Every other year, the Texas Legislature meets to take on the State’s challenges. Few people follow that process more closely that Jerry Bullard of Adams, Lynch, and Loftin. Jerry’s years of experience and newsletter keep legal practitioners throughout the state on top of bills and laws that affect the way they practice. In his spare time, Jerry also chairs the State Bar Appellate Section. This week, he talks to Todd Smith and Jody Sanders about bills and potential legislative issues affecting legal practice and gives insight on what we might see this session.
Listen to the podcast here:
Prelude to the 87th Texas Legislature | Jerry Bullard
Our guest is a name that may be familiar to a lot of you, particularly those who follow his email updates about the Texas Legislature every two years. It’s Jerry Bullard from Adams, Lynch & Loftin in the DFW area. Jerry, thanks for joining us.
I’m happy to do it. I’m honored that you’ve asked.
Jerry is both a legislative expert and an appellate lawyer. He does both things very well. Jerry, for those who don’t know you or maybe don’t follow your emails, or follow and don’t know much, tell us about your background, how you got to where you are, and what you do?
When the legislature’s not in session, my real job is a civil appellate practitioner. I’ve been practicing law since 1991. It’s hard to believe that I’m almost 30 years into this gig as a lawyer. Somewhere along the line–and I can go into that in more detail if anyone is interested in that sort of thing–I took a turn towards the legislature. I’ve been a civil appellate lawyer like you two since about 1995, when I started to move into a specialty area such as appellate law. I’ve been doing that ever since. I don’t hop around a whole lot. I’ve been with my current firm since 2006. I moved this direction after tort reform took a turn and after being a civil defense lawyer and insurance defense lawyer for years. I went away from that, started to specialize in an appellate practice, and started doing a lot of other things too that aren’t litigation-related. But I still continue to practice appellate law and love it.
The legislative stuff is somewhat of a hobby. It is also what I consider to be a form of public service because I don’t get paid to do any of this. I just track legislation for civil trial, appellate lawyers and judges. I’m not sure why I’m wired that way but I enjoy doing it. I hope the updates that everyone receives are helpful. They’re nonpartisan and I try to keep it that way so it reaches a wider audience. I think people appreciate me not calling balls and strikes and just presenting information and people can take it and do whatever they want. I don’t know if that answered the question about me but that’ll get us started anyway.
From my personal perspective, your emails are super helpful because they do. They break down, “Here’s what’s going on in the legislature.” You don’t put a spin on it. “Here’s what’s happening. Here’s where these bills are. Here’s what they’re about. Here’s where they are in the process and things you need to know.” This is a fantastic resource because, as I know you know, trying to get that information on every individual bill does take a lot of time and effort even though we have a good legislative website to track that stuff. How did you get interested in following the Legislature?
The tort reform effort in the early 2000s—HB 4, which everybody in the profession knows it as– crept up on a lot of us at think–at least for me since I was not paying attention) and it was a significant change to my practice area. Since that happened, I thought, “I need to start paying attention to what the legislature is doing.” I don’t have the stroke to make changes or know the right people (at least I didn’t at that time) but I thought, “I could be more involved.” An opportunity came up– Jody, I don’t remember if you were practicing at Kelly Hart in 2004, that may have been right before your arrival there.
It’s right before I started.
In March of 2004, the Tarrant County Bar Appellate Section had a luncheon. I was chair of the section that particular year. We had former Chief Justice, Linda Thomas, come to speak to our Bar about issues that were going to be affecting the judiciary that was coming up in 2005. At the forefront of that effort was going to be a judicial pay raise, which they eventually received during that session. She came and spoke to our section and made a comment that, in addition to what they were going to be looking for or what the judiciary was going to be dealing with and looking for help on, she wanted lawyers to help disseminate information to members of the bar to help spread the word about what was going to be coming down the pike in the next session.
