By Stephanie Francis Ward
Updated: A modified ABA professional conduct model rule that makes discrimination and harassment based on race, sex and religion an ethical violation for lawyers violates free speech rights, according to the Texas attorney general.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton shared his view with Charles Perry, a Republican Texas state senator who requested an opinion on the matter, the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy reports. Perry is a certified public accountant from Lubbock. The state supreme court has not adopted the model rule to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
Model Rule 8.4 was amended by the ABA’s House of Delegates in August 2016 at the ABA Annual Meeting to state it is misconduct to “engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.”
“While decisions of the United States Supreme Court have concluded that an attorney’s free speech rights are circumscribed to some degree in the courtroom during a judicial proceeding and outside the courtroom when speaking about a pending case, Model Rule 8.4(g) extends far beyond the context of a judicial proceeding to restrict speech or conduct in any instance when it is ‘related to the practice of law,’” Paxton’s Dec. 20 letter (PDF) reads.
Some have suggested that attorneys speaking about illegal immigration, same-sex marriage or laws restricting bathroom usage could be subject to discipline under Model Rule 8.4, Paxton wrote.
Paxton’s letter goes on to say that he thinks the rule would not hold up in court. It infringes on First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, free exercise of religion and free association, he says, and a court would also likely conclude it is overly broad and void it for vagueness.
“Texas Attorney General Paxton misinterprets ABA policy,” said Linda A. Klein, president of the ABA, in response to Paxton’s opinion. “This proposed rule expressly states that it in no way infringes on free speech or the ability of an attorney to zealously defend any client (or choose not to defend a client) based on the client’s beliefs. This proposed rule exemplifies the ABA’s strong policy that there is no place in the practice of law for discrimination or harassment.”
WASHINGTON — The Republican chairman of a congressional panel wrapping up its investigation into the medical and business practices of abortion providers said Wednesday it has submitted 15 criminal referrals to federal and state officials for further investigation into possible violations of the law.
The referrals, issued over the course of the panel’s year-long investigation, target biomedical companies in California, the University of New Mexico, abortion clinics in Arkansas and Florida, and Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas and California.
Three of the referrals — against the biomedical company StemExpress and the University of New Mexico — were made earlier this year. The other referral letters, however, were sent in November and December and have not been previously made public.
The panel, formally known as the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, has spent a year looking into how abortion providers handle fetal tissue.
Democrats on the panel have blasted the investigation as a “witch-hunt” and issued their own report earlier this month report arguing it had found no evidence of wrongdoing by health care providers, researchers, or tissue procurement companies.
But the panel’s Republican chairman, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, said in a statement Wednesday the investigation uncovered evidence that abortion clinics and companies that procure fetal tissue for research may have violated a federal law that makes it illegal to profit from the sale of human fetal tissue.
The panel’s referrals also suggest that StemExpress may have destroyed documents that were the subject of congressional inquiries and that some entities may have violated the privacy rights of women for the purpose of collecting fetal tissue to make money.
“Speaking as a woman, I am deeply troubled by what we have learned about the mistreatment of patients at a particularly difficult and vulnerable time in their lives,” Blackburn said. “They are being treated with a disregard for their best interests and their rights as patients.
Blackburn said the panel has seen instances where “profit-driven” procurement companies have acted in conjunction with abortion clinics to violate women’s privacy rights and other instances where women have been asked to sign misleading consent forms saying fetal tissue has been used to cure diseases for which there is no cure.
The criminal referrals suggest the biomedical companies may have profited illegally from the sale of fetal tissue, that the University of New Mexico may have improperly received fetal tissue from an abortion provider and that the other abortion providers may have illegally sent fetal tissue to StemExpress.
StemExpress and the university have said they are confident they have not broken the law.
The panel also asked the Texas Attorney General and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate claims that a Texas abortion provider violated numerous state and federal laws regulating late-term abortions.
The 14-member panel was formed last year after a firestorm over undercover videos that accused Planned Parenthood of breaking federal laws by selling the tissues and organs of aborted fetuses.
The Associated Press
A white Texas police officer was placed on restricted duty Thursday while an internal investigation looks into a video footage showing the officer wrestling a black woman to the ground before arresting her and her two teenage daughters.
The Fort Worth officer, whose name hasn’t been released, responded to a call for service after a woman, Jacqueline Craig, argued with a man who she said had physically confronted her seven-year-old son for littering.
In the cellphone video of the Wednesday incident, which contains graphic language and profanity, Craig can be heard telling the officer that the man had “grabbed and choked” her son.
The officer engages Craig in a conversation that quickly escalates. He asks why she hadn’t taught her son not to litter. Craig says regardless of whether the boy littered, the man did not have the right to “put his hands on him.” The officer says, “Why not?”
Dallas civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who is representing Craig and her 19-year-old daughter, Brea Hymond, said at a news conference Thursday night that no report was filed on the alleged physical confrontation between the seven-year-old and the man. He said he plans to “request the prosecutor pursue charges” against the man.
Merritt added that he will look into the officer’s training and background once he has been identified.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has announced that a “bathroom bill” addressing gender-identity claims in access to bathrooms, showers and locker rooms will be one of his top priorities for this legislative session.
However, House Speaker Joe Straus has made it clear that such a bill is not a priority for him. And, perhaps most importantly, the influential Texas Association of Business, which is most concerned with politics that affect profits, doesn’t want any legislation that stirs up the kind of boycotts that North Carolina faced after passing a similar bill.
The betting money is on Straus and the TAB. But Patrick is a relentless publicity-seeking politician, and we can assume the issue will be in the news. That means we have an opportunity to ask a basic question and make a key point about the transgender movement’s claims that usually get lost in the political shuffle.
The core question: If someone is born unambiguously male as defined by chromosomes, genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics, but claims to be female (or vice versa), what does that actually mean? If sex categories are a product of the biological realities of human reproduction — that is, not about how a person feels but about physiology — what could it mean to be clearly in one category but assert a civil right to be in the other?
This is a serious question about biology and reproductive-based sex categories, and the transgender movement has yet to offer a coherent answer. People’s internal subjective experiences may feel coherent to them, but the assertion of such an experience does not constitute an explanation, and public policy should be based on claims that everyone can understand.
By Kenric Ward
Texas families hope 2017 will be a good school year for their children. But the odds are against thousands of pupils stuck at failing campuses across the Lone Star State.
Some 241 campuses and 39 school districts were designated “improvement required/academically unacceptable” by the Texas Education Agency in 2016.
What’s worse, 204 campuses and 18 districts — including some charter schools and academies — have been on the failing list for two or more consecutive years.
Kashmere High School in Houston has flunked TEA’s minimum scholastic standards for seven straight years, the longest stretch of any campus. Among its shortcomings, the campus hasn’t had a single certified math teacher on staff.
Crockett Elementary School in the Midland Independent School District has been on the unacceptable list for six consecutive years.
Marlin ISD, a half hour southeast of Waco, scored a failing grade for the fifth straight year. TEA said Marlin is in the process of installing a board of managers to oversee the district.