people, but sometimes it's just not practical to be able to help everyone.  Ultimately, I end up at least trying to educate employees, as well as players, about their situations where they can at least have some foundation to build upon.

    Q.   What is the best bit of advice you've ever received?

    A.   Not to personalize so much. When I hear from clients that someone has been mistreated, not to take it personally so that I can still go home and sleep.  My six-year-old daughter doesn't understand Daddy's stressed out about this chicken franchise losing money due to a breach of contract.  So, I've learned to just be a little more lighthearted, and to enjoy the trip of life that we're on.  Due to my profession, I get a lot of exposure to different things, so it's a great educational path.

    Q.   What was the best part about playing for A&M?

    A.   Oh that's an easy one.  When I played, we were, as a team, a family.  We had fun and Jackie Sherrill made it first class.  Everything that I was associated with when I played at A&M, through Jackie Sherrill, was first class.  Every function I attended, whether it was a bowl game, a banquet, or something else was first class.  I know, in those days, other schools didn't have that.

    Q.   Any predictions for next season?

    A.   I was a little hesitant at first, but I think we'll be okay.  What most people don't realize about the SEC is, after you get past LSU and Alabama, there's a drop off.  Everyone else is basically a mid-level team.  I think, with the recruiting class that we have, we're on the right path.  I think we're going to surprise some people.  Our only question mark is the quarterback area - who's going to lead us?  However, when you've got great guys like Christian Michael back there, I think we can ride on his shoulders and be pretty successful.

  • Thu, February 23, 2012 4:44 PM | Sam Udovich (Administrator)

    Professor Jeffrey F. Addicott, Director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law, will be speaking at the Texas Aggie Bar Association Annual Conference on March 3.  His presentation is entitled Legal and Policy Issues in the War on Terror - 10 Years On.

     

     

    Prof. Jeffrey Addicott

    The Texas Aggie Bar Association recently spoke with Professor Addicott:

    Q:    Tell us about your service in the Army JAG Corps and how that led you to a career as a law-school professor?

    A:    I did 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Army.  I was a Judge Advocate General (“JAG”) officer, which is a lawyer in the Army.  My relationship with terrorism issues began when I volunteered to be one of the first JAGs assigned to the First Special Forces Group (Green Berets) out of Washington State.  I worked my way up to become the Senior Legal Advisor (Staff Judge Advocate) to all the Green Berets in the U.S. Army.    

    I taught Terrorism and Operational Law at our JAG School in Charlottesville, Virginia where I picked up my Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science degrees from the University of Virginia School of Law.  I also had the privilege to work in the Pentagon in the International Operational Law Department of the Deputy Chief, so I've had a lot of experience in dealing with terrorism issues in the real world.  I retired from the Army in 2000 and joined the faculty at St. Mary's.  Shortly after 9/11, I founded and started the Center for Terrorism Law and we've been going strong ever since.  Senator John Cornyn cut the ribbon at our inauguration in 2003.

    Q:    Describe the Center for Terrorism Law and your work with the Center.

    A:    There are about 200 ABA-approved law schools in the U.S. and St. Mary’s University School of Law is the only law school that has anything of this nature.  When I founded the Center, I thought other law schools would figure out that this was something that they would want to be involved in.  There are obviously a lot of new legal issues, including detention issues, the PATRIOT Act, civil-liberty issues, cyber, military commissions, etc.  To my surprise, we are still the only law school that has anything like the Center for Terrorism Law.

    Part of our mission is to represent soldiers.  We have successfully handled many cases of our fighting men that were wrongfully accused of war crimes or violations of the rules of engagement.  Of course, I have to be convinced that a soldier is innocent before the Center will assume representation.  We are batting 100% so far.  We've done two amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of our soldiers.  I've also provided oral and written testimony before the U.S. Senate and before the House of Representatives.  We have penned legislation for the Congress on various issues as well as provided input.  I'm the only law professor that works in Guantanamo Bay on the side of the government regarding detention issues and military commissions.  Numerous law schools have “clinics” that work on the side of the detainee, but I'm currently the only law professor that works with the government. 

