Rockport lawyer petitions to run in Texas bar election
By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.COM
March 3, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 3, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.
About the bar
The Texas State Bar is the fifth largest in the nation:
• It has 89,987 active members.
• Practice areas:
Private - 67 percent
Government attorney - 11 percent
Corporate/in-house counsel - 10 percent
Other - 12 percent
• For more information, visit texasbar.com.
Source: 2011-2012 State Bar Annual Report
A Crossroads attorney is making history with the State Bar of Texas.
For the first time in the organization's 74-year history, a lawyer has collected signatures from 5 percent of the state bar's membership to earn a spot on its presidential ballot.
Steve Fischer, who practices in Rockport and serves as director for District 11, started standing outside of courthouses a year ago after he got fed up with what he described as a closed-door selection process for the position.
"I was told it was impossible. I was told it couldn't be done. And, for a while, I wasn't so sure myself," he said of how he logged 11,592 miles traveling across Texas and sometimes got kicked out of functions while attempting to complete the task.
The State Bar verified Fischer's 5,166 signatures Feb. 19. The last time someone got on the ballot by filing a petition was in the 1980s. The requirement then was about 100 signatures, or 1 percent of its membership, but that number was bumped up by the Texas Supreme Court on Dec. 8, 1986.
The last State Bar president elected from District 11 was M. Colleen McHugh, of Corpus Christi, in 1996, said Kim Davey, the organization's spokeswoman.
Larry McDougal, who serves on the board of directors for District 5, which includes Galveston, Fort Bend, Waller and Brazoria counties, said he was happy Fischer was successful. He said Fischer will join the two other well-qualified candidates, Trey Apffel, of League City, and Larry W. Hicks, of El Paso.
"A lot of the bar has become so disenfranchised that they just don't care. There's kind of been over the years, this 'What does the bar do for me? Nothing.' type attitude, and they don't even bother voting," McDougal said, hoping this election will change the apathetic trend.
He applauded Fischer's recent attempts toward getting health insurance for sole practitioners or those from small towns, something he said was an important cause.
"For most attorneys, we've got to provide our own, and unfortunately, we're not considered a group through the Texas Insurance Code. ... We're not all millionaires like some people seem to think," McDougal said.
Fischer said, if elected, he will change some of the bar's outdated policies and make fees more reasonable.
"So many bar rules curtail freedom of speech," he said.
Jim Cole, of the law firm Cole, Cole and Easley, ran against Fischer in 2011 for District 11 director. He said although he's supporting Apffel, a law school classmate, he was impressed by the way Fischer campaigned in the prior election.
Bar members cast their ballot in the election throughout the month of April either online or through the mail.