Silly me, I said, “Judge, I’d love to help. I don’t know what I can do, but I’d like to help.” She said, “I can use you.” So, what I started doing then was tracking those specific initiatives that were going to be dealt with that next session. It’s evolved into what it is now–from being a local thing in Tarrant County and Dallas County and that area to more of a statewide database or distribution list to what it is now. I guess I can either blame or bless Justice Thomas for getting me involved in this. I enjoy doing it. And I’ll continue to do it until someone tells me to go away.
You mentioned House Bill 4. Were you doing med-mal defense work back around 2003?
No. We had a couple of cases, but it was primarily routine auto accidents, construction accidents, things along those lines. HB 4’s focus point was MedMal at that point in time, but it filtered into other areas. That spurred me on.
I’ve always been impressed at the depth with which you’re able to cover a different piece of the legislation and doing it not only in that depth but tracking bills as they go, even from the earliest stages when they first come in. We generally get wind of things that might be coming down the pike in the Legislature. Your reports are real good. You identify what’s coming and then you track it all the way through to when things are passed and signed by the governor. There are few people whose judgment I rely on. I rely a lot on Steve Hayes to tell me about Error Preservation. You’re up there in the Steve Hayes stratosphere when it comes to legislative issues, so I’ll all compliment you there. That really is a great service that you provide. I can’t imagine who else would come to mind when someone talks about, “What’s going on with this bill? He better call Jerry Bullard. He probably knows off the top of his head.”
I appreciate that. I’ve gotten to the point where if I don’t know about it, I can usually find out fairly quickly and that helps.As practitioners, we can still chime in whenever the judiciary needs help. Click To Tweet
These are emails that you send out and you maintain an Outlook distribution list. How are you tracking these?
It’s a dual-track thing. I’ve got an Outlook, old-fashioned email format but I’ve also moved over to another platform, Mailchimp, that allows me to get to more people without having to deal with a lot of spam filters and the like. Between those two platforms, it goes to about 500 to 600 people that I know of directly, and then I’ve been told it gets disseminated to different groups and different people. I know it reaches a lot of people but I maintain that list as I go. Whoever wants to be added, can be added. It doesn’t have to be lawyers. I’ve got judges and legislative staffers on there who rely on it because they can’t keep track of everything either. I’ve been told they enjoy it. It’s a big list but I’m still trying to improve on the product though because it gets lengthy. I try to create links and make them user-friendly. It’s easier said than done because I’m the only one doing it.
If somebody wants to get on that list, what’s the best way to do it?
Someone can send an email to my work address, which is JDB@All-LawFirm.com or I’ve got a personal one that I still give out. It’s J.Bullard1@Verizon.net. If anybody wants to shoot me an email, they can do that or, if the Mailchimp version gets circulated around, some folks get it and I’ve noticed people have been subscribing through that feature too.
We covered the creation of the list and how you go about it. That’s got to take an immense amount of time to do that. I can only imagine.
It has gotten a little bit easier. Jody alluded to it earlier, but the Texas Legislature has a website and you can track bills that way if someone wants to do it, by clicking on particular bills they want to follow. Once you figure out that process, it’s easy to do. There are a lot of late nights and weekends that I’ve spent putting those things together, and a lot of phone calls during the week, but once you get into the rhythm, it’s not too difficult. It’s just a lot of work. Not pat myself on the back here, but it’d be nice to have some people to help. I’ve had few people who offered to and they start to, but they kind of say, “Well, I can’t do that.” Hopefully, I’ll find someone to pass the baton to at some point whenever I decide to give it upp.
Hopefully, by saying that here on our show, you’ve brought some interest.
Feel free to jump in. The water is warm.
One thing I wanted to say before we got too far into the actual legislative issues is that we’re anticipating that this is going to be a two-part episode. This one is a prologue to the 87th Legislative session. We anticipate bringing you back when the session is over. I’m not going to make any firm predictions but maybe we can discuss some things here and when we’re done, the second time around we’ll get the debriefing of what happened.
