The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law

“That they may truly and impartially administer justice”

Whitehurst Honoree Profiles

2014

Jamal K. Alsaffar
Jamal Alsaffar received his BA degree in Philosophy, Philosophy Honors Program, in 1996 from the University of Texas and his law degree from Baylor Law School in 2000. He is an equity member of Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar and Higginbotham, where he serves as trial and appellate counsel for a national docket of Federal Tort Claims Act and medical malpractice litigation. His most recent verdict was for $13,690,648.

Named the top undergraduate mock trial attorney in the nation, Jamal has served as a volunteer attorney coach to the University of Texas Undergraduate Mock Trial Team for 13 years. He taught trial advocacy at the University of Texas School of Law for six years and is also an interscholastic/intramural judge for mock trial and moot court teams. Throughout his career he has provided active pro bono representation throughVolunteer Legal Service (VLS). He also served on the VLS/AYLA Joint Domestic Violence Pilot Project which provided pro bono representation for victims of domestic abuse. For the last five years, Jamal has been a volunteer soccer coach for the Lake Travis Youth Association.

Jamal won numerous advocacy awards in both undergraduate and law school. He was recognized by Texas Lawyer magazine's "Legal Leaders on the Rise," awarded to the top 25 lawyers in the state of Texas under the age of 40, and as Texas Super Lawyer, awarded to the top 5% of all Texas Lawyers by Texas Monthly magazine. He was recently elected to the Texas State Bar Foundation.

Jamal has also authored multiple articles for legal publications. He has twice served as Chair of the American Association of Justice's Federal Tort Liability and Military Claims Section as well as editor of their newsletter. He is married to a trial lawyer and has three children.

The Jamal K. Alsaffar Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Jamal do in the public's interest, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, Spring 2014

Lulu Flores
Lulu Flores, the youngest of nine children, was born and raised in Laredo, Texas where her father, an attorney for over forty years, was one of the founding members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). She received her B.A. with High Honors in Government from the University of Texas and her Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

Lulu is a partner at Hendler Law, PC, a national plaintiff's trial firm based in Austin, where she is senior legal advisor and provides strategic counsel regarding the firm's cases and firm management. She also heads the law firm's myriad civic, political and public interest endeavors. Lulu has dedicated her professional career to supporting causes of particular concern to women, Hispanics, the arts and animal rights.

Ms. Flores is currently a member of the Austin Arts Commission, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the University of Texas Center for Women and Gender Studies, the Metro Board of the Austin YMCA, and the Martin Middle School Campus Advisory Committee. In the past she served on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Texas Capital Region, the Women's Advocacy Project (now the Texas Advocacy Project), the Battered Women's Center (now SafePlace), and Mexic-Arte Museum. She is a past president and active member of the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin, where she heads the Association's community service efforts, and she served as the State President of the Mexican American Bar Association of Texas. She continues to be involved in mentoring projects for young women and girls, particularly in the Hispanic community.

Lulu is the immediate past president of the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), having served two consecutive terms at the helm of the 43-year old women's grassroots political organization. As president of NWPC, Ms. Flores advocated, encouraged and actively supported women of diverse backgrounds to seek public office and increase the number of young women involved in politics.

In 2010 the Hispanic National Bar Association named Ms. Flores "National Latina Lawyer of the Year" at its national convention and that same year the Imagen Foundation bestowed on Ms. Flores its coveted "Latina Leader in Advocacy" award. In 2011, Flores received the Travis County Women Lawyers' Association and Foundation "Outstanding Achievement" award and the Austin YWCA "Lifetime Achievement" award. In 2014, she was inducted into the Austin Women's Hall of Fame for her leadership, advocacy and mentoring. The Austin American Statesman has named Ms. Flores as one of 50 "All Star Social Superstars" of the 500 most influential Austinites for five straight years.

The Lulu Flores Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Lulu do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, Spring 2014

Laurie Higginbotham
Laurie Higginbotham graduated from the University of Texas with a BA in history in 1995 and a JD in 1999. She was a recipient of a Texas Law Fellowship in 1997 to work with the Travis County D.A.'s office on child abuse cases. Laurie is an equity member of Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar & Higginbotham, where she handles a national/international docket of federal tort claims and military act litigation and appeals with a focus on medical malpractice cases.

Laurie has also served as an Austin Independent School mentor at Sanchez Elementary School mentoring 4th and 6th grade girls, in numerous positions with the Lakeway Elementary PTO, and as an Advocacy Coach for the ABA Moot Court Team and guest lecturer on litigation and appellate practice at the University of Texas School of Law. She chairs the City of Lakeway Board of Ethics, is a volunteer at the Texas Veterans Project's free legal services clinic for veterans, chaired the Austin Young Lawyers Joint Domestic Violence Pilot Project responsible for representing domestic violence victims in emergency hearings, chaired the United Way annual law firm fundraising campaign and is a volunteer for the Travis County Center for Child Protection.

Laurie has received numerous awards including being named to Texas Lawyer Winning Women, 2011, as one of Texas' top 20 female trial and appellate lawyers, the Austin Outstanding Young Lawyer Award for professional proficiency and service to the profession and community, named Texas Super Lawyer Rising Star and Lawyer by Texas Monthly Magazine, and the Presidential Award by the Travis County Women Lawyers Association. She has served as president of the Travis County Women Lawyers Association Board and Chair of its Foundation, chair of the American Association for Justice Federal Tort Liability and Military Advocacy Section, and serves on the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Austin Division, Admissions Committee.

In addition to being an outstanding trial and appellate lawyer, Laurie is a prolific author of articles in numerous legal publications and a frequent lecturer at national and state legal conferences. She is married to a trial lawyer and has three children.

The Laurie M. Higginbotham Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Laurie do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, Spring 2014

Elizabeth Pipkin
Elizabeth Pipkin is a graduate of Bringham Young University and Harvard Law School. A native of Spearman, Texas, Elizabeth Pipkin began her work in Public Interest law as a first-year law student who received a fellowship to work on Capitol Hill and at the Appleseed Foundation in Washington, DC. Throughout her career, she has always incorporated pro bono and public interest cases into her practice.

After law school, Elizabeth joined Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in Dallas, which she chose because of its outstanding tradition of public service by firm leaders. Elizabeth then clerked for the Hon. Nancy Atlas, United States District Court, Southern District of Texas. After her clerkship, Elizabeth declined offers from corporate firms so that she could represent individuals who often did not have a voice in our legal system. For three years, she represented personal injury plaintiffs and victims of financial fraud at R.G. Taylor, P.C. and Associates in Houston.

In 2005, Elizabeth moved to Palo Alto, California, to support her husband who started law school there, and joined McManis Faulkner, Silicon Valley's leading trial firm. In addition to her work for the area's prominent technology companies, Elizabeth regularly represents people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer.