    I lecture before the Office of Military Commissions.  I reviewed the pleadings in the Hamdan military commission trial.  I all lecture all over the world.  Since the Center opened I've lectured at professional conferences in Colombia, Germany, France, Austria, India, Egypt, Kuwait, Panama, England, Mexico, Sweden, Ireland, Scotland, Greece, Israel, Russia, and Luxembourg.  I've done over 500 public speeches and almost 2,800 media interviews for media outlets such as the Washington Post, New York Times, Washington Examiner, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Canadian TV, FOX NEWS, CBS, CNN, NPR, ABC, NBC, Al Jazeera, BBC, French TV, and Kuwaiti TV.  Those of us with the Center are actively engaged in thinking about all the legal issues associated with terrorism and our use of force in wartime. 

    Our Center works very closely with the FBI Academy where I lecture at least four times a year.  We have also published chapters in books for the FBI.  In fact, I have authored well over 40 books, law review articles, and other publications on terrorism issues.  My current book is: Terrorism Law: Materials, Cases, Comments 6th Edition (2011).  We have an extensive listserv were we put out information for free to the public.

    Q:    So the Center for Terrorism Law is the only law-school-affiliated center that advocates on behalf of the government in Guantanamo Bay?   

    A:    The thing that's really amazed me is that there is nobody else that's working with the government to try and solve problems.  It's nice to have a legal interest in both sides of an issue, but you would think that there would be a little bit more involvement from the law-school community, given that our country is trying to win a war.  For instance, I was asked to debate the President of the ACLU, who is another law professor, about a year ago at a law school in Boston.  Obviously, they must think that I am one of the most conservative law professors in the country because she's obviously one of the most liberal law professors in the country. 

    Again, I think St. Mary’s is the only law school that is engaging in this kind of work.  By the grace of God, we have a $700,000.00 facility that was paid for through private donations.  We operate solely on private donations and grants.  We are a 501 (c) (3) so all donations are tax deductable.  The University and the law school, while supporting us in many ways, don't provide funding for us to operate, so I'm also the chief fundraiser for the Center.

    Q:    Describe your experiences with the media on these issues.

    A:    This is not just a war about putting steel on target.  This is a propaganda war.  America is not good about winning the propaganda war.  I've been amazed that people around the world automatically assume that our military tortures people as our standard operating procedure.  These same people think that we are illegal by having GITMO operational.  Sadly, this demonization of America is sometimes perpetuated by our own media.  Accordingly, at every turn I bring people to the basics:  “We are acting under the rule of law.  That rule of law is the law of war and not the law of domestic criminal law.  Therefore, in a war, we have the right to detain enemy combatants, to kill enemy combatants, and to use military commissions.” 

    However, it is tragic that politics also play a part in this war.  We've seen that play out particularly with the Obama Administration.  Just one example will do as this is rather common knowledge to clear thinkers.  President Obama wanted to close GITMO.  The propaganda message was that we had done something wrong.  My question is this: "Well, what did we do wrong there? Why do you want to close it?  What are we apologizing for?" 

    Q:    What are some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the War on Terror?

    A:    Well, the biggest misconception is the premise.  If we are not at war with al-Qa’eda, then we've done a lot of illegal things.  We've detained people indefinitely without charging them with a crime.  We've killed them on site.  We've tried them by military commissions.  We cannot legally do those things unless we are at war.  

    So, the real question is: "Are we at war?"  If we are at war, then everything we've done is extremely lawful.  But when we are playing in a vertical arena, as we are in this country, there is always one political party criticizing the other political party.  

    In particular, there is a lack of clarity from the Commander-in-Chief about this issue and that's what I find most disturbing.  The current administration wants to have one foot in domestic criminal law and one foot in the law of war, so there is not a clear signal.  It is not surprising then to discover that people criticize the U.S. as being illegal and operating outside the rule of law.  The problem is that we are not getting a firm response from our leadership along the lines of "No, we are acting perfectly lawful because we are at war."