I’m happy to do that. Generally speaking, there are about 7,000 bills that are filed each session. I scan each one that comes in. Sometimes I don’t look past the captions because you have to make sure the caption matches what the substance of the bill is, and I may want to keep track of those bills, so I’ll follow them after that process. By the end of the session, we’ll have about 1,500 bills that actually pass. A lot of those that start out at the beginning will fall by the wayside because, asa lot of folks like to say, “It’s easier to kill a bill than to pass one.” Hopefully, depending on what it is, there’ll be something to track and talk about at the end of the session too. There are always lots of interesting stories. We’ll see what happens.
What are the areas that you typically focus on when you’re looking through bills and the things that you’d like to track?
I’m looking primarily at bills that affect civil trial lawyers, appellate lawyers and judges. I’m looking at things that deal with civil litigation. Last session, the Texas Citizens Participation Act was a hot topic. When that one was coming down the pike, I got an advance notice on a couple of those bills, but those are the things I’m looking for. Anything that impacts our practice area as civil trial lawyers, appellate lawyers and judges, I’m looking for. If there are some things that affect lawyers in general, like during the last session we had people that were advocating having a fast pass through all the courthouses across the state. Things like that I’m looking for too. Things that I think might appeal to practitioners like us. There’ll be some bills I’ll throw into from time to time that I think might be of interest. This session we’re going to have a lot of COVID related bills. There’s going to be some limitation on liability legislation filed to deal with that. So, I’ll be keeping track of those. Separation of powers issues, like how the governor can decide whether or not to declare an emergency situation.
That doesn’t affect us day-to-day, at least as practitioners necessarily, but as you all both know, when that happens then that triggers other things happening, such as the Supreme Court having authority to start modifying or suspending rules and things along those lines–things that may not jump out at us as being practitioner/civil trial/ or appellate related, but I’ll keep track of those sorts of things too. And that’s going to be a big topic in this session–the coronavirus, budgets and redistricting at different levels. We may have a special session to deal solely with redistricting because I can’t see how that’s going to get done during the 140 days, whatever that timeframe is, during the regular session to get that accomplished, plus to deal with everyday stuff that people want to get passed through the legislative process.
It sure seems like COVID is going to dominate at least in the beginning and probably much longer. You reminded me about Judge Howell when he was on our show. He talked about how people forget that little things like these emergency orders are what allow the courts to proceed in remote proceedings. If there’s going to be some permanent fix to this, then it’s going to have to be legislative which will be an interesting thing to be on the lookout for.
You’re right. There’ll be legislation to deal with it from a statutory standpoint but there’s also going to be budget issues that we’re going to have to deal with to fund some of those operations. The Judicial Council has passed resolutions wanting the Legislature to make sure there are sufficient funds to be able to continue with remote hearings in the future and security issues dealing with, not only just access to the courtrooms, but health protections and things like that. That’s going to be something I’ll be tracking too because it impacts what we do.
We don’t think about the additional expenses that are going to come along with making jury trials safe again. I assume that the plexiglass and so forth that’s been installed in courtrooms, although nobody’s been in courtrooms very much. I know that there has been some of that undertaken. There are going to be some budgetary needs to try and accommodate what we think we need to do to get juries back in the courtroom.
You’re right. In addition to that, because of the shutdown of businesses and the oil and gas industry, all those things impact what the state’s revenue stream is. We’ve all heard about potential issues with budget cuts that are affecting every government agency and every branch of government, including the judiciary which could end up affecting the court’s operations in terms of having to cut staff. Things along those lines that, since I’ve started doing this, I have a new appreciation for. Some of the things that we don’t see happen when we go into a courtroom, like staff being able to keep the courts functioning. It’s staff attorneys and clerks. We’re talking about the people.
Our judiciary already operates on a slim budget. It’s not like there’s a lot of fat to trim anyway. It means you have to start cutting people, unfortunately.
That’s a dangerous area to get into. I know that the courts were told like every other state agency that they had to cut their budgets by 5% or whatever the percentages were. When you talk about, you don’t have much overhead other than staff costs, how to do that in a court system, the necessary result of that if it goes through and there’s not going to be appropriation is that the work of the court suffers and the public suffers from things being slowed down. There are ramifications to it that go far beyond just telling a state agency cut your budget 5%.