In 2013, Elizabeth and her team prevailed against the federal government in the first trial ever to successfully challenge the constitutionality of government watchlists. The case involved a former Stanford Ph.D. student from Malaysia, Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim, who was erroneously watchlisted and barred from returning to the United States. After eight years of pro bono litigation, none of which her client was allowed to attend, including two dismissals by the District Court, two reversals by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and a week-long trial, Dr. Ibrahim's name was finally cleared. A Stanford Hospital Chaplain who watched much of the trial said the following about Elizabeth and her team: "Personally, I have never in my lifetime experienced such heroic dedication and stamina. I know that their combined efforts over a nine year period have produced a global change which is still unfolding and will continue to do so for many years to come."

Elizabeth is now a partner at McManis Faulkner in San Jose, California, where she heads the civil litigation group. She serves on the board of trustees of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, the region's largest provider of free legal services to the disadvantaged.

The Elizabeth Pipkin Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, Spring 2014

Beverly G. Reeves
Beverly Reeves attended the University of Texas obtaining a BA in History with high honors, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and a JD degree with selection to the National Order of the Barristers. She is one of the Founders of Texas Law Fellowships.

Before co-founding Reeves & Brightwell, Beverly was a partner at Vinson & Elkins where she represented numerous high tech companies in significant commercial disputes. Beverly is a seasoned litigator whose experience includes a wide range of complex commercial and product liability litigation. She has prosecuted breach of contract actions for multiple national and international technology companies and represented Texas public officials in defamation litigation.

Beverly also served as President of the Travis County Bar Association and on the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas, the Austin Bar Foundation and Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. Beverly recently served as an executive producer for the documentary film An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story, about a man who was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife because of prosecutorial misconduct. After serving twenty five years in prison, he was exonerated by DNA evidence in 2011. The film won the SXSW 2013 Audience Appreciation Award and was an Official Selection of the 2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

Beverly has been named a Texas Monthly Texas Super Lawyer, and has received numerous additional prestigious awards including the Austin Business Journal's "Profiles in Power" award, the "Austin Under 40" award and the Travis County Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. Beverly serves on the Board of Directors for KLRU, Austin's public television station, and for the Austin Children's Shelter.

The Beverly Reeves Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Beverly do in the public's interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, Spring 2014

Emilee Whitehurst
Emilee Whitehurst grew up in Austin, Texas, graduating with honors from Stanford, where she received a William Kennedy Public Service Fellowship, and a masters from Harvard. As an undergraduate she co-directed the San Francisco/Oakland chapter of a nation-wide student-run anti-poverty organization, Empty the Shelters (ETS), working primarily on homelessness issues. After graduation, Emilee received an Echoing Green "Social Entrepreneur" Fellowship with which she founded and directed the Justice Education and Action Project (JEAP) in Oakland, California, a multi-racial grass-roots organization to respond to police violence, develop alternatives to youth incarceration, and work with families with children in the juvenile justice system.

When urged to pursue a law degree Emilee responded: "I have worked all these years at the grassroots level of poverty, homelessness, police abuse and juvenile justice, and I am not convinced that the answers to these people's problems lie in either law or politics." Instead, Emilee entered Harvard Divinity School concentrating on Comparative Religion and Human Rights. After being ordained, Emilee served for two years as Associate Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Lawrence, Kansas. Returning to Texas, she served as executive director of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries (AAIM), central Texas' oldest and most comprehensive interfaith organization comprised of over 30 distinct faith traditions. Her biggest challenge in that position came after 9/11 when she became Austin's calming voice to counter threats on the Mosques and the Muslim population.

Emilee currently serves as Executive Director of the internationally recognized human rights and interfaith center Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. Home to 14 monumental canvasses by painter Mark Rothko and the majestic Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman, the Rothko Chapel inspires people to action through art and contemplation, nurtures reverence for the highest aspirations of humanity, and provides a forum for global concerns. Emilee also serves on the board of The Texas American Civil Liberties Union. She is the mother of two young girls who keep her humble every day and joyful most days.

Emilee has dedicated her life's work to seeking justice for all she has touched, from the homeless person in San Francisco to the larger global community. The Emilee Dawn Whitehurst Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what one individual can do in the public's interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, Spring 2014

2013

Lisa Graybill
Lisa Graybill is a native Texan and an honors graduate of the University of Texas School of Law (‘99). She grew up in San Antonio, attended Smith College in Northampton, MA, and then spent five years working in public health to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among youth, homeless people, prostitutes, and LGBT individuals. During law school, with the support of Texas Law Fellowships and other summer fellowship funding, Lisa interned at public interest organizations on the East and West Coast, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New York and Snohomish County Legal Services and Northwest Justice Project in Washington State. She spent a semester working on a legislative modernization program implementing the 1996 Peace Accords in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

After law school, Lisa clerked for a federal district judge in New Jersey, then joined the United States Department of Justice through the Attorney General’s Honors Program.  Lisa was assigned to the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, where she litigated police misconduct and prison and jail conditions cases.

In 2005, Lisa returned to Texas to serve as the ACLU of Texas’ first legal director in a decade.  At the ACLU, Lisa litigated cases across the spectrum of constitutional rights, from freedom of speech and religion to prison conditions to LGBT rights. In response to the tide of xenophobia that swept through the United States in the last decade, some of the most meaningful and impactful cases Lisa litigated were on behalf of immigrants. With Professor Barbara Hines, Director of the Immigration Clinic at UT Law, Lisa litigated In Re Hutto Family Detention Center, a case challenging the conditions of confinement for immigrant children and their families at a detention center outside Austin. Lisa also co-counseled a challenge to an anti-immigrant housing ordinance in a Dallas suburb with colleagues at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Foundation (MALDEF), Villas at Parkside Partners v. Farmers Branch, and a challenge to the Department of State’s refusal to adjudicate the passport applications of Mexican Americans delivered by midwives along the border, Castelano v. Clinton.

In 2012, Lisa joined the faculty at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law as a Law-Lecturer, teaching in the law school’s Civil Rights Clinic. She is currently supervising students representing inmates challenging conditions of confinement in state and federal prisons in Colorado, including the federal government’s infamous ADX facility where individuals convicted of terror offenses are incarcerated.

The last case Lisa filed at the ACLU of Texas remains on her docket, as cooperating counsel with the ACLU of Texas. Doe v. Neveleff is a class action damages case against individual federal employees, the Corrections Corporation of America, Williamson County, and a guard who sexually assaulted at least ten immigrant women at the Hutto detention facility between December 2009 and May 2010.

Throughout her career, Lisa has been inspired by the courage and resilience of the individuals she has represented, who have braved threats ranging from retaliation to deportation to death to stand up for their rights and the rights of others, and none more so than the eight immigrant women who are her clients in Doe v. Neveleff.

The Lisa Graybill Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will seek out and represent vulnerable people and unpopular causes during his or her career because the integrity of our justice system depends on it.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2013

Sean Pevsner
Sean Pevsner is a University of Texas Law graduate with severe cerebral palsy who operates a motorized wheelchair by the use of head movements.  Due to his quadriplegia, he cannot write but must rely on an interpreter or a specialized computer to do his work. People underestimated him from the moment that he was born to the present. 