    As a lawyer, the pertinent question is not whether we like something or not. The question is "What is the law?"  There are a lot of things that I don't like, but the pertinent question is whether it is legal or not.  If you look at our major Supreme Court rulings on this issue, all have held that we are at war.  This is not a metaphor like the War on Drugs.  Similarly, although our Congress has not declared war, they have certainly authorized war.  Finally, both Bush and Obama have used their war-time authority against al-Qa’eda.  It is the three branches of Government that tell us if we are at war, not the editorial writers for the New York Times or MSNBC. 

    This propaganda issue is evident among many of the law students I teach.  I'll ask them when I start my course on National Security Law: "How many people think that we've water-boarded individuals at Guantanamo Bay?" About 9 out of 10 will raise their hands and say "Yeah, we water-boarded people at GITMO."  They seemed shocked to learn that nobody was ever water-boarded at GITMO.  It simply never happened. 

    So I challenge them and ask: "Where did you get that information?  Who told you that, because you obviously believed it?"  It's really a function of our society not getting clear leadership and not getting clear information.  That's what our Center is trying to do.  We are trying to fight the misconceptions: "Here are the facts, here is the law." We are trying to cut through all of the negativity and all of the false information about what's happening. 

    Q:    What do you think is your biggest challenge?  What do you enjoy most about your work?

    A:    Well, I think what I enjoy most is debating the issues and trying to put this information out in the public arena so people can understand what we are doing.  We are the greatest nation on the face of the earth.  We are right in what we are doing.  As a military veteran and believer in America, I get very upset when people demonize our country and think that we are violating every law from A to Z.  

    The greatest challenge is staying afloat because, again, the Center for Terrorism Law operates independently of any other resources and we don't charge for what we do – not a dime.  We put on about 3-4 conferences a year and we don't charge.  We don't charge soldiers that are wrongfully accused of war crimes.  I've represented soldiers in murder cases that were found not guilty.  I'm currently representing a Marine that had his career destroyed because he killed the enemy in combat.    It's really gathering the public support to do what we do.  In a nutshell, that is the greatest challenge.

    Q:    Can you give us a preview of what you are going to be discussing during your presentation at the Texas Aggie Bar Association Annual Conference?

    A:    The main thing we are going to discover is that much of the information the audience thinks is true is actually false.  That's going to be very entertaining and enlightening.  For example, as I noted earlier, most of the audience will think we water-boarded people at Guantanamo Bay.  Those same people will likely also think that water-boarding is torture.  In fact, it's not torture.  I will demonstrate all those things and try to set the record straight about what we are doing.  I will also talk about the role that religion plays in the process.  This is not a war against Islam.

    Q:    Where can we get more information about the Center for Terrorism Law?

    A:    Our website is www.stmarytx.edu/ctl.  That would be a great place to start.

  • Wed, February 22, 2012 4:00 PM | Ross Robinson

    Greg Lukianoff, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education ("FIRE"), will be speaking at the Texas Aggie Bar Association Annual Conference on March 3.  His presentation is entitled Unlearning Liberty: The State of the First Amendment on Campus. 

     

     

    Greg Lukianoff

     

    The Texas Aggie Bar Association spoke with Greg recently about these issues.

    Q:        What is FIRE?

    A:        FIRE (www.thefire.org) is a nonprofit educational foundation based in Philadelphia. FIRE's mission is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience - the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE protects the unprotected and educates the public about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

    Q:        Tell us about your background and how you ended up at FIRE.

    A:        I have actually been with FIRE since 2001.  I came here by a fairly direct route.  I went to law school specifically to study First Amendment law.  It has been a passion of mine since I was young.  I was a student journalist.  If anything is going to make you realize how important freedom of speech is, it's being a journalist.  You see very quickly how powerful the desire to censor speech actually is.  Journalists learn that, regardless of the intention of a limitation on speech, it gets used against journalists almost as soon as it is available. 

