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A $200 per-case fee would be charged to out-of-state attorneys who appear pro hac vice in Texas courts under a rule approved April 26 by the State Bar of Texas board of directors. “It is absolutely sensible, fair and proper that out-of-state attorneys would pay some small fee for the privilege of practicing in our courts that are supported by our taxpayers and our citizens,” Charles W. Schwartz, vice chairman of the Bar’s Administrative Oversight Committee, told the board. Schwartz said the proposal is modeled after a pro hac vice rule implemented in Delaware, one of approximately 20 states to enact such a rule. But it’s up to the state’s nine-member supreme court whether to adopt the rule in Texas and set the fee at $200. It’s also up to the court to decide how the fee revenue will be allocated — an issue that hasn’t been settled. “There are fair and honest disagreements about where that revenue stream ought to go,” Schwartz said at the board meeting. According to Schwartz’s estimate, a $200 fee per case would generate about $200,000 annually. His estimate is based on the experience in California, where more than 1,000 pro hac vice admissions are granted each year. Some members of the Texas Supreme Court want a certain portion of the fee revenue to be dedicated to legal services for the poor, Schwartz said. “That is fully appropriate and fundamentally correct,” he said. The Bar hopes that some of the fee money goes into its coffers. Schwartz said the Bar performs many services for the administration of justice generally and also would incur expenses to administer the proposed rule. “We should be at least compensated fairly for administering the rule,” he said. In an interview, Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson says the court first started looking at a pro hac vice fee in 2000 as a way to raise money to provide legal services for the poor. Splitting the money between the Bar and legal services programs wouldn’t help the Bar that much, Hankinson says. But providing $200,000 for legal services for the poor could be a big help, she adds. Hankinson says she wants to know how many more attorneys could be hired for legal services and how many additional clients might be reached with the estimated $200,000 in annual revenue. SUBSTANTIAL PARTICIPATION The proposed rule not only would impose a new fee on attorneys from other states, but it also would require substantial participation by local counsel “so that we do not have pro hac lawyers who just simply use local lawyers as a mail drop,” said Schwartz, a partner in the Houston office of Vinson & Elkins. Under the rule, the Texas counsel would have to sign all notices, orders, pleadings or other papers filed in the action and attend all court proceedings unless excused by the court. Schwartz said the rule would require the pro hac lawyer to submit to the local grievance process. It also provides a mechanism to police pro hac abuses by establishing the Bar as the agency that administers the process, he said. The thinking, Schwartz said, is that a “serial” pro hac admissions attorney ought to be a member of the Bar in Texas and pay dues there. As proposed, the rule would not affect corporations’ in-house attorneys who monitor cases in Texas courts, unless they become involved in the court proceedings. “Right now, we are talking about only litigators who appear in court and sign pleadings and the like,” Schwartz says in an interview. Hankinson says she will present the proposal to the Texas Supreme Court as soon as she completes research on what actions the court’s rule-making authority allows with regard to pro hac vice admissions. “I don’t let grass grow under my feet, so I will get it to the court,” she says. The board also adopted a strategic plan for the Bar — an action that the state’s Sunset Advisory Commission staff has said is needed. Liz Lang-Miers, chairwoman of the Strategic Plan Committee and a partner in the Dallas office of Locke Liddell & Sapp, says work on the plan began before the sunset process began for the Bar. State law requires each agency, including the Bar, to undergo a sunset review by the Legislature at least once every 12 years to determine if it should continue to exist. An implementation plan incorporated in the plan calls for a change in the Bar board’s committee structure, Lang-Miers says. Committees will be consolidated by function, decreasing the number from 17 to six. Lang-Miers says the number of committees called for in the plan could be changed to keep the Bar running smoothly. “It could be fluid,” she says. “The idea is to have a workable plan, not a must-abide-by-this plan.” In other action, Schwartz was elected chairman of the board. Schwartz, a civil appellate law specialist, defeated Dan M. Boulware, a partner in MacLean & Boulware in Cleburne, Texas, and Luke Soules, a shareholder in Soules & Wallace in San Antonio. He will succeed Vidal Martinez, a shareholder in the Houston office of Winstead Sechrest & Minick, in June.

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