These people said that he could not go to a regular school, much less take mainstream classes such as Latin, English literature and calculus.  Again, he proved them wrong.  His grades were A’s and B’s in these mainstream classes.  At the end of his high school in 1990, the Arlington Independent School District officials projected that he would graduate ahead of their initial plan for his graduation.  Originally, they believed that he would graduate at the age of 22.  He graduated at the age of 19 in the top 20% of his high school class.  Despite all of these achievements, people did not believe that he could attend a major university like the University of Texas at Austin.  At this point, his self advocacy skills automatically went into overdrive whenever someone even mentioned the word “can’t” in the same sentence as his name.

He went on to major in Greek and Latin at UT, while making significant contributions to the university’s community.  The UT Classics Department bestowed on him the WJ Battle Award for excellence in Greek and Latin translation.  He graduated in 1998, receiving several awards for his advocacy and contributions to the university.  Yet, despite these accomplishments, people did not believe that he could go to law school and become a practicing attorney.  Once again,  Sean proved these people wrong by graduating from UT Law School and gaining admittance to Texas State Bar.

Sean worked with Disability Rights Texas, which is a non-profit organization that protects the civil and human rights of Texans with disabilities through a fellowship sponsored by Equal Justice Works.  He assisted people with disabilities in obtaining equal access to education, employment and community services.  Sean complemented Advocacy’s services, not only by providing legal assistance to these individuals, but also by teaching them self-advocacy skills.

As part of his Equal Justice Works fellowship project, Sean created the Flexible Interactive Process Manual to assist both the employer and employee to have a constructive working relationship.  This manual was a part of his Equal Justice Works Project to educate people with disabilities on their rights in the workplace and how they can self-advocate to protect their rights in the community.

Sean's  project has broken new ground in that it focused each of its stages on educating students in those skills.  His project also focused on ensuring the proper implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and assisting students with disabilities in taking advantage of the full benefits of this federal law during their secondary education.  This project also focused on higher education for people with disabilities.  Sean  has shown people with disabilities how to employ the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to ensure their own access to an equal opportunity for higher education.

After leaving Disability Rights Texas, Sean continued to assist others with disabilities.  He has assisted clients with cerebral palsy obtain IDEA services by representing them at school, meetings and negotiating with opposing counsel on their behalf.  At Whitburn & Pevsner, PLLC, Sean has developed a vibrant special education practice and has worked on other aspects of education law, as well as guardianship and other probate proceedings.

The Sean E. Pevsner Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Sean, despite severe physical disabilities, do in the public's interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2013

Doe Plaintiffs

The Doe Plaintiffs are eight immigrant women who fled their home countries to seek asylum in the United States. They fled for different reasons – one to evade her husband’s murderers, another because she was being raped by a military official with impunity, and several to escape partners who raped and beat them and threatened or tried to kill them. They came from countries around the world to the United States with the same hope: that here, they would be safe and free from the violence they experienced in their home countries. Instead, each of the eight Doe Plaintiffs, along with at least two other women, were sexually assaulted by a guard as he transported them from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center to the Austin airport or bus station after they had bonded out of detention.

Sexual assault in prisons and detention facilities is a well-known, well-documented and pervasive problem, and immigrant women are particularly vulnerable. They often do not speak English, they may not have any friends or family members in the United States to whom they could report the abuse, and they are so desperate to stay in the United States, far from the violence perpetrated against them in their home countries, that they are unlikely to report crimes perpetrated against them.  Individuals who abuse immigrants exploit these vulnerabilities.

The contract between the federal government, Williamson County, and the private company that runs the Hutto facility, Corrections Corporation of America, specifically required at least one officer of the same sex escort detainees during transport. Notwithstanding this contractual requirement, a single male officer transported a female detainee on at least 46 occasions during an eight month period while these assaults were taking place. The assaults finally stopped not because any of the authorities responsible for the enforcement of the contract audited the transportation logs or observed and reported the regular violations, but because one of the Doe Plaintiffs had the courage to report what had just happened to her to officials at the Austin Bergstrom Airport, and they in turn notified the police. Without her action, the perpetrator might still be assaulting women today.

Based on the affidavits of several of the Doe Plaintiffs, the guard was subsequently charged with state and federal crimes and pled to a number of the charges. The Doe Plaintiffs were never told that they might be eligible for U visas (a special form of immigration relief available to immigrants who provide information that assists in the prosecution of a crime), were never offered immigration assistance, and were never even told that the perpetrator was arrested, charged, and ultimately convicted.  Indeed, some of the Doe Plaintiffs remained afraid that the perpetrator would hunt them down and retaliate against them for speaking the truth about what he did to them.

The Doe Plaintiffs have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to hold ICE employees, CCA, and Williamson County responsible for failing to protect them and all women similarly situated from these foreseeable and preventable assaults.  These brave women are:

  • Raquel Doe, a 36-year-old mother of four from Guatemala
  • Sarah Doe, a 25-year-old woman from Eritrea who traveled through 9 countries to reach the U.S.
  • Kimberly Doe, a 39-year-old mother of three from Brazil
  • Anna Roe, a 27-year-old mother of three from El Salvador
  • Beth Roe, a 33-year-old woman from Honduras who was raped by the coyote who brought her to the U.S.
  • Constance Roe, a 36-year-old Brazilian woman with two U.S. born children
  • Georgina Roe, a 32-year-old mother of four from Honduras
  • Emily Roe, a 30-year-old mother of three from El Salvador.
           

The Doe Plaintiffs Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will, as a part of their career,  represent clients like them, whose only chance at vindicating their constitutional rights is with the assistance of dedicated public interest and pro bono lawyers.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2013

Paul Riffe

Bringing his talents to Whitburn & Pevsner, PLLC, Paul Aaron Riffe is a lawyer whose experience advocating for himself and others strengthens his ability to represent his clients with diligence, discipline, and integrity.  Born with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, Paul realized at a very young age that his mental ability would be what propelled him through his life and career.  He graduated from public high school and began attending college before the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). During this time in his academic and personal life, Paul faced many obstacles and hindrances when requesting accommodations he needed to forge ahead his educational development and career goals.  He advocated for himself and the right to have the access and opportunities given to others similarly situated in the academic and professional arenas.  Paul graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in Mathematics in 1995.

After college, the focus of Paul’s job was advocacy as well.  Working for the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, Texas, Paul sought to improve the standard of quality in services provided to individuals with disabilities who utilize public transportation.  He researched and evaluated the Authority’s existing services to ensure ADA compliance.  He routinely conducted and assisted with ADA training sessions with both new and existing bus operators.  He also established and maintained networks between the Authority and organizations promoting disability awareness.

After leaving Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Paul attended the University of Texas School of Law.  During this period, he spent significant time refining his research skills as a member of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.  Immediately after receiving his J.D. in 2007, he got his first legal article published in The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review on Minority Issues.