That’s right. One thing I’ve also learned since I started paying attention to this process is that there’s still a struggle between the legislative branch and the judiciary when it comes to funding and, what you had talked about, Jody, with the portion of the budget being so small for the judiciary compared to the rest of the budget. It’s been disappointing to me, at least when I first started–there’s a good relationship between the judiciary and the legislature now from my r perspective–But when I first started doing this, was seeing that there was still somewhat of a level of –disrespect is not the right word, but a thought that you’re the least important branch of government here, so “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit,” like what I tell my kids. That’s still the mentality that the legislature has had in the past toward the judiciary, but that’s improved from my standpoint since I’ve started paying attention. Maybe I’m just misreading the tea leaves on that front, but it’s still something, as practitioners, we can still chime in on whenever the judiciary needs help. And we can chime in with people that we know, by phone calls we can make to people that we know can make a difference. Those are things that we can do. That’s one thing I like about what I’m doing with the legislative stuff– is trying to educate people on that front too, and not just about legislation that affects what they do but also how what the legislature does from a budget standpoint affects what we do.
It also helps to be reminded of what that whole process is like. In the legislative process, as you have pointed out, there are a lot of bills that don’t get passed. And what I do like about your reports especially when you’ve noted that something’s gone to committee and the committee versions of things are being worked out. Being able to get a sense of what might make it. Often you see things, they get introduced that you feel like, “Maybe that seems a good idea but the politics of the time or whatever are not going to allow that to get pushed through.” And so often that turns out to be true. It’s nice to see the fruit of your work when something gets pushed through. The words you usually use are, “Bills sent to the Governor.” You can see what’s about to happen almost in real-time because your updates are so frequent when things get to that point.
What’s going on with the judicial selection this session? I know we had the commission that was appointed, met, and came up with some findings. What do you see on the horizon there?
In the past several sessions, there have been bills that have been proposed that have sought to change how our judges are selected. Every time one has been filed, it’s been, “That’s nice. Let’s have a discussion,” but it’s not going to go anywhere because the political will doesn’t exist to change the way we do it. Then you add in this layer of, “You’re wanting to change the system now because your side is losing. Let’s talk about changing it whenever your side is not losing and maybe we’ll listen.” Well, when that time comes, you’ll hear the same thing because someone else will be losing. But last session, as you know, as your referred to earlier, there was a commission on judicial selection appointed. They went through the process of studying all these different systems. The report came out on December 18th, where they essentially had 8 of the 7 members say, “We think we need to move away from partisan judicial elections.”
And you had seven who said, “No, let’s keep it the way that it is.” Seven of those who wanted to “keep it the way it is” included some powerful legislators. I don’t think anybody, even those who think we need to change, expects any changes to occur in terms of how we select judges this session. When you put on top of that this whole COVID thing, the budget, and everything else we’re going through, it’s going to be a low priority item from a legislative standpoint. However, what the commission did say–and I think it was near unanimous– is that we need to look at judicial qualifications—i.e., what qualifications do we want to put on our trial judges, our appellate judges, etc. before they can be appointed, run or however they get to that spot–they want to be able to deal with that issue. I’m not sure how far it’s going to go, but we will see some legislation dealing with judicial qualifications. There was another item that they talked about–they talked about looking at rule changes to regulate the role of money in our judicial campaigns and election process. Those rules are tweaked all the time. I don’t know what they have in mind, but I think we may see something there that’ll get a whole lot further down the trail than changing the way we select judges. I don’t know that that change is going to come in my lifetime. I guess it could, but I don’t see any major changes to that, but things like qualifications–and, once again, bills get proposed every session dealing with qualifications too but they don’t get too far down the trail–but who knows here? There’s some interest there and there’s across–the-aisle interest to make something like that happen. I would expect to see that issue make some progress. We’ll see if anything comes out of it.
