More than 500 members of Austin’s legal community packed the Four Seasons Hotel on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, for the Austin Bar Foundation’s annual Gala. The mission of the Austin Bar Foundation is to support and expand the provision of legal-related charitable and educational programs and services in Central Texas by organizing and marshaling the resources and abilities of the Austin Bar Association and its members.
(L-R) Judge Orlinda Naranjo; Thomas Ausley; Karen R. Johnson; Austin Bar President, Judge Eric Shepperd; David Sheppard; and Judge Lora Livingston.
The theme Fire and Ice created a sophisticated ambiance for guests who enjoyed dinner and dancing, while raising funds through both a silent and live auction to help fund a variety of community service projects. These were the major beneficiaries of the event:
- Free Legal Advice Clinic for Veterans: The Austin Bar hosts a monthly legal clinic for military veterans and their families. Since June of 2010, Austin Bar attorneys have helped more than 2,300 veterans with a wide variety of legal issues. This year, the program was expanded beyond Travis County through a grant by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. The Free Legal Advice Clinic for Veterans will be offered soon in Williamson County, with other surrounding counties soon to follow.
- Austin Bar in Action’s Self-Represented Litigant Project: Many pro se litigants can’t afford the services of an attorney but also can’t qualify for free legal aid. These are the working poor of Travis County. All pro-se litigants are now required to go to the Travis County Self Help Center before they are allowed in court. Due to this mandate, the Self Help Center has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking help. In response to this overwhelming need, the Austin Bar Foundation created this program to provide assistance for self-represented litigants in the uncontested civil docket. Volunteer attorneys are available in the Self Help Center to answer questions and help fill out forms. They also assist with divorces, obtaining occupational driver’s licenses, name changes and landlord/tenant issues. Additionally, a volunteer attorney staffs the uncontested docket courtroom to help the litigants through the courtroom process.
During the evening, five outstanding attorneys and judges were honored for their immense contributions to Austin’s legal community, and the community at large. The awards and award recipients were:
The Distinguished Lawyer Award was presented to Karen R. Johnson and David A. Sheppard. This award recognizes the dedication and hard work of two attorneys who have practiced law for 30 years or more and have significantly contributed to the legal profession and the greater community.
The David H. Walter Community Excellence Award was given to Judge Orlinda Naranjo. This award is presented to an attorney or judge who has recently made a significant impact in the community and, at the same time, raised the profile of the legal profession
The Larry F. York Mentoring Award, given to Thomas L. Ausley, goes to a lawyer or judge who has demonstrated exceptional skill and generosity in mentoring younger members of the bar, practiced law for at least ten years, and served as a role model and counselor to other lawyers.
The Joseph C. Parker Jr. Diversity Award was given to Judge Lora J. Livingston. This inaugural award was named in honor of Joseph C. Parker Jr., the first African-American president of the Austin Bar Association. Blazing the trail for minority lawyers who followed in his footsteps, Parker has spent his life and work championing the equal, ethical and fair treatment of all people, and raising awareness of the need to diversify our community. This award honors a firm or an individual who has led the way in bringing diversity to Austin’s legal community and who exemplifies all that Parker stands for.
The award winner’s biographies are as follows:
Karen R. Johnson – Distinguished Lawyer Award
An attorney, a former briefing attorney for the Texas Supreme Court, and the holder of the Distinguished Law Graduate Award of St. Mary’s University School of Law Alumni Association, Karen Johnson has been recognized for her management and leadership skills in several important fields. She is currently the CEO/President of KRJ Resources.
She was elected the first woman president of the Travis County Bar Association and was elected to the State Bar Board of Directors, serving on the Executive Committee. She was also the first woman Executive Director of the State Bar of Texas. Johnson was a special assistant in the Texas Governor’s office and was Assistant Comptroller for Legal Services in the State Comptroller’s office for Bob Bullock. She is a former Texas Assistant Attorney General.
She served as president of Entergy, Texas and just concluded her term with the Electric Power Research Institute’s Advisory Board headquartered in California. She is a former member of the Energy Future Holdings Advisory Board.
She has served on the Governor’s Business Council. The State Bar has honored Johnson many times. She has also been recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Fort Worth Independent School District. Johnson is the holder of the Outstanding Woman of the Year award from the Executive Woman in State Government and Volunteer Extraordinaire award from the Junior League of Austin. The Austin Business Journal honored her as a winner of the Profiles in Power Award.
Johnson recently finished her term as Chair of the Texas Society of Association Executives. As of 2011 she
was named the 12th President of The Austin Club, serving previously on the Executive Committee. She ended her term in 2015. She was Chief Executive of Power Across Texas and now serves on the board. In 2015, she was elected to the Texas State History Museum Foundation board. Currently she serves on a statewide board as Vice Chair of the Association of Women in Energy. Nationally, she serves on the Global Impact Board of Directors and is a past member of the CARE Board of Directors.
David A. Sheppard– Distinguished Lawyer Award
Since obtaining his law license in 1974, David Sheppard’s devotion to his profession and his community has led him to serve in multiple capacities for a variety of professional and community service organizations, receiving multiple awards in recognition of his contributions. In keeping with these recognitions, he enjoys an impeccable reputation for integrity and ability with both prosecutors and the judiciary. He has been especially gratified by the freedom he has helped win for wrongfully convicted inmates, including non-DNA exoneration, through the Texas Center for Actual Innocence, which he helped found.