Paul practices family law, criminal law, and litigates in federal and state trial courts.  The firm also benefits from his knowledge of probate law, consumer fraud and personal injury.  He also assists with an on going case on behalf of eight immigrant women suing for sexual assault while in a detention facility.

The Paul Riffe Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Paul, despite severe physical disabilities, do in the public's interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2013

Rebecca Robertson

Rebecca joined the ACLU in July 2011 after a 15-year career as a litigator. Rebecca was a partner in the international law firm Baker Botts, LLP. Her practice focused on complex commercial litigation, and she served as co-chair of the firm’s securities litigation practice group and chair of the firm’s LGBT affinity group. While at Baker Botts, Rebecca helped found the firm’s pro bono committee and led the amicus team working on the landmark civil rights case challenging the Texas sodomy law, Texas v. Lawrence.

Rebecca also helped the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program run legal clinics for poor Houstonians living with HIV/AIDS. She has been recognized by both the Houston Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas for her pro bono service. Rebecca is a graduate of the Harvard Law School, where she served as Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review, and Rice University, where she received her B.A. magna cum laude.

As the Legal and Policy Director, Rebecca leads the ACLU’s legal and legislative teams in Texas, and she advocates on behalf of the ACLU’s thousands of members for policies that protect and promote civil liberties at all levels of government.   She frequently testifies as a constitutional expert before policymakers.   Rebecca's  representative matters include:

  • Halting implementation of Texas's 2011 photo voter ID law
  • Filing amicus brief urging that family of Mexican teenager shot by a border patrol agent should have constitutional remedies
  • Settling class action to end discriminatory racial profiling and asset forfeiture scheme perpetrated by police in east Texas
  • Defending the right of Native American kindergartner in Lubbock to wear long hair as expression of his religious beliefs
  • Advocating before the Texas Attorney General for equal treatment of LGBT government employees
  • Winning the right of atheist lawyers to take state bar oath without references to God
  • Protecting the right of a pregnant woman against coerced cesarean

Rebecca is a member of the leadership team charged with managing and growing ACLU of Texas.  She also supervises legal, policy and advocacy staff and establishes strategic priorities for legal, policy and advocacy programs.  She regularly speaks and writes on constitutional issues. 

The Rebecca Robertson Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Rebecca do in the public's interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2013

Mark Whitburn

Mark Whitburn graduated from Yale University with a BA in Philosophy in 1986.  He then obtained his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998.  While at UT,  Mark won six teaching awards for his classes, including Philosophy of Law, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Art.  He went on to earn his Doctor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago in 2003.  At the University of Chicago, Mark was on Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif.

After graduating from law school, Mark worked for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP.  During his tenure at Gibson Dunn, he worked on complex litigation such as class action and ERISA cases in both federal and state courts around the country.  Mark also distinguished himself as an appellate litigator in the commercial litigation context.  He also took pro bono cases involving civil rights.  For example, in a case in which the State of Texas refused to provide life-sustaining services to an individual with multiple disabilities at his home, Mark won his summary judgment motion in federal court and a permanent injunction ordering the State to provide these necessary services after all.  Mark received the firm’s prestigious Frank Wheat Memorial Award for his victory in this case.  Additionally, Mark drafted an amicus brief for the ACLU of Texas on behalf of a severely disabled individual sentenced to 100 years in prison, contending that the sentence violated the Eighth Amendment.  The sentence was drastically reduced.

Mark left Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in December of 2010 and went on to work with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Texas, where he was a Senior Staff Attorney and managed the organization’s Racial Justice docket.  During his tenure at the ACLU, Mark initiated a lawsuit on behalf of immigrant women who were victims of sexual assault while in the federal government’s custody.  This case garnered considerable national media attention, and members of Congress cited it in the course of admonishing the federal government to improve its efforts in this area.  Mark also took a lead role in a case against a Texas county for failing to conduct indigency hearings before imprisoning teenagers for unpaid fines associated with truancy, a Class C misdemeanor.  Mark was responsible for investigating complaints concerning prison and jail conditions, police misconduct, and school-to-prison pipeline issues across the state of Texas.

At Whitburn & Pevsner, PLLC, Mark works in all practice areas with a focus on commercial litigation, ERISA, and civil rights matters.  He established this firm with his best friend, Sean Pevsner, who he assisted through law school which Sean had undertaken despite severe cerebral palsy and quadriplegia.

The Mark Whitburn Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Mark do in the public's interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2013

2012

Tom Ausley
Tom Ausley is the founding partner in the law firm Ausley, Algert, Robertson & Flores in Austin, Texas.  He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; a Fellow in the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; Board Certified in Family Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization; listed in the Best Lawyers in America, Family Law Section, for over 20 years; and selected by Best Lawyers in 2009 as Austin’s Lawyer of the Year in Family Law.  In 2008, he received the Distinguished Lawyer Award from the Austin Bar Association.  Tom currently serves as Chair of the Family Law Council of the State Bar of Texas.

Tom is a master litigator.  In 2000, he chose to train in the collaborative law process as well, that he might provide an additional option to his clients to resolve their disputes.  Tom’s decades in the practice of family law as well as his practical life experience enable him to help his clients navigate their legal disputes without destroying relationships with children and others.

More importantly, Tom has combined a busy and successful law practice with public service and public interest law.  In 2000, he and his wife, Robbie, co-chaired the Planned Parenthood Choice Project capital campaign, which raised $6.5 million to build a new clinic and education facility in South Austin.  For this effort, they received the Good Guys & Gals Award from the Texas Chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award.  Through his church, Tom has participated in an Appalachia Service Project, Habitat for Humanity, and the Russian Initiative which hosted a summer camp for orphans in Vologda, Russia.  Currently he is involved in “Mobile Loaves and Fishes,” which is an Austin ministry to feed the homeless, and he works on a team that mobilizes United Methodists to create full inclusion regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Tom’s newest public service endeavor is helping with a mission project in Siem Reap, Cambodia, called “Caring for Cambodia,” which provides educational opportunities for Cambodian children so they may reach their highest potential and make valuable contributions to their communities.  He also participates as a volunteer attorney for Austin’s Volunteer Legal Services representing numerous pro bono litigants in family law matters.

The Tom Ausley Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Tom do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2012

James Harrington
Jim Harrington was born in Lansing, Michigan, and received his law degree in 1973 from the University of Detroit, from where he also had earned a Master's degree in philosophy (1969).  After graduation from law school, Jim worked ten years as Director of the South Texas Project in the Rio Grande Valley.  Much of his legal work there involved asserting the rights of farm laborers and poor people, especially Valley colonias.  He handled major lawsuits involving police brutality, grand jury discrimination, and farm worker organizing.  Jim moved to Austin in 1983 to become Legal Director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc., where he litigated ground-breaking cases involving free speech, privacy, and equal rights for farm laborers to worker’s compensation and unemployment benefits.  He also helped organize the East Austin pro bono clinic. 