That seemed like a fairly decent compromise position to take because even here on our show, Justice Green came on and as he was leaving the bench and decried the whole system of money going into judicial elections. Justice Benavides came on and said, “It would be wrong to pick our judges any other way.” I suspect that they would both agree with something to do with qualifications being flushed out and also something to do with money. It’s hard to argue with the idea that we’re in a democracy. The will of the people ought to be how are some of our elected officials are chosen, including judges, but those seem like the two real sticking points that the commission has addressed that might help get us through a lower priority item the session overall, but some of those items wouldn’t necessarily be as controversial as trying to revamp the whole system.
It’ll become controversial when you start putting meat on the bones as to what those qualifications ought to be. Board certification was talked about, but that’s not going to get too far because there are good judges who were never board-certified. Years of service and years of practice, I could see that becoming an issue and could get addressed because of what we experienced in the Dallas County sweeps and in Harris County. I’m not sure about Travis County but you’ve had some judges that have come in that were just barely across the line in terms of being qualified under state law to be judges and some of them don’t have any experience in the practice areas that their courts are most likely going to see. They’re good people and, hopefully, there’ll be great judges, but learning on the job is a tough thing to do.Always show the staff the respect they deserve because they're hard-working folks. Click To Tweet
Learning on the job with no staff. We’ve seen appellate judges take the bench with little to no appellate experience but they’ve got appellate experts in the office next door helping them do the job. This is a different situation.
True. In Tarrant County, there’s not a staff attorney system at the trial court level. They hire interns to help them from time to time, but they don’t have that support. Harris and Dallas may have a little bit of a system there, but I don’t know. Those will be some things that’ll be talked about and they’ll make some headway. I don’t know how much.
What are some other things that appellate civil practitioners ought to keep their eyes out for?
We will see some attempt to deal with courthouse access for attorneys. I know the bill proposed last session didn’t get too far. There was a good compromise at some point for the State Bar to maybe have some input on who gets that access. Once again, you got to coordinate with local law enforcement, security in all different counties and different areas to see if that gets anywhere. I would think we might see a bill filed there. I don’t know exactly how far that might go. From an appellate standpoint, one bill to keep an eye on is one filed by Representative King, HB 339 dealing with the composition of court of appeals districts. The original bill filed dealt with overlapping jurisdictions and to remove overlapping jurisdictions in the Texarkana, Tyler, and Dallas courts of appeals districts.
I’ve been told that’s a placeholder bill for a likely larger redistricting effort amongst the courts of appeals. What that looks like? No one knows yet. I’ve been told about a few different people that there’s an interest in doing that this session. For appellate lawyers, it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out because it would probably involve a reduction in the number of appellate court justices and jurisdiction. So, there’ll be winners and losers. Every time that’s been attempted in the past, it’s been able to be held off by the legislators who have an interest in maintaining a court of appeals in their town. That’s something to take a look at and to keep an eye on because it will become a little bit more than just removing a few counties from appellate districts. That’s one thing I know all three of us will be interested in.
There’s been a bill filed dealing with the practice of law and law licenses–anti-discrimination- type bills for lawyers who may want to exercise some sort of constitutional right, religious freedom issues, or whatever the case may be, that action can’t be taken against their law license because of that. That was a bill filed by Representative Perry. He’s not a lawyer, but I understand he’s got an interest in that issue. From a lawyer standpoint, anything that affects our license, we want to know about. That’ll be something that we’ll have to keep an eye on. Those are the main ones that jumped out at me.
Other than that–we already talked about judicial selection—but at one time we thought we may hear again about the business court bill (the chancery court bill), which would create a whole new trial court system for business disputes and a whole new court of appeals for business disputes. There was some talk that it may find its way back into the legislative process in 2021. I’m not sure if that’s going to get too far because of everything else going on, but we could still see something along those lines that impacts what we do on a daily basis.
Those are the bills that I think of that jump out at me that affect what we do. There are a couple of bills filed that deal with medical expenses and how you recover those. One is a “paid and incurred” bill on steroids. It is HB 207 and covers bout when you can recover medical expenses and provides different methods of trying to figure out how that’s calculated. That bill was filed by Senators Schwertner, Buckingham, and Campbell–all physicians; all Republicans. The Senate is still in the control of the Republican Party. Things like that could make their way down the trail. A little bit further than it otherwise would have.
