Hanging Around Austin, Texas

With the first part of March spent traveling back to Huntsville  to host the Texas Supreme Court at Sam Houston, the month was off to a great start! Between experiences at the Capitol and in the city, living in Austin for the semester has been pack full of excitement! This session, I am interning for State Senator Schwertner. Senator Schwertner is the Chair of Health and Human Services Committee for the Texas Senate and is a member of several other committees. My responsibilities include a range of office tasks that range from administrative duties to policy analysis.

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner

This month the 85th Legislative Session hit two important milestones: the sixty-day filing deadline and the Session halfway point! According to the Constitution, the first sixty days of session is the only period where bills can be filed. During this period bills can not be heard on the Senate or House Floors unless the Governor declares it an emergency item. However, after the sixty day deadline no more bills can be filed.

Now that the deadline has passed, the House and Senate can vote on regular bills. As a result, committee hearings, floor discussion, and bill analyses are an every-day occurrence at the Capitol. Also, the session halfway point has come and gone which means our 140 days of session are flying by and leaving!

Not only have I been learning every day in the office at my internship,  I’ve also had interesting experiences as a result of my internship. This month I attended the Texas Legislature’s Army Day where Legislative members and staff learned about the Texas Military.

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner

I, along with other Legislative staff members, had the opportunity to fly out Camp Swift in Bastrop, TX, where the Texas Military Department hosts thousands of National Guard militants for training every year. During our day at camp, we flew on Blackhawk helicopters…

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner

…participated in firearm simulations, and shot a real machine gun (with the supervision and assistance of National Guard members of course).Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner The experiences were as memorable as working inside the capitol! I appreciated that the Texas Military Department took the day to teach us through a hands-on experience about their department’s duties.

One of my favorite parts of living in Austin has included trying new restaurants every week! Often, I get together with my fellow LEAP Ambassadors and Austin Interns to try a new and exciting restaurant. This month, my favorite restaurant we tried proved to be Kebabilicious which not only has great food, but a fun atmosphere! Exploring Austin has given me new perspective and experiences that I am thankful for! I am looking forward to the rest of Session and more of our weekly food adventures!

Additionally, I have enjoyed sightseeing around Austin. This month I visited Pennybacker Bridge which is not only an architecturally interesting bridge, but includes a short hike to overlook the sprawling hillsides of Austin.

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner, Pennybacker Bridge

Although our days at the Capitol can be long and exhausting, I always enjoy getting away from the busy city to enjoy the refreshing scenery of the hillsides.

As I continue through this session, whether I am shooting a thousand rounds per second or making my 5 mph commute through I-35, I cherish every day of my Austin experience. As the Senate gets busier I’ll appreciate a moment to just hang around in Austin.

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner

Texas Supreme Court Hearings at SHSU

As the sun rose, the Ambassadors awoke and prepared for the day by suiting up and heading to the Gaertner Performing Arts Center.  While some time was available for coffee, when the clock struck 8:30, all Ambassadors hustled to their posts. Some Ambassadors helped police officers at the Concert Hall entrance…

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

…others greeted guests, and others provided what was needed for the Justices before the hearings.

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

At 9:30 in the morning, the crowd lined up outside eager to watch the two cases being heard.

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

With Marshal Blake Hawthorne announcing “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, All Rise,” the TXSC Justices entered SHSU–for the first time ever–to hear a case.

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

The first wave of attendees watched a case involving a heart surgeon filing a suit against his contractor over a wrongful termination charge. It was an interesting case, with much discussion over how to calculate earning, when cause was or wasn’t needed, and what records were used for dismissal.

The second hearing was one that some found a bit more difficult to follow. It concerned a business appealing jury instructions on a second trial that was given to the employee who had previously been awarded monetary damages for being injured on the job. Although a bit technical, throughout the two cases students and other attendees were captivated by the court’s performance.

All were attentive to the Justices’s interrogation, the attorneys’ responses, and, in short, the judicial process. Part of the SHSU Moot Court team attended the hearings and took notes on how the legal representation addressed the Justices’ concerns and questions to hopefully use in the upcoming Moot Court season.

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Osler McCarthey

Apart from the judicial process, it was a point of satisfaction for Keith Coogler and his construction management students, who successfully built the judicial bench for the hearings.  It was an impressive feat, one commented on by the attorneys (“Wow”) and the Justices, who said they felt “right at home.”

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Keith Coogler

Following the hearings, the Justices graciously posed for photos with the Ambassadors.

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

The Justices also posed with a group of exchange students from China…

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

…the GPAC staff…

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

…and their security detail.

Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

It was a wonderful opportunity.

A Barrister Banquet: The TX Supreme Court comes to SHSU

By Alejandra Galvan

On March 1st and March 2nd, the LEAP Center joined the President’