    I credit multiculturalism for my interest in freedom of speech because I have a Russian dad and a British mom.  I grew up in a neighborhood where people were from all over the place and nobody agreed on what was polite or what was honest or what was the right thing to say.  It was really brought home to me by living in a neighborhood where just about everybody had some kind of different background.

    In a generally pluralistic society, free speech should be the rule.  If the price that you pay is occasional offense, that's a very small price to pay for the open flow of creative ideas.  The perfect rule is that nobody gets to be in charge of what people say.  Therefore, if you say something ignorant, you suffer the consequences socially.  As soon as you put a person in charge of freedom of speech, shock upon shock, they have a tendency just to shut down opinions they disagree with and to impose their own idea of propriety.  This is one of the reasons why it was so wise for the founding fathers to put freedom of speech as our very first amendment.

    Q:        Please comment on the status of free speech on the university campus today and the topics you will address at the Texas Aggie Bar Association’s Annual Conference.

    A:        Well, there’s a stark contrast between the law and what happens on campus.  In the law, the freedom of speech of college students is very strongly protected.  In practice, students suffer from speech codes and ridiculous punishments for their speech.  In many cases, it's hard to even figure out what people found offensive about the speech in the first place.  In some cases, you can understand why someone might not have liked the speech, but the idea that you could shut the speech down is just contrary to the law.

    Freedom of speech on at least public college campuses very well-protected in the law.  At private universities, they have to promise freedom of speech in their policies and most states actually recognize that universities can at least, to some extent, be held accountable for those promises.  I'm working on a book right now called Unlearning Liberty that discusses these issues.

    The premise of Unlearning Liberty it is that the kind of censorship I see on college campuses is so absurd and has been going on for such a long time that it's actually harming our entire country's ability, and even inclination, to talk through and debate issues.  Universities, partially because of things like speech codes and repressive ideas about freedom of speech, have actually been fostering the societal polarization we're experiencing that has caused people to clam up or associate with people who already agree with them if there is any risk of getting in trouble for having the wrong opinion.  This really damages the sophistication machine that a university is supposed to be.  I point out in the book about how, during my time at FIRE, I've seen students get in trouble for having the wrong opinion on virtually every single hot-button issue, for simply being critical of the university administration, and for things that it is hard to even figure out how they're offensive in the first place. 

    A case I talk a lot about involved a student who was found guilty of racial harassment just for publicly reading a book.  We have a case that we've been fighting for years in which a student was kicked out of school for a collage criticizing the president of the university's pet project, which was a parking garage.  More recently, we had a student who was forbidden from graduation because he mildly criticized the university's handling of a tornado.  It was one of those things that was so mild that it's hard to even figure out how it could have been considered offensive.  As an example, there was a speech zone at Texas Tech University that was only a 20' wide gazebo for all 28,000 students to use.

    This is precisely the opposite attitude you want to be cultivating for university students.  It's virtually impossible to make an environment completely safe from any sort of emotional abrasion from other people.  Besides, you don't really want that.  Moreover, it is very difficult to engage in a robust inquiry and question anything when students constantly have to walk on eggshells.

    Q:        What are some of the results of this suppression of free speech we see on our college campuses?

    A:        Our universities are reaping what they have sown.  If you want to have a meaningful discussion about issues, you have to actually make it so that people can engage in thought experimentation.  Even devil's advocacy is essential to coming up with good ideas.  Universities not only discourage that, but oftentimes actually punish students.  I’ve seen this repeatedly over the past 11 years.

    Q:        Can you comment on the observation that, in many cases, the very administrative leaders in our universities today that are stifling free speech benefitted from the ability to exercise their own free-speech rights 30-40 years ago?

    A:        That's something that Alan Charles Kors talks about in the Generational Swindle (thefire.org/article/5567.html). 

    The idea is that the same generation that fought for free speech and benefitted from it is now in charge and has been cutting back on free speech like crazy. Just when their free speech battles had been won in favor of faculty and students, it was a very short time before universities started passing speech codes of their own based on entirely new theories. 