Are you hearing anything about any further efforts to reign in the TCPA? There were some people that proclaimed what happened in the session as being a good thing by narrowing the scope of the statute but then other people were saying, “That’s great but it didn’t go far enough.” I’m curious if your ear to the ground is getting anything on that.
I hear those rumbles too—rumbles or grumbles or whatever you want to call them. I’ve not heard anybody from a legislator standpoint say, “That’s something we want to take on again.” That was a monumental effort last session to deal with the TCPA. Chairman Leach over in the House was instrumental in making that happen. A lot of players came together to make that happen. There was a lot of oxygen taken out of the room dealing with that particular statutory scheme. It was a heavy lift and it took a lot of time and effort to make that happen again. I don’t see it. Who knows?
Maybe not this session. Maybe we’ll go through another cycle.
One issue that will still come up that always comes up in terms of questions from people on my distribution list of when I speak at events is the legislature’s got to fix Chapter 38 and the award of attorney’s fees issue because there’s case law that says, “You can only recover attorney’s fees from individuals and corporations unless you have a contract that provides for that or another statute that provides for that.” In the past 3 or 4 sessions, those attempts to modify that statute, even though the stars are aligned politically, have never gotten across the finish line.
A big issue there is the LLC is going to be held liable for fees.
LLCs or LPs, or anything that doesn’t fall into the corporation or individual category. I’ve got theories about why those bills didn’t get across the finish line. A lot of times it may be associated with who carries a bill, or someone stepped on someone’s toes somewhere and they didn’t like that. Therefore, their bill doesn’t get anywhere. There are interesting stories that come out of this whole process that are just fascinating to me.
I’d love to know a couple of those for the next time you’re on the show.
That’s what I’m always looking for. I bet we’ll see something along those lines again.
That’s one of those bizarre unintended consequence laws that it is surprising that we’ve gotten this many sessions since that’s become an issue and it hasn’t gotten fixed yet.
The first time the bill got introduced a few sessions ago, there were rumblings about oil and gas companies opposing it because they liked operating as LPs and they liked not having that exposure. I found a lot of their contracts that I reviewed never addressed attorney’s fees, so they may have liked having that protection. I don’t know if that’s what derailed it the first time. There were some rumors to that effect. In any event, it’s something everybody agrees that needs to be fixed. It’s whether or not the politics will let it happen.
That’s a big issue because there’s so much litigation in the energy sector. If you look at the Supreme Court’s docket, it seems like every oral argument setting has one case or every other setting has at least one case where oil and gas rights at issue, mineral rights at issue. This is a real thing.
It’s a huge issue and a potential financial problem for some of these entities that have to deal with it. At least until they get their contracts cleaned up.
This is the same industry that so much of it turns on one-eighth royalties, one-eighth of royalties and stuff that’s just archaic. Good luck with cleaning up the contracts.
As we’re moving towards the end here, I feel like we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk a little bit about the State Bar Appellate Section, which you’re the chair of.
I’m honored to be chairing the Section. It’s one of the best Sections that the State Bar has and the feedback we always get from our attendees at conferences and our members ois that it’s a great section to be a part of. The disappointing thing is that everything’s going to be remote. I like to be an introvert sometimes, but I like to get out and visit with people and find ways to increase our members and provide services to members that we already have or that maybe we’re missing somewhere. I had looked forward to that opportunity to be able to hear and implement those ideas.
We can still do it remotely through Zoom and remote features like this. We had the Hidalgo County Bar Association Appellate Section and the State Bar sponsor a joint session a joint CLE in the fall. At that time, it was one of the largest attended Zoom events that the Bar had to offer. We have a product that can appeal to a lot of people that are in these areas that we can’t get to physically. I want to be able to continue to do that. In December 2020, the Historical Society and the Appellate Section sponsored “An Evening with the Supreme Court” that I think set all kinds of records on the Supreme Court’s website, as far as views for an event. It was over 11,000.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone was sitting there looking at the whole thing all the way through. There are revisits and things like that, but that’s an awesome number. There are ways that we can continue to expand our Section in terms of membership and visibility. I’m hoping to continue to be able to do that for the rest of my term as Chair, whatever that may look like. We’re always looking for great ideas too. If anybody has any wonderful ideas or ways that we can improve our product and our services, we’re all ears. You can send that information to me. You can reach out to Todd or Jody, or whoever you can think of that’s an appellate lawyer because they’ll know how to get the information to the right people.
