Dallas Daily News: Hispanic Lawyers Convention Next Week Will Tackle Thorny Issues

From the Dallas Daily News, August 26, 2011

By Mercedes Olivera

In this age of Facebook and social media, how do you pick a jury that you hope will be unbiased?

It’s a question many lawyers increasingly face in this digital era we live in. And it’s one that José Baez will be asked at the four-day annual convention of the Hispanic National Bar Association in Dallas next week.

Baez was involved in what has been described as “the social media trial of the century.”

He was the attorney who represented Casey Anthony, the mother accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter. Anthony was acquitted, and Baez became an instant success story.

Baez will be introduced by Geraldo Rivera at a Friday plenary session that will also feature Todd Robinson, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State.

A quick look at the agenda reveals that this session is just one of 45 events and workshops featuring high-profile individuals and hot-button issues — all by design.

“We think it’s important to learn about the issues we have to grapple with every day,” said Diana Sen, HNBA president. “We want to make sure our lawyers are equipped to tackle these issues because a lot of them are not clear-cut. They’re very complicated, and many attorneys will give very different opinions.”

The 50-person planning committee, co-chaired by Dallas Associate Judge Teresa Guerra-Snelson and Dallas lawyer Christie M. Villarreal, has succeeded in attracting an array of experts, ranging from the federal and national levels to the state and local arenas.

Janet Napolitano , U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, will speak at the opening plenary session on Thursday morning. She is sure to be peppered with questions about the Obama administration’s new ruling that undocumented immigrants who are facing deportation but have no criminal record will be allowed to stay in the country.

Thursday afternoon, the issue of sanctuary cities, which Gov. Rick Perry declared an emergency item in the state’s recent emergency legislative session, will be discussed by Dallas Police Chief David Brown, state Rep. Rafael Anchía and Dallas City Council member Delia Jasso.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is Friday’s luncheon speaker, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is the keynoter at a reception at Cowboys Stadium that evening.

The birthright citizenship issue of the 14th Amendment and human trafficking are also on the agenda. So is an all-day youth symposium, featuring Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzmán.

It’s worth noting, too, that Latinas are playing a prominent role in this convention. Not only are the two co-chairs, the executive director and the president all women, but a luncheon Thursday will feature the work of the organization’s commission on the status of Latina lawyers.

Sen’s goal as president was to make this “The Year of the Latina,” given that a paltry 1.3 percent of all lawyers in the nation are Latinas, she said.

“Diversity is tantamount to the success of our country,” she said, “and we need to ensure that all voices are heard at the volume reflective of our population numbers.”