by Michael K. Hurst
Taken from Inaugural Address given on January 20, 2018
What I have learned from the people in my life that I have respected the most is that “leadership” is simply about influencing and impacting, and developing others to themselves lead by providing for them a platform and resources. Leaders can come in the form of clergy, mentors, family and colleagues. As lawyers, we have both opportunities, and I humbly suggest, responsibilities to be at the forefront of leadership.
Who is the Dallas Bar?
I can start by telling you a story about Ms. Morris, who would eventually be a client of our Legal Aid.
Mr. Morris controlled Ms. Morris’ every move, had an explosive temper, and was jealous of her outside relationships. Mr. Morris would pull her by the hair, throw things at her, slap and punch her, and push her around. Ms. Morris was cooking dinner one night and the couple got into an argument. Mr. Morris picked up a boiling pan of water from the stove and threw it at Ms. Morris. She sustained serious burns. Their oldest child was present and began screaming. Mr. Morris even threw Ms. Morris down a flight of stairs. She finally left him.
When he later held a gun to her head, she reported this to the police and, in retaliation, Mr. Morris kept the children from her. This convinced Ms. Morris, thank God, to seek help from an attorney from Legal Aid, who filed for divorce and a protective order for her.
The Legal Aid attorney obtained the convenience store security video that showed Mr. Morris pulling a gun on our client. At a contested trial, the attorney entered the tape into evidence, and Ms. Morris obtained all requested relief, including divorce on cruelty grounds, a 2-year protective order, sole possession of the children, permanent injunctions against Mr. Morris, and child support.
When Hurricane Harvey struck last year, I went to the Dallas Convention Center, where Dallas Bar and Legal Aid set up a booth in the recovery center and had 83 volunteer attorneys assisting with legal issues that resulted from displacement of our fellow Texans on the Gulf, along with training, and a help hotline. For our indigent neighbors in need of legal representation, the DBA is here for you.
Pro Bono Endowment
Leadership is about leading with your heart in addition to your head. We need to protect the ability of our low income neighbors to have representation and access to our civil justice system. The Pro Bono Endowment, as a forward-thinking initiative will do exactly that for North West Texas. These awesome companies and individuals have made this a reality. The family of the late Ken Fuller, a pro bono legend, is in the audience. Perhaps others will follow. Thanks to them and some others, we begin this year already having raised $400,000 for this Endowment! “And justice for all” means equal access to justice for everyone. And now, because of this first of its kind, Endowment, “And Justice For All” means ‘Justice for All people AND FOR ALL TIMES.’
Being in this profession doesn’t remove us from the afflictions of depression and the like. Trust me, I know that first hand. In fact, lawyers are several times more likely to be diagnosed for depression and substance abuse compared to the general population. We are a noble and esteemed fraternity/sorority. We take care of each other. And for those of us in our profession who suffer from depression or substance abuse, the DBA wants to help. That’s who we are.
Statewide Day of Civility and Professionalism
In his Inaugural address in 1961, John F. Kennedy proclaimed: “Civility is not a sign of weakness.” As Americans, we want to see this in our country and as lawyers, we need to see this in our profession.
During the fall of 2015, I proudly led the DBA to partner with all local Federal and State Judges, the Dallas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and the local Inns of Court and presented the first of its kind Day of Civility through proclamation of the courts. This was but a stepping stone to a more universal road to a more civil profession. Thanks to our efforts, The Texas Supreme Court and The Court of Criminal Appeals have jointly signed a proclamation that April 20 of this year is a statewide day of civility and professionalism. Courtrooms and bar associations across the state will be reiterating through seminars and signs that we need to treat each other with the dignity and respect that is emblematic of our profession. Thanks to Justice Doug Lang and others who are making it happen.
DBA WE LEAD
I’ve been blessed and molded by strong women leaders in my life, starting with Adele, my mother. Jane, my wife. Of course, Sophia, my daughter. And some of the women with whom I’ve hired to be my law partners and to whom I largely owe my career: Mary Goodrich Nix, Judge Tonya Parker, Dena DeNooyer Stroh, and Shonn Brown. In fact, thanks to these women I was presented as the first male recipient of the coveted DWLA Louise Raggio Award.
Under Shonn’s leadership, along with a who’s who roster of committee members, we are partnering with the Dallas Women’s Foundation and the DWLA, and have created: DBA WE LEAD (Women Empowered to Lead), a leadership program designed to address the challenges of high-performing women who have practiced law for 8 to15 years. This is our effort to help bridge the gap in opportunities and compensation, and to positively impact both women’s participation and leadership in law practice. For women facing your unique challenges in our profession, the Dallas Bar is here for you.
The Dallas Bar Association, under the leadership of Rhonda Hunter, will host a day long Diversity Summit on September 21 at the Belo Mansion. The Summit will focus on how do we talk about and resolve issues on race, public trust or mistrust in the justice system and empowering lawyers to lead as agents of change. For you who identify as diverse in race, color or orientation, this is your bar association.
Saving Jury Trial
The Rule of Law may be the single most important benefit that distinguishes our great country. But our civil jury trial system is way up there in importance. The fate of our important disputes is not supposed to be in the hands of kings. Working with ABOTA, TADC, DTLA, and led by Judge Martin Hoffman and Aaron Tobin, the DBA is going to do what it can to educate, address and celebrate our civil jury trial system. For those of you who believe in our 7th Amendment right to trial by jury, the DBA is for you!
Our Board will be also partnering with other Community organizations this year including Genesis, New Friends New Life, and the One Love Foundation,
For you young lawyers, please remember this. Thinking about 2 of my closest friends from law school, and the choices we make. In the same year, 2007, that one these friends became a federal judge (the Honorable Reed O’Connor), the other came under federal indictment. Choose your path carefully, have good mentors, and do what you can do to make your mark and make those you love proud.
While being able to serve as the 109th president of the DBA is humbling when thinking of all who have held this office, and an office I assume with great appreciation to all who have supported me, I view this position as more of a duty than an honor—a duty which I passionately assume to make a difference and to work hard to lead others to do the same. Ronald Reagan said “we can’t help everyone, but we can help someone.” I want to work with YOU for us to all grow together as leaders...and help as many “someones” as we can.