Bloch, who is certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in civil appellate law and civil trial law, says she has been involved in the section for “many, many years.”
“I served on the counsel, which is a three-year term. Then I came in as secretary, then treasurer, then vice chair, chair-elect, and now I’m chair,” she says. “I have large shoes to fill; we’ve had wonderful, wonderful past chairs.”
One of the section’s main goals is to provide value to its members, Bloch says. She says the section does that through its quarterly newsletter, Appellate Advocate, and by providing reduced registration fees and promoting continuing legal education.
Another important project the section has been working on is continuing its development of a pro bono program for people unable to afford an attorney for their appeals, which Bloch says has been a “very successful program.”
“We’ve had a lot of wonderful volunteers who’ve put a lot of time and effort into making the program a success,” she says. “We got it in place with four or five courts of appeals and the Supreme Court, and we’re trying to get it in place with all 14 courts of appeals in the state.”
Bloch says one of the reasons the section started the project was the lack of any system in place to identify people who needed help at the appellate level. “What we’ve done is gotten people on the ground to help coordinate with the clerk’s offices at the courts of appeals,” she says.
“The new thing is now someone who wants to file an appeal has the option of checking a box [on the docketing statement] that says ‘I do not have a lawyer, and I cannot afford one and would like to be matched up with a pro bono lawyer,’ ” Bloch says.
Once the clerk’s office receives a docketing statement with that box checked, they contact various people around the state who can put them in contact with an attorney, Bloch says.
She says there aren’t specific types of cases the pro bono attorneys will or won’t take, and the only type of merit screening that occurs is to be sure the case was filed by the deadline and the court still has jurisdiction.
“I hope to continue the hard work that’s already been accomplished,” Bloch says. “I’m very proud of the work the section has done, and I encourage people to join the section.”
— Christine Lesicko