That joint event with the Supreme Court Historical Society was great. The other flagship event that the Section puts on every year is the Advanced Appellate Seminar. Now that we’ve got the vaccine, I’m going to hold out a little hope that we’ll be able to get together in person but there’s so much lead time that goes into running and planning. Who knows what will happen between now and Labor Day, which is generally when that event takes place but you always have an all-star lineup and the topics covered are tremendous. I’m going to hold out some hope that we can resume doing that in person, hopefully, this next time around.
I am too. Justice Busby is going to be the program director for the Advanced Course. We’re still working on a program director for the 101 course, but I think that committee is going to try to meet in February 2021. If anyone out there has an idea for a topic or speaker, feel free to let us know those ideas too. I know we’ll be looking to fill that roster with that all-star lineup we always have. We’ll continue to do that, but we want to hear some new voices and new ideas too.The staff, the people who run those offices, help make connections. Click To Tweet
I’m going to make a shameless plug to do a live recording of the show. It will resume live and in-person eventually but we’ve joked around a few times that that’s something we’d like to do. It would be fun to spend 30 or 45 minutes recording live.
We have no idea if we’re going to be live or Zoom-in again. Next September (2021), hopefully, will be live. Even if it’s live, we may be able to put something together.
What would the site be in 2021 if it is a live event?
There was a little bit of a scheduling snafu, so it won’t be at the Four Seasons in 2021, but it will be at the Marriott right across the street. It will be the week before Labor Day, instead of after. There are some religious holidays that are falling that week after and there are some scheduling issues with the Four Seasons. That’s going to be a new venue for 2021. The Supreme Court Historical Society’s Hemphill Dinner will still occur, and it’ll be across the street at the Four Seasons. But we’re planning on having it in Austin at the New Marriott.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed that all of that happens live and in person. The Section and the Society both did well with adjusting to doing things on Zoom. As you suggest, it’s not the same. I miss seeing my appellate friends at the seminars and, hopefully, we can get back to that by September 2021. I will hold out hope.
Me too. I enjoy being able to Chair a Sections as great as this one, but it’s sure not the same.
We appreciate the job you’re doing. It’s not an easy job. The Section does maintain a pretty high level of visibility. It’s got a great website, a lot of resources available. If anyone who is a listener who’s not already a member and isn’t familiar with the State Bar of Texas Appellate Section, you should check it out. It’s one of the best bargains in town. It’s another $30 or $35 of your State Bar dues.
It’s $25 annual dues. One of the most popular features that we even have to remind our members that we have is that you get free online CLE, which is pretty normal now. We typically have around 14 to 16 hours of CLE content on our website, including enough ethics credit, that you can join the section going to all your CLE credit (ethics too) by reviewing our online library. That’s a great feature. In addition, you have the Appellate Advocate. Both of you gentlemen have had served as editors of that publication that we continue to publish. It gets republished or distributed by Westlaw and LexisNexis as part of their databases. There is statewide and nationwide exposure to those who want to submit articles, which we’re always looking for good articles for that publication too. There are lots of opportunities for people to volunteer and get involved as much as they want to. We just need to know you’re interested.
It’s a great networking opportunity and chances for mentorship across law firms and things as well.
We have a lot of judicial participation too. It’s working with colleagues but also interfacing with a lot of our judges. They’re always participating and are happy to do so.
Jerry, you’ve been very gracious with your time. Thanks for coming on. We appreciate it. We don’t want to let you go before giving you the chance to tell us a Jerry Bullard tip or a war story, not necessarily legislative related but it could be. You alluded to some juicy stories that come out of past legislative sessions. We’ll leave it to you to tell us what you think would be interesting.