He is board certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is a founding member and former president of the Robert W. Calvert American Inn of Court, and a founding member of the Lloyd Lochridge American Inn of Court. He served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law from 1985 – 2011.
He has an extensive list of awards and accomplishments, receiving the first annual Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award from the Austin Young Lawyer’s Association and the Professionalism Award from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Austin Bar Association. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Center for the Judiciary
He is a Founding Life Fellow of the Austin Bar Foundation, a member of the Texas Bar Foundation, and was the Professional Enhancement Committee Chair for the State Bar of Texas. A founding member and director of the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association, he has also been the chair of the Travis County Bar Association’s Criminal Law and Procedure Section. He has served as the chair of the Review Committee for the Capital Area Private Defender’s Service (CAPDS) and as president of the Central Texas Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He served on the Admissions Committee and as chairman of the Merit Selection Panel for Selection of Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas. He was director, associate director, and chairman of the Legislative Committee for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
Judge Orlinda Naranjo – David H. Walter Community Excellence Award
Judge Orlinda Naranjo became Judge of Travis County Court at Law No. 2 in 1996, before being elected to the 419th District Court in 2006. Her vast professional and community involvement includes being appointed by the Texas Supreme Court to serve on the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Texas Judicial Council for which she has served on numerous committees and has chaired the Juvenile Justice Committee in 2012. She was appointed to serve as the Texas Judicial Liaison to the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas’ Standing Committee on Jury Service. Elected District Director of the National Association of Women Judges in 2011, she coordinated the annual Color of Justice program in Texas and Oklahoma which educates high-school students about careers in law and encourages them to pursue such careers.
Judge Naranjo has planned and presided over Dating Violence/DUI Mock Trials for over 500 students in nine Travis County schools since 2002. This program is now being implemented in Hays County.
Through her involvement in the Robert W. Calvert Chapter of the American Inns of Court, she developed the award-winning Mentoring A Student (MAS) program for students at Travis High School.
She is co-chair of the annual Do The Write Thing anti-violence program which provides 7th and 8th grade students the opportunity to examine the effects of violence in their lives.
As a board member of Con Mi Madre, she works to increase the representation of Hispanic women in post-secondary education by providing comprehensive educational and social support services to 6th through 12th grade Hispanic girls and their mothers. She is also involved in the Teen-Parent Mentorship program of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas. She serves on Advisory Committees for the Mexic Arte Museum and the Junior League of Austin.
She was recently named a Fab Five Honoree by the Seedling Foundation for her extraordinary work in making a difference in the lives of at-risk children in Central Texas.
Thomas L. Ausley – Larry F. York Mentoring Award
Tom Ausley is the founding partner of Ausley, Algert, Robertson & Flores. He began practicing law in 1968 and was board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1980.
Ausley is highly respected by peers and judges alike and has the reputation of having unwavering integrity. In 2013, he was bestowed the prestigious Sam Emison Award by the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists (TAFLS) in recognition of his significant contributions to the practice of family law. He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a Fellow in the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. For the past 25 years, he has been named in The Best Lawyers in America, Family Law Section. Best Lawyers also selected him as 2009 Lawyer of the Year in Family Law-Austin. Since 2003, Texas Monthly Magazine has recognized Ausley as a Texas Super Lawyer. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Lawyer Award from the Austin Bar Association. He is past chair of the Family Law Council of the State Bar of Texas.
Ausley is a master litigator. In 2000, he chose to train in the collaborative-law process as well, to provide an additional option to his clients to resolve their disputes. Ausley’s decades in the practice of family law as well as his practical life experience enable him to help his clients navigate their legal disputes without destroying relationships with children and others.
Judge Lora J. Livingston – The Joseph C. Parker Jr. Diversity Award
Judge Lora Livingston became an Associate Judge for the District Courts of Travis County in 1995 and Judge of the 261st District Court in 1999. She is the first African-American woman to serve on a district court in Travis County where she currently serves as the Local Administrative Judge.
She has served on numerous boards including the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation, Texas Access to Justice Commission, the National Center on Women and Family Law, the Judicial Section of the State Bar of Texas, and the Texas Center for the Judiciary. She is a member of the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association (ABA), and the National Association of Women Judges. She has served as chair on ABA committees and is a member of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the ABA Judicial Division. She has also served on committees in state and local bar associations, including the Austin Bar where she has been instrumental in the growth and development of the Diversity Fellowship Program, the Austin Black Lawyers Association, and the Travis County Women Lawyers Association.
She has served on the Board of Volunteer Legal Services and was the 2015 Chair of And Justice for All: An ABA Day of Service, a National Pro Bono Celebration. She helped establish the Travis County Self Help Center for self-represented litigants and she led the effort to adopt a language-access plan in the civil courts.
She has received many awards including the Outstanding Attorney Award from the TCWLA, the Texas Access to Justice Commission Pro Bono Champion Award, and the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation Harold Kleinman Award. She was a two-time recipient of the Texas Center for the Judiciary Exemplary Judicial Faculty Award. She was awarded the Nancy Garms Memorial Award by the Law Focused Education Division of the State Bar of Texas. She received the Lotus Award from the Asian Family Support Services of Austin in recognition of her work ensuring access to justice for victims of domestic violence, and the National Center for State Courts Distinguished Service Award.