    This is something I think students should feel really betrayed about. The problem is that students are not actually taught about this.  Students are not taught about their rights, which is bad enough.  But they also are not taught that their rights actually come from a deep and profound philosophy about the way we inch closer to the truth, the way we actually make new discoveries, and the way we foster creativity. 

    Some of the best thinkers in human history have expanded on why open discourse and public exchange of ideas is ultimately just a win/win in every way, but when I talk to students today, I get the impression that they believe that as long as nice people are trying to shut down speech, it is OK.  Of course, what often ends up happening is that free speech is shut down merely because an administrator does not like what has been said or simply does not want to be bothered.

    Q:        It almost seems as if the university has become more and more a tool for social engineering.  Could you comment on this assertion?

    A:        That’s true.  The scariest example of social engineering, which I often talk about, is the University of Delaware program.  The University of Delaware program was an indoctrination program, for all 7,000 students at the University of Delaware, that included one-on-one sessions where students had to stand against one wall if they had the right opinions about social issues and another if they had the wrong ones. 

    They had mandatory questionnaires students had to fill out about what races and sexes they would date with the goal of getting students to become more open to date other races and sexes.  It was an incredible invasion of privacy.  It came with a speech code as well.  It actually trained resident advisors to break up arguments on any topic when they heard them because that's not what they wanted going on in dormitories. 

    The role of what the university should be is often very fundamentally misunderstood.  The University of Delaware program treated the university more like an old-school sort of seminary, where the idea is to put divine wisdom into somebody rather than to be an incredible dynamic environment in which everyone is involved in this grand conversation.  At many universities, there are certainly administrators who not only think that there is nothing that can be learned from students' freedom of speech, but ultimately believe that students need to be punished until they have been conditioned to spout the company line.

    Q:        Do you have any suggestions for attorneys who are interesting in getting more involved with these issues?

    A:        Sure.  First, we have a network of volunteer attorneys with whom we have worked with over the years to bring challenges to speech codes across the country.  Every single one of those cases has been successful.  The codes on many university campuses aren't anywhere close to constitutional.  At the Conference, I'll share a lot of examples.  I'll also briefly cover the case law, which has been uniformly on the side of freedom of speech on college campuses. 

    By joining our volunteer attorney network, attorneys can be notified when we have a case come up or have a potential challenge to a speech code.  We also have a guide to freedom of speech on campuses, that was primarily written for students, that covers a lot of the basic cases.  The first-amendment area of law that we specialize in is pretty straightforward. 

    Q:        What is your biggest challenge and what do you enjoy most about your work?

    A:        One of my biggest challenges is fundraising.  I am constantly trying to make people understand that what's happening on campuses harms our entire society and convince them that even if they don't have kids in college, they should care about these issues. 

    It's just undeniable that if you tinker too much with the marketplace of ideas, you are going to end up having worse ideas propagating.  Going out and trying to find people who understand how important this issue is so that they will donate to FIRE is a really big challenge of my job. 

    The thing I enjoy the most is the writing.  It's shocking to me how few people know about these utterly absurd cases of censorship that occur on college campuses.  Today, it seems as if the press has just gotten used to the egregious cases of infringement of students’ free-speech rights, so they don’t get reported nearly as often now as in the past. At the same time, the actual process of trying to explain why this issue matters to the entire country is something that I truly love to do.

  • Fri, February 03, 2012 4:14 PM | Dan Price

    The Texas Aggie Bar Association will host a happy hour in Dallas at Mario Sabino's on February 16, 2012, from 6 - 8 p.m.  Come out for some networking, Ol' Army Good Bull stories, and the first adult beverage on the TABA.

    We hope to see you there!

    Mario Sabino’s

    5404 Lemmon Avenue

    Dallas, Texas 75209

    Directions:  http://g.co/maps/ehcms

    Law Students, Spouses and Significant Others welcome!

