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Five candidates are running for the chairperson’s job for the State Bar of Texas board of directors -� four more than ran for the post in 2003. Kim Askew, a partner in Hughes & Luce in Dallas, faced no competition when she ran for chair last year. The last time that five candidates entered the race for chairperson was in 1997, says Bar spokeswoman Kimberly Schmitt. A chairperson serves a one-year term. In the running for the post this year are Mack Barnhart, president and owner of the Barnhart Law Firm in Gainesville and a past president of the Cooke County Bar Association; William D. “Bill” Elliott, a Dallas solo and the Bar Finance Subcommittee chairman; Roland Garcia Jr., a partner in Locke Liddell & Sapp in Houston, a past president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, Houston Bar Association and Hispanic Bar Association; Paula Hinton, a partner in Vinson & Elkins in Houston and past chairwoman of the Houston Bar Foundation; and James C. Winton, a partner in Baker & Hostetler in Houston. The candidates say this year’s race attracted so many chairperson wannabes because of the large number of second-year directors on the Bar board. Schmitt says the Bar has 18 second-year directors, all of whom were eligible to run. “We have a very strong class of second-year directors,” Garcia says. “No one person dominated the program. It makes for a wide-open field.” But Garcia says it’s good to have a competitive race for the chair’s position. “This is a win-win for the Bar,” he says. “It’s just a strong group of people who care a lot about the Bar,” Hinton says. Elliott says he decided to run to “tone down” the chairperson’s position and place more emphasis on the Bar president. “The chairman’s position has gotten a little big for its britches,” he says. “The leader of the Bar is the president.” Askew says she has “worked hand-in-hand” with the Bar’s president and president-elect during what has been an active year for the Bar. Hinton says she wants the chairperson’s election to be a more open process. The name of each second-year director should appear on the ballot unless a director specifically opts out of the race, she says. Under the current system, a director must opt in to get his or her name on the ballot. Barnhart says the Bar’s Policy Manual Subcommittee has been mulling over the proposal for an opt-out election system. The proposal will come before the board for a discussion at some point, he says. Other changes in the election process are needed, says Hinton, who supports a written ballot for the chairperson’s election. Schmitt says each year the Bar board decides in January whether to have a written ballot for the election or a show of hands while the candidates are outside the room. Hinton says that while written ballots are subject to disclosure under the Public Information Act, candidates easily can learn how board members voted if the method used is a show of hands, sometimes resulting in hurt feelings. Garcia says the unmet legal needs of the poor are among the key issues facing the Bar in the next year. It’s not just a lawyer problem; it’s a societal problem for which lawyers ought to provide leadership, he says. Winton says the Bar has to define its role with regard to legal services for the poor. While some think the Bar should provide funding to assure such services are provided, others are opposed to the Bar doing that, he says. More information is needed before a decision can be made, he says. The Bar’s Committee on Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters recommended in December 2003 that the Bar allocate $1.35 million in reserve funds to the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation to cover a funding shortfall faced by the state’s three largest legal-aid programs. A workgroup appointed by the Bar’s Executive Committee is studying that proposal. Tom Godbold, chairman of the workgroup, told the Executive Committee on March 2 that the panel has not yet developed a recommendation. Another concern, Winton says, is how to revise the Bar’s policy manual to assure that its sections and committees comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Keller v. State Bar of California, which bars the expenditure of mandatory dues to advocate or promote activities of an ideological nature that aren’t germane to the Bar’s goals. The Bar board will elect the chairperson at its April 16 meeting in Corpus Christi. State Bar executive director Tony Alvarado told the Executive Committee on March 2 that he hopes to fill a new management position before the April meeting. Alvarado reported that the Bar received more than 150 applications for the chief of staff position authorized by the board in January. In an interview, Alvarado says the chief of staff will handle management functions that previously have been handled by the Bar’s general counsel/chief operating officer. That will allow the general counsel to function more as a GC, he says. According to the job posting, the salary range for the new position is $85,000 to $115,000 annually.

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