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Forget your Tax Worries and Attend the Rockwall County Bar Association’s Bench Bar Conference


The TexasLawbook

Forget your Tax Worries and Attend the Rockwall County Bar Association’s Bench Bar Conference

© 2015 The Texas Lawbook.

By Sol Villasana

This Tax Day, April 15th, the Rockwall County Bar Association and the Rockwall County Bar Foundation invite you to forget–for at least a few hours–the inevitable pain associated with the date and join them for their Annual Bench Bar Conference at the Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront Hotel on the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard just a short drive east of Dallas. The day-long Conference will bring together lawyers and judges from throughout the northeast Texas legal community.

This year’s Rockwall Bench Bar Conference will feature speakers discussing a variety of topical legal issues, including Chad Baruch, well-known appellate lawyer, who will address his recent U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief concerning the limits of the First Amendment. In his presentation “F-Bombs and Hip Hop Songs: Droppin’ Law on the US Supreme Court,” Baruch, a partner with Johnston Tobey Baruch, contends that rap music, even with its sometimes lurid and aggressive language, is a form of artistic expression and, therefore, worthy of First Amendment protection. His brief contends the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit got it wrong when, in Bell v. Itawamba County School Board, it ruled against a Mississippi high school rapper, Taylor Bell, who posted on YouTube a rap song, supposedly suggesting teachers and couches of sexual misconduct. “The lyrics should not be viewed literally, but in context, as songs in their artistic format,” says Baruch about the song’s words. The high court recently denied certiorari allowing the Fifth Circuit Court’s ruling to stand.

Cooper & Scully partner Diana Faust will discuss her involvement in securing the release of Michael Morton who was wrongfully convicted of the 1986 murder of his wife in Williamson County. Faust, working pro bono with the Innocence Project, obtained DNA testing of evidence wrongfully excluded during the trial. The testing proved Morton innocent and he was released after 25 years in prison. Faust worked on the project for almost four years. Along the way she uncovered prosecutorial misconduct which eventually resulted in the disbarment of the former Morton prosecutor who had, since the trial, been elected a state district judge. Recalling the long fight to free Morton, Faust said, “I can’t express the depth of sorrow I felt for everything Mr. Morton went through because of his wrongful conviction.” It was through her work and the work of many others that the Michael Morton Act became law in Texas in 2011 which requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys.

Rockwall County Bar Association president David S. Mallard will moderate a panel of state district judges from several counties in the northeast Texas area. “We are honored to host a distinguished group of regional jurists who will discuss the issues which they most often see arise during trial,” stated Mallard about the panel. There will also be panels of justices from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals at Austin, and from the state’s Fifth Judicial District Court of Appeals sitting at Dallas.

Rounding out the day will be the Legal Aid of Northwest Texas’ Pro Bono Awards, and Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney Kenda Culpepper discussing a new mentoring program for young lawyers. There will also presentations by Thompson Coe’s Tommy Horan on defending attorneys in the grievance process, and attorney/CPA Emilia D’Mello will discuss the use of forensic accounting in lawsuits.

The Conference concludes with a Happy Hour (could there be anything better on Tax Day?), sponsored by Ted B. Lyon & Associates, P.C., with a sunset view from the patio of the Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront Hotel overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard. Attendees of the Conference will receive 6.5 CLE hours of participatory hours, and 2.75 hours of CLE ethics. You may register for the 2016 Rockwall County Bar Association’s Bench Bar Conference at: The cost for the Conference, which includes lunch sponsored by the Timpa Law Office, P.C., is only $100.

The Rockwall County Bar Association was founded in 1979, and is one of the fastest growing organizations for the legal profession in the northeast Texas region. Its partner in the Bench Bar Conference, the Rockwall County Bar Foundation, is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempted, nonprofit group known for its Wright-Bridges-Stoddart Justice Award, a scholarship for distinguished high school seniors. Jeff Shell, with the Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney’s office and the Foundation’s president, says that “the Justice Award is named in honor of the three justices who presently serve on the Fifth Judicial District Court of Appeals at Dallas, and who also reside in Rockwall County: Chief Justice Carolyn Wright, and Justices David Bridges and Craig Stoddart.” Last year’s scholarship recipient was Austin Cory of Rockwall High School.

Corporate and business sponsorship levels for the 2016 Conference range from the Bronze Level at $250 to the Diamond Level at $1,500. Please contact Rockwall County Bar Association president, David Mallard at, for sponsorship opportunities.

Sol Villasana is of counsel with WHITE & WIGGINS, LLP, and a board member of the Rockwall County Bar Association.

Note: The Texas Lawbook is a media sponsor of this Bench Bar Conference.

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