enterprise. There is a clear need for a public interest law firm focusing on Texas issues. Bar support, while not especially visible at present, is certainly possible in the near future. Texas foundations may be tilled and law school liaisons explored. But such support will not be forthcoming until progressive laymen and lawyers organize about this issue. Texas needs a public interest law movement now. 0 I chose law By Steve Russell Marshall Breger is an assistant professor at the University of Texas Law School in Austin. Austin Maybe it happened early in 1970 when I sat in a packed Austin courtroom watching Warren Burnett and Sam Houston Clinton confound the prosecution in Gary Cartwright’s marijuana case. It might have been the night a year later when Cam Cunningham came lumbering through the tear gas fog in a kilt mitted to the Travis County Jail during an inmate riot. Perhaps it was at my wife’s trial on charges of assaulting a cop at the dedication of the LBJ Library, when Jim Simons proved even without benefit of Bill Moyers’ offered testimony that she had merely been taking pictures of policemen beating up a small boy I’m not sure when I made my final decision, but there were plenty of nudges back then for one who wanted to believe that a legal education could help him refill the emptying vessel of American ideals. The way it was The Supreme Court set an optimistic climate for prospective law students, too. It was held that an urban vote was worth the same as a rural vote, that black children could enroll at any public school, that people could not be jailed for want of money to hire a lawyer or pay a fine, that students could speak out on political issues,. and that a poor woman determined to have an abortion need no longer turn to backroom quacks. And, in a stunning series of pro-people decisions, the Warren Court breathed life into Reconstruction-era civil rights laws, opening the federal courts for the redress of old wrongs. In this hopeful atmosphere, I entered the University of Texas School of Law, which had, under the leadership of W. Page Keeton, become what continues to be probably the finest law school south of the Mason-Dixon line and east of California. The law school’s reputationhead and shoulders above UT in generalis a direct result of Dean Keeton’s willingness and ability to run political interference for his faculty and students. Several UT departments have been gutted over the years by political Russell with client in Austin has enough former students in high places to keep the law school a greenhouse for independent thought. While I was in law school, Raza Unida candidate Ramsey Muniz won a gubernatorial straw poll, and a majority of students queried in another survey admitted to smoking a little marijuana now and then. I’m sure that many of my classmates were there to learn the finer points of turning a fast buck, but the thing to say was that you planned to kick deserving asses. Anything else would set off rumors that you had signed up for an interview with Houston’s Dewey, Cheatam & Howe. Most of the left-leaning law student organizationsthe Human Rights Research Council, Chicano Law Students Association, Thurgood Marshall Legal Society, Women’s Law Caucus, and the UT chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guildwere stuffed together in one room of Townes Hall and shared a telephone. But out of that room, known informally as the William 0. Douglas Room, came five consecutive presidents of the Student Bar Association. Out of that room came those who, after chastising the University for its failure to recruit minority students, went on to set up a program to do it themselves \(and for February 25, 1977 17 money are less embarrassed about it now.” Jeff Hoffman, of the Human Rights Resource Council at UT Law, believes the major obstacle to the extension of legal services to Texas’ two million indigent citizens \(half of whom live beyond the reach of current public serturnover rate by attorneys in the legal aid field.” “Legal aid has been seen in Texas as a training ground for attorneys,” Hoffman says. “If that’s all it is, then the poor people in this state are really being ripped off.” To cut into the turnover rate, HRRC will spend $25,000 of recently acquired grant money to conduct the Texas Legal Aid Character Profile Projecta psychological survey of who succeeds and who fails in the practice of public service law. “The data will enable an office to predict how successful and happy a person will be in a legal aid career,” Hoffman hopes. But it’s hard to imagine how a psychological survey, or nearly anything else, could improve Texas’ indigent client/legal aid attorney ratio of 12,000-to-1. Large as that seems, it is only the figure for those poor persons within reasonable distance of a legal aid office. Count all of the state’s poor and the ratio zooms to 24,000-to-1. \(For those above the poverty level, it is Clearly, the reach of public service offices must be expanded and the funding base well secured. “It’s true that more of the very best students are going to Wall Street,” Bobbit says. “And more students are going into general business practice. But the numbers of people in public interest practice are larger than they’ve ever been, so it’s misleading to say law students are turning their backs.” Mary Walsh is editor of The Daily Texan.
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