In 1990, Jim founded the Texas Civil Rights Project, a statewide community-based, non-profit foundation that promotes social, racial, and economic justice and civil liberty, through litigation and public education, for low income and poor persons.  Harrington has handled landmark cases involving privacy, voting rights, free speech and assembly, and the rights of persons with disabilities and overseen the publication of twelve reports on human rights in Texas.   Additionally, Jim helped direct the Americans with Disabilities Act National Backup Center for two years, and traveled to more than twenty states and U.S. territories organizing ADA litigation and enforcement campaigns like those he organized in Texas.  He is a prolific author, including Wrestling with Free Speech, Religious Freedom, and Democracy in Turkey: The Political Trials and Times of Fethullah Gülen; The Texas Bill of Rights: A Commentary and Litigation Manual; “¡Alto a la Impunidad! Is There Legal Relief for the Murders of Women in Ciudad Juárez?”; myriad law review articles; and a wide assortment of op-ed pieces and book reviews.

Jim has been an adjunct professor at University of Texas Law School since 1985 (and also formerly at Saint Mary's University Law School) and teaches undergraduate writing courses in civil liberties and history-making trials.  He has served on human rights delegations to Honduras and Nicaragua (during the contra war), Chile (during Pinochet regime), Israel and Palestinian territories, Guatemala, and México (Chiapas), and visited Turkey as part of an interfaith group.  In Austin, he coordinates the Saturday morning ecumenical Micah 6 food pantry.  He has received numerous awards for his public service and assistance to the poor, including Trial Lawyer of the Year by Trial Lawyers for Public Interest in Washington D.C., the ABA’s Litigation Section Judge John Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award, the Texas Law Fellowships Award for Excellence in Public Interest, the Austin NAACP Public Interest Service Award, and the Individual Achievement Award from the International Association of Human Rights Agencies.   

The Jim Harrington Public Interest Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by Jim and those like him who have dedicated their careers to full time public interest law.  It is also to inspire law students to make pro bono and public interest law a part of all legal careers.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2012

Barbara Hines
Professor Barbara Hines has focused her legal career on advancing the rights of immigrants.  She began the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School in January 1999 and currently serves as its co-director.

Professor Hines has practiced in the field of immigration law since 1975 and is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  She began her career at the Central Texas Legal Aid Society in Austin (now Texas RioGrande Legal Aid), and she opened her private immigration firm in 1981.  From 1991-1994, Professor Hines served as the first Co-Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of Texas, Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, and directed statewide civil rights litigation on behalf of immigrants.

Professor Hines has litigated many cases on behalf of immigrants including Murillo v. Mussegades, 809 F. Supp. 487 (W.D. Tx. 1992), a class action law suit filed by students challenging the enforcement actions of the Border Patrol at Bowie High School, and In Re Hutto Family Detention Center, No. A07-CA-164-55 (W.D. Tx. 2007), that led to the closure of an immigration detention center housing children and their parents near Austin.  She currently represents and advocates for undocumented college “Dream Act” students facing removal.  In 2002, she was named one of the 100 best lawyers in the Texas Lawyer publication.

More importantly, Professor Hines has combined a busy and successful law and academic practice with public service and public interest law.  She was a Fulbright scholar in Argentina in 1996 and focused her research on Argentine immigration law.  She has continued her relationship with the immigrant advocacy community in Argentina and in 2002 helped establish the first immigration clinic in Buenos Aires, sponsored by the University of Buenos Aires, the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, and the Comision Argentina de Refugiados.  She received a second Fulbright award in 2004 and taught a course on U.S. immigration law and policy at the Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Professor Hines has received numerous awards for her work including the 1992 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Jack Wasserman Award for Excellence in Litigation; the 1993 AILA Texas Chapter Litigation Award; the 2002 Texas Law Fellowships Excellence Public Interest Award; the 2007 AILA Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award; the 2008 Ed Wendler/Casa Marianella award; the 2009 MALDEF Excellence in Legal Services Award; and the 2010 National Lawyers Guild Carol King Award.

She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  The most rewarding aspect of her Immigration Clinic position has been mentoring and inspiring the new generation of public interest lawyers committed to furthering social justice.

The Professor Barbara Hines Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Professor Hines do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2012

Mike McKetta
Mike McKetta received his B.A. from Harvard University in 1969 and his J.D. from the University of Texas with high honors in 1977, where he was Order of the Coif and a Chancellor.  With the law firm of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody in Austin, Mike has been trying cases before Central Texas judges and juries since 1982.  Before that he practiced in Washington, D.C. at the firm of Covington and Burling.  In his career, Mike has tried over 70 cases to conclusion.

In 2005, Mike was selected as the Commercial Litigation winner in the Austin Business Journal’s Best of Business Attorneys and Corporate Counsel Awards, and received the Professionalism Award by the Austin Bar Association and The Texas Center for Professionalism and Ethics.  In 2010, the Texas Bar Foundation selected him for the Ronald D. Secrest Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award.  In 2012, the Austin Bar Association selected Mike as one of its Distinguished Lawyers, which recognizes selected attorneys who have practiced for 30 years or more and have significantly contributed to the profession and the community.

Mike is a member of the American Law Institute, a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates.  He also serves as a member of the Disciplinary Committee and the United States Magistrate Judge Selection Committee of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

More importantly, Mike has combined a busy and successful law practice with public service and public interest law.  In 2006, Mike was Course Director of the Texas Trial Academy, which serves as an educational resource to public interest lawyers and which is co-sponsored by the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the American College of Trial Lawyers.  He has served on the boards of the Central Texas Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, the Austin Child Guidance Center, Trinity University, Trinity Episcopal School, St. Stephens Episcopal School, and Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, for which he also provides pro bono legal service to the indigent.  Most recently, he courageously served as a special prosecutor of an appellate judge on behalf of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The Mike McKetta Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Mike do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2012

David Sheppard
David Sheppard received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas.  Admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974, he is Board Certified in Criminal Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization.   David is listed in Best Lawyers in America and Texas Monthly Super Lawyers, and is a recipient of the Texas Center for the Judiciary Distinguished Service Award.  As one of the most respected and sought after criminal defense lawyers in Texas, David maintains an active practice in all Texas State Courts, the U.S. District Courts for the Western, Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  For his professional accomplishments and commitment to ethics, he has been inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.  David received the Austin Young Lawyers’ Association first annual Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award, is a founding member of both the Robert W. Calvert and the Lloyd Lochridge American Inns of Court, and is a founding member of the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and a recipient of its Ambassador Award for Outstanding Service.

More importantly, David has combined a busy and successful law practice with public service and public interest law.  He was an Adjunct Professor of Law for the University of Texas Law School Criminal Defense Clinic from 1985-2002, and, since 2005, for the Actual Innocence Clinic.  Indeed, David is a founding director of the Texas Center for Actual Innocence, which investigates post-conviction claims of actual innocence, with the assistance of U.T. law students.  In 2010, TCAI obtained the release and exoneration of two men who had wrongly spent 12 years in prison for capital murder.  He has served as president of the Austin Bar Association Criminal Law and Procedure Section and Co-Chair of “Legal Build” – a cooperative effort between the Austin Bar Association and Habitat for Humanity.  Most recently he chaired the Merit Selection Panel for a new United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Texas.