One thing I’ve learned, and I knew this before I even got into this position, one thing I tell young lawyers, whether they’re trial lawyers or appellate lawyers, is the clerks, staff attorneys, the people that aren’t wearing the robes, they can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how you treat them. Whether it be in what you’re writing or how you’re talking to them on the phone or in person. Always show those people the respect they deserve because they’re hardworking people. That’s one thing that’s just a practical tip that goes beyond our writing skills and things like that. Those are just interpersonal skill tips that I always like to share with people. It’s the same thing when I’m working in the Legislature. Everyone focuses on the senators and the reps, but the staff people who run those offices help make connections. Those are the people you need to be talking to and showing appreciation to. If I was going to share a war story coming out of all, and this gets back to how I’ve learned how the process works between our Legislature and our judiciary.
It’s changed since my first exposure to it. In 2004, after Justice Thomas got me involved, I decided I was going to go to my first committee hearing, and it was a redistricting committee. They had called all the chiefs down to a legislative conference room on the House side. So here we are. I was down there and meeting people that not only heard about, and the chiefs of all the intermediate appellate courts. We sat around, and we waited and waited. The committee never had a quorum of legislators there. The committee chair comes out and says, “Sorry your honors, but we don’t have a quorum. Can you all come back next week?”
It was at that point I realized that the idea that I had about there was this “kumbaya” that existed between our public officials on all sides and a mutual respect wasn’t necessary there. I saw that maybe the judiciary is treated like poor stepchildren to some degree. That stuck with me. Part of what I like to do now is try to educate people about those things. I think things have improved, at least from my perspective–that relationship, that dialogue. That’s not a war story, but it was an eye-opener to me. We advocate for our clients, our positions and make arguments.
We’re also officers of the court. We’re representatives of the judicial system. We have an obligation to speak up to protect that system and to protect our judges. I could go off on my whole attacks-on-the-judiciary spiel, but that’s another topic for another day. There are several judges that I’ve had the opportunity to present with, to deal with those issues and talk some of those things through. One, Jody, you’re a partner with. Another judge, Judge Livingston in Austin, was on a panel with me. Todd, I’m sure you’re familiar with her. They’re just wonderful people that you meet along the way who you have a kindred spirit with at least with respect to how the judiciary ought to be treated. That’s not a war story, but that’s still a good way to think about why I do what I do.
That’s a great way to wind us up. We’re going to bring you back to do a debriefing or a post-mortem on the session after it’s done and we’ll see what actually transpired. This is going to be interesting for sure.
I’m happy to do that. I enjoy getting to do those things.
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About Jerry Bullard
Mr. Bullard is board certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and specializes in handling civil appeals and assisting trial counsel with legal and strategic issues in complex civil litigation. He has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, and has handled numerous appeals involving various types of civil and commercial litigation, including personal injury, insurance coverage, contract disputes, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Bullard also assists trial counsel at every level of litigation, including legal analysis of claims or defenses; handling dispositive motions, such as summary judgment motions, motions to dismiss, and motions for directed verdict; monitoring trial counsel and advising about error preservation during trial; preparing, objecting to and arguing the jury charge; and preparing and arguing all post-trial motions.
Mr. Bullard also represents individuals, business entities, healthcare organizations, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations with respect to governance and operational issues, contract negotiations, and other matters requiring legal analysis.
Mr. Bullard has served as chair of the Tarrant County Bar Association Appellate Section and chair of the state Bar of Texas (SBOT) Appellate Section. He also serves as the co-chair of the Legislative Liaison Committee for the SBOT Appellate Section, and has demonstrated a commitment to preserving the integrity of the Texas justice system by consulting with state legislators about issues affecting the judiciary and the administration of justice.
Mr. Bullard is a frequent author and speaker on trial and appellate procedure, substantive developments in the law, the legislative process, and legal writing and analysis. He also volunteers his time and resources to educate students and the general public about the judicial branch’s role in a democratic society.
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