  • Wed, February 01, 2012 9:14 AM | Dan Price

    The Texas Aggie Bar Association is proud to announce that James A. Creel '69 has been named the 2012 Aggie Lawyer of the Year.

     

    Mr. Creel has practiced law for over 35 years and currently practices at Brackett & Ellis, P.C., in Fort Worth, Texas.  He specializes in tax law and is a leader in the legal community as well as a dedicated supporter of Texas A&M University.  Over the years, Mr. Creel has served as President of the Association of Former Students, President of the Fort Worth/Tarrant County A&M Club, and Chairman and Trustee of the Texas A&M Foundation.

     

    Mr. Creel is a 1969 graduate of Texas A&M University, where he was a Ross Volunteer and a Distinguished Student.  After graduation, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army where he served as an Artillery Officer.  He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1972 and practiced with Price Waterhouse and Company for several years upon receiving his law degree.  Mr. Creel is a Certified Public Accountant and has been Board Certified in Tax Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization for over 25 years.  As a long-time member of the Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Mr. Creel has served on the Board of Deacons and is a former Chairman of the Board.  He has also served as Director of the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association and Chairman of the Board for the Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth.

     

    Mr. Creel is extremely proud that every member of his immediate family has earned a degree from Texas A&M University:  Bonnie Creel ’10 (wife), Mary Katherine Stout ’00 (daughter), and Matt Creel ’10 (son).

     

    The Texas Aggie Bar Association would like to congratulate all of the nominees and finalists for this award.  You make us all proud to be Aggie lawyers.

     

    We hope to see you all at the Annual Conference.  Register today at www.aggielaw.org

     

    Former Aggie Lawyers of the Year

    Bob Surovik (2011)

    Bill Jones (2010)

    Fred McClure (2009)

    Louie Gohmert (2008)

    John White (2007)

    The Honorable Willie E.B. Blackmon (2006)

    Arno Krebs (2005)

    W. Mike Baggett (2004)

    James "Jimmy" Bond (2003)

    Henry Gilchrist (2002)

    Joseph Searcy Bracewell, Jr. (2001)

    Otway Denny (2000)

  • Fri, August 12, 2011 5:00 PM | Kenneth Krock
    After several months of development, the Texas Aggie Bar Association is pleased to launch its new wesbite. The website  provides information concerning TABA's ever expanding events and member benefits. Please check back for new information.  
  • Fri, August 05, 2011 5:00 PM | Kenneth Krock

    On August 4, 2011, several Aggie lawyers gathered at the offices of McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore in Austin, Texas, to network with fellow Ags and share legal war stories, Aggie football predictions (11-1), and all around good bull.  Thanks to April Lucas ‘01 of McGinnis, Lochridge and Kilgore for hosting a successful TABA happy hour.  

  • Sat, March 05, 2011 5:00 PM | Kenneth Krock

    On March 5, 2011, at the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center in College Station, Texas, the Texas Aggie Bar Association held its 2011 Annual Conference. The Conference included a morning of CLE presentations by well known experts on a variety of topics designed to provide every practioner with the background he or she needs to recognize a client's legal problems and help the client obtain appropriate legal services. Presenters included Thomas C. Fitzhugh, III ('71), Francisco Maldonado ('99), Amanda Doslich ('02), Kelly Garrett Thorman ('94), and Kelly Jones ('83). In addition, Kirk McKinnon from the International Justice Mission spoke on how lawyers can use their knowledge overseas to help create and enforce human rights in developing countries.

    The TABA Annual Conference included its annual awards dinner where it awarded its 2011 TABA Aggie Lawyer of the year to Bob Surovik as well as several scholarships to A&M students entering law school. 

    The Saturday events were preceded by a Friday night social dinner at the Corner Bar in College Station.     

<< First  < Prev   ...   3   4   5   6   7   Next >  Last >> 






Expanding the Aggie Network in the legal community and providing scholarship
opportunities for future Aggie attorneys
.

Copyright 2011 Texas Aggie Bar Association.


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software