The David Sheppard Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like David do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2012

Terry Tottenham
Terry Tottenham has been a partner in the Fulbright & Jaworski Law Firm since 1978 where his practice encompasses product liability, health litigation, toxic tort, pharmaceutical and medical devices, class action and biosciences litigation. He is a registered pharmacist, received his JD with honors from the University of Texas School of Law and an LLM from George Washington University. Terry is certified in Personal Injury and Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and in Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

Terry is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers.  His professional honors include being listed in The Best Lawyers in America; as a “Top 10 Texas Super Lawyer”; in Law Dragon’s Top 500 Lawyers in the U.S.; the Faculty Service Award, University of Texas School of Law; and the State Bar of Texas Gene W. Cavin CLE Excellence Award.  An author of numerous articles, he has given over 300 presentations to lawyers, physicians and other health care providers throughout the United States.

More importantly, Terry has combined a busy and successful law practice with public service and public interest law.  As State Bar President, Tottenham initiated Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, a state-wide coalition of Texas lawyers who provide pro bono legal services to needy veterans and their families. This popular program has been replicated in 13 states and is under consideration in many others. As Chair of the American College of Trial Lawyers Teaching Trial and Appellate Advocacy Committee, he created a CLE program for pro bono and public interest lawyers that is being used throughout the United States and Canada.

Terry serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law for the University of Texas School of Law and Trial Advocacy Instructor for South Texas College of Law, the University of Houston School of Law, and the Texas College of Trial Advocacy.  The Texas Board of Legal Specialization presented Terry the first David Garner Pro Bono Award and he also received the Texas Law Fellowships Excellence in Public Interest Award.

The Terry Tottenham Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Terry do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, April 2012

2011

Julie Clark
Julie Clark is not a lawyer. She is simply one of the most remarkable women you will ever meet who, for 30 years, has made it possible for our nation’s indigent to have legal representation and for lawyers to have public interest law careers.  As Vice President of Strategic Alliances for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, she oversees a national grassroots network, the main purpose of which is to increase annual appropriations for the Legal Services Corporation and to remove onerous restrictions on representation by its grantees.  She also serves as a member of NLADA’s lobbying team and national coalition to preserve and augment funding for the civil legal aid community.

Julie was instrumental in the success of Bar Leaders for the Preservation of Legal Services for the Poor, co-founded by three state bar presidents, Jon Ross, New Hampshire, Mike Greco, Massachusetts, and Bill Whitehurst, Texas.  The result was a nation-wide grassroots organization of bar leaders and lawyers that helped preserve the Legal Services Corporation and legal services for the poor in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when both were at risk during the Reagan Administration.  Through Julie they were provided critical access to Congressional leaders, political testimony before House and Senate committees, and strategic political guidance every step of the way for the Bar Leaders’ efforts.

Intelligent, highly educated and from a background working with Presidents and numerous United States Senators, Julie could have had her selection of prestigious positions in Washington D.C.  Instead, she chose to devote her career and innumerable talents to insuring access to justice for our country’s most vulnerable.  Bar presidents have referred to her as a national treasure, and we are all indebted to the path she chose.

The Julie Clark Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient, inspired by what successful women like Julie do in the public’s interest as an essential part of their career, will make a similar commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, March 2011

Michael S. Greco
Michael S. Greco, former president of the American Bar Association and a business litigation partner with K & L Gates, LLP, in Boston, Massachusetts, who is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, has combined a busy and successful law practice with public service and public interest law.  From the time he was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1972, Mr. Greco has worked to improve access to justice for all in America, particularly for those who are without means or hope.  He has led national and international access to justices entities and, as a leader of the Bar at the state and national levels, has founded organizations and appointed task forces to implement initiatives to improve access to justice.

As President of the Massachusetts Bar Association in 1986, he joined State Bar Presidents Jon Ross of New Hampshire and Bill Whitehurst of Texas as co-founders and, for seven years thereafter, co-chairs of the nation-wide grassroots organization Bar Leaders for the Preservation of Legal Services for the Poor, which helped preserve the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and funding for legal services for the poor in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

During 1987-88, he chaired the first-in-the-nation study of legal needs of the poor – the Massachusetts Legal Needs for the Poor Assessment and Plan for Action – which for the first time reliably documented that eighty percent of the legal needs of the poor go unmet each year.  The resulting Report and Action Plan helped persuade Congress to increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation and led other state bars and the ABA to conduct similar legal needs assessment studies.

As American Bar Association President during 2005-06, he appointed the ABA Task Force on Access to Civil Justice whose Report and Recommendations led the ABA unanimously to adopt policy in support of a publicly-funded civil right to counsel (or “Civil Gideon”) for poor persons in civil proceedings that involve basic human needs such as shelter, health, child custody, safety and sustenance.

Mr. Greco currently is Co-Chair of the ABA Center for Human Rights, which leads the ABA’s efforts nationally and internationally to protect human rights, civil liberties and civil rights, and Chair of the ABA Working Group on a Civil Right to Counsel, which is assisting jurisdictions to implement the civil right to counsel.

The Michael S. Greco Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that its recipient, inspired by what successful lawyers do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, will make a similar career commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, March 2011

Dicky Grigg
If Dicky Grigg were writing this profile he would say:

Dicky Grigg received his undergraduate degree from Texas Tech in 1970, but could not get into Tech Law School.  He swallowed his pride, took second best, and attended law school at the University of Texas, graduating in 1973.  Mr. Grigg is board certified in Car Wrecks and Sore Backs and has dedicated his legal career to determining which car entered the intersection first.”

Of course, little is accurate in that description and belies a career as one of Texas’ most colorful and successful trial lawyers.  Starting as an assistant District Attorney in Lubbock County, he practices personal injury trial law in Austin with his firm, Spivey and Grigg, LLP.         

A fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers (President), the American Board of Trial Advocates (Texas Chapter) Trial Lawyer of the Year, listed in the Best Lawyers in America, and recipient of the Austin Bar Association’s Distinguished Lawyer Award, the State Bar of Texas’ Leon Jaworski Award for Law Teaching Excellence and the Luther Soules Award for Excellence in Litigation, Dicky has truly distinguished himself.  However, he would tell you, this time accurately, that his public service and pro bono work is what has defined his career.

Dicky volunteered to represent three Guantanamo detainees.  In each case he has filed habeas corpus petitions in their behalf in federal court in Washington D. C., made several trips to GITMO in Cuba, appeared at hearings and status conferences in D. C., and expended almost $50,000 of his own money primarily on travel and interpreters.  His first two clients were eventually released, and the third is now being represented by military attorneys before the Military Commission.  Speaking on his experiences, Dicky points out that “it is not about the detainees, it is about the rule of law.”  This work has been balanced by assisting U. S. military veterans pro bono on disability appeals as part of a State Bar of Texas initiative.  Additionally, for ten years he taught peer mediation training to students at a Austin middle school for which he received the State Bar President’s Award for Mediators Achieving Peace.

The Dicky Grigg Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient, inspired by what successful lawyers like Dicky do in the public’s interest as an essential part of their careers, will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, March 2011

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross is a highly regarded practicing lawyer with Wiggin & Nourie, P.A., specializing in family law, domestic relations, litigation.  As a student at Georgetown University Law Center, he worked for the Neighborhood Legal Services program in Washington, D. C., the precursor to the Legal Services Corporation.  He also volunteered with the Georgetown Legal Aid Program working on criminal defense matters for indigents.  While getting his LLM at Harvard Law School he volunteered as a prosecutor in the municipal courts where he observed the overwhelming workload of public defenders representing the indigent.  These experiences inspired him to a career-long commitment to pro bono representation and public interest law.

In 1985-86, Jon served as President of the New Hampshire Bar Association.  He joined with State Bar Presidents, Mike Greco of Massachusetts and Bill Whitehurst of Texas, as co-founders and for seven years after co-chairs of Bar Leaders for the Preservation of Legal Services for the Poor.  The result was a nation-wide grassroots organization of bar leaders and lawyers that helped preserve the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and legal services for the poor in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, when both were at risk during the Reagan Administration.

Jon went on to chair the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants as well as the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.  He also served on the ABA’s Task Force on Hurricane Katrina.  In his honor, the New Hampshire Bar Association has established the “L. Jonathan Ross Award for Outstanding Commitment to Legal Services for the Poor” which is given annually at their mid-year meeting.

The Jonathan Ross Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient, inspired by what successful lawyers like Jon do in the public’s interest as an essential part of their career, will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, March 2011

Broadus Spivey
Most would agree that lawyers who were born, raised, educated and practiced in West Texas are unique. All would agree that one of the most unique from that group is Broadus Spivey.  Recognized as being among the leading lawyers in America, starting out in a county attorney office and transferring to a plaintiffs personal injury practice early in his career, Broadus at the age of 74, is still in his office around 5:00 a.m. every day representing clients and trying lawsuits.

Along the way Broadus has balanced his busy trial practice with public service as president of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Trial Layers Association and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.  From 1965 to the present, he has hired over 200 law students as law clerks in his office providing them an apprenticeship similar to that for law students in England, for which he was recognized as the Austin Young Lawyers Association Mentor of the Year for 2009.  His pro bono representation started early on with a will for a senior citizen who wanted to leave her meager estate to her church, continued with the ACLU representing a woman who was jailed for writing a letter critical of Roberts County officials, the State Bar prosecuting “ambulance chasing”, the Judges of the State of Texas against the Texas Legislature to obtain funding for state courts, a soldier against a bank who foreclosed on his farm while he was fighting “Desert Storm”, and untold  others along the way.

Broadus’ practice, both pro bono and fee cases, has always been fueled by the challenge of the legal issues involved and the desire to seek justice for his clients.  After trying over 375 jury trials and over 300 speeches given and articles written, and a 49 year career full of public service, Broadus remains the quintessential Atticus Finch lawyer of our time.

The Broadus Spivey Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient, inspired by what successful lawyers like Broadus do in the public’s interest as an essential part of their career, will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, March 2011

Vicki Touchet
Vicki Touchet has had three careers¾one as a school teacher, one as a paralegal, and one as a lawyer.  With a Masters in English she taught 7th, 8th, and 9th, grade English and History in the Beaumont and Austin Independent School Districts from 1986-1978.  Wanting to explore a career in law, she became a paralegal from 1978 to 1983. At the age of 40, having “raised a husband and three children”, with one still in high school, she entered the University of Houston Law School.  Commuting to Houston for two years while maintaining her family and home in Austin, Vicki finished her final year at the University of Texas Law School becoming a licensed lawyer in 1986.  She brought to the practice the maturity and judgment often missing from those who attend law school immediately after their undergraduate degree. She also brought a desire for public interest law inherited, no doubt, from her history professor father, a true Texas populist.

Vicki first worked with a sole practitioner in general civil law with an emphasis on family law. For four years she worked as an assistant director for the University of Texas Legal Services for Students office.  Always maintaining a pro bono docket, she began devoting full time to Volunteer Legal Services representing petitioners in contested divorce cases and supervising a clinic for pro se petitioners pursuing uncontested divorces.  In 2002 she pioneered the first office in the Travis County Courthouse to assist pro se litigants in uncontested family law matters, working for seven years with judges and the family law bar to assure its success.

Governor Ann Richards often noted that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.  Vicki Touchet, the recipient of numerous pro bono awards including a commendation for service on behalf of elderly and disabled citizens of Travis County and a member of the Pro Bono College of the State Bar of Texas, is the lawyer equivalent of Ginger Rogers.

The Victoria Touchet Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient, inspired by what successful lawyers like Vicki do in the public’s interest as an essential part of their career, will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, March 2011

2010

Chip Brees
Eugene W. (Chip) Brees graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1976.  He practiced almost 26 years as a defense lawyer with Thompson & Knight in Dallas and Austin, handling insurance defense and personal injury cases, including medical negligence, drug and chemical liability, toxic tort, and product liability, in addition to complex business litigation.  For the last eight years, he has been on the plaintiff’s side of the docket as a trial lawyer with Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees & Cheng, P.C., in Austin.

Chip has been named as one of the Best Lawyers in Austin and as a Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly magazine.  He is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America.  He was selected as a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates and inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.  Chip is Board Certified in Personal Injury Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

More importantly, Chip is an example of one who has kept public service and public interest law as a significant element in his everyday life.  He maintains a pro bono docket working with the Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas to assist our indigent population.  He has given freely of his legal expertise to his church where he has served as Chair of his Church Council, Chair of Deacons, and on numerous committees.  He did the same for the public schools his children attended and, along with his wife, Amy, raised three great children.  He served as a member of the Paramount Theater Producers and has been active in the Miracle Foundation, which sponsors orphanages in India.

Although Chip has become most well-known lately as Father of the 2010 Super Bowl MVP, New Orleans Saints Quarterback, Drew Brees, he was himself honored by the Austin Young Lawyers Association Foundation as the 2006 Outstanding Mentor of the Year.

The Chip Brees Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Chip do in the public’s interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, May 2010

Michelle Cheng
Michelle Cheng received her undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering in 1992 from the University of Michigan and worked in Austin as a design engineer before getting her law degree from the University of Texas Law School.  She practices plaintiff’s trial and appellate law and is also a certified mediator.  The Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association awarded her its Litigation Award in 2004, she received the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Austin Award in 2006, and she is listed as a Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly magazine.

Most importantly, Michelle balances a busy private law practice with a serious dedication to public service and public interest law.  She has served seven years, including two years as Chair, on the Advisory Board of the Capital Area AIDS Legal Project, a project that provides free legal services to low-income persons affected by HIV/AIDS.  She also served three years, including one as Chair, on the State Bar of Texas’ Client Security Fund, a fund that assists clients who have lost money or property as a result of an attorney’s dishonest conduct.  In addition, she serves alongside public volunteers on the State Bar of Texas District 9A Grievance Committee, co-chaired the Austin Bar Association’s Katrina Relief Committee, serves as a volunteer for the Travis County Law Library Pro Se Divorce Reference Attorneys, co-chaired both the Community Service and Legal Services for the Poor committees for the Austin Young Lawyers Association, and was recently appointed to the Texas Access to Justice Commission.  Michelle also assists with her firm’s pro bono docket, including the representation of an indigent death row inmate on a post-conviction federal appeal.  She recently completed a three-year term on the board of Directors for the State Bar of Texas and is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Austin.

The Michelle Cheng Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Michelle do in the public’s interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, May 2010

Tom Harkness
After graduating from the Air Force Academy, Tim Harkness attended the University of Texas Law School, where he served on the Law Review, was Order of the Coif and Order of the Barristers, and graduated with honors in 1971.  He began his private practice in San Francisco.  In 1978, he joined Mack Kidd and Bill Whitehurst in Austin to form the firm Kidd, Whitehurst & Harkness (now Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees & Cheng), where he has practiced for 32 years.

Tom is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.  He has been selected as one of the Best Lawyers in Austin and as a Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly magazine.  He is also listed in the publication The Best Lawyers in America.  Tom has been inducted as a fellow in both the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.  He specializes in product liability, natural gas explosions, aviation litigation, and complex general negligence law, and he has obtained the largest product liability verdict in Travis County.  Tom just completed a case where he successfully represented the families of fourteen soldiers who died in a helicopter crash in Iraq caused by negligent maintenance.

More importantly, Tom has combined a busy and successful law practice with public service and public interest law.  For seven years, he shared his legal expertise on the board of Austin Children’s Museum, serving one year as its President.  For four years, with one year as President, he served as a Trustee for the American Board of Trial Advocates Foundation, which funds and maintains a national education program promoting our jury system.  As a part of Austin Samaritans, Tim recently traveled to Managua, Nicaragua to help build homes for young women who grew up literally in a trash dump and had turned to prostitution.  He also volunteered to teach at the Lagarski Law School in Warsaw, Poland to further the rule of law.  As do all lawyers in his firm, Tom also handles pro bono cases for the indigent in Austin.

The Tom Harkness Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by what successful lawyers like Tom do in the public interest as an essential part of their career, and will make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, May 2010

Eden Harrington
Eden Harrington serves as Assistant Dean of Clinical Education & Public Service, Director of the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, and as a Clinical Professor at the University of Texas Law School.  She teaches a seminar on Public Service Lawyering and internship courses linked to non-profit organizations, government agencies, and legislative offices.  A graduate of Rice University and Columbia Law School, she epitomizes the lawyer who has chosen public interest law as a career path.  Eden is largely responsible for redirecting virtually every aspect of the Law School to include public interest law such that it is becoming an essential part of the school’s national reputation and identity.

Prior to joining the faculty in 2000, Eden taught clinics and served as Director of Public Interest Programs at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio.  She previously worked for nine years (including as Executive Director) with the Texas Resource Center, a federally-funded community defender organization representing death-sentenced inmates in post-conviction appeals.  She also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Fifth Circuit Death Penalty Project, Texas Rural Legal Aid, and the Medicare Advocacy Project in Los Angeles.

Eden has had a profound influence on lawyers and law students over many years.  The Eden Harrington Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by Eden’s remarkable career and dedication, and make the same commitment whether as a full-time professional or part-time volunteer. 

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, May 2010

Mack Kidd
The Kenneth Malcolm “Mack” Kidd (1941-2005) was an extremely bright, naturally talented and highly accomplished trial lawyer.  At the peak of his career, he chose to serve the public full-time and was elected to the Court of Appeals, Third District of Texas, where he served unopposed for fourteen years.  He set the standard for practicing law and for public service.

Mack earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas and later founded the firm known then as Kidd, Doggett & Jacks and later as Kidd, Whitehurst, Harkness & Watson.  Many of his partners developed into eminent lawyers, including a U.S. Congressman, State Senator and Texas Supreme Court Justice, a mayor of Austin, a president of the State Bar of Texas, three presidents of the Texas Trial lawyers Association, and three chairs of the Travis County Democratic Party.  All were active in providing legal services to the poor through organizations devoted to pro bono activities and equal access to justice, as well as giving time, talent, and money to numerous non-profit organizations.

Known for his great competitive spirit, Mack was a passionate advocate for the American jury system.  He bonded with clients as most lawyers never could, which allowed him to be highly effective in the courtroom.  He served as President of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and Chair of the Travis County Democratic party. 

Justice Kidd exemplified what the University of Texas Law School tries to instill in every graduate: public service should be a part of every lawyer’s career, whether as a full-time professional or a part-time volunteer.  The Mack Kidd Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by Mack’s life and career to make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, May 2010

Scott Ozmun
Scott Ozmun was only 50 years old when he died from cancer.  He was a highly respected and very successful trial lawyer who, shortly before his death, entered full-time public service as a State District Court Judge.

Scott attended Georgetown University, where he served as student body president, and attended the University of Texas Law School, where he served on the Law Review, was a member of the Order of the Coif and the Order of Barristers, and graduated with honors in 1985.  He worked as a briefing attorney for Justice William Kilgarlin of the Texas Supreme Court.   Scott then spent 21 years with his firm, which included UT Law graduates Bill Whitehurst, Tom Harkness, Mack Kidd, Chip Brees, and Michelle Cheng, specializing in plaintiffs’ product liability, medical malpractice, and catastrophic personal injury law.  One of the last cases Scott tried resulted in an $8.7 million verdict for his client.  In addition, he obtained one of the largest civil rights settlements in the nation.

Scott was Board Certified in Personal Injury Law and in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He was named a Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly magazine and was listed in the publication, Best Lawyers in America.

At the time of his death, Scott was President-elect of the Austin Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and was on the Board of Directors of the Austin Bar Association.  He had also served as president of the Board of Volunteer Legal Services, the Legal Aid Society of Central Texas, and the Austin Young Lawyers Association.  In 1999, he received the J. Chrys Dougherty Award for his dedication to legal services for the poor.

Although his life was cut far too short, Scott exemplified what the University of Texas Law School tries to instill in every graduate: public service should be a part of every lawyer’s career, whether as a full-time professional or a part-time volunteer.  The Scott Ozmun Public Interest Law Fellowship is awarded in hopes that the recipient will be inspired by Scott’s life and career to make the same commitment.

Bill and Stephanie Whitehurst, May 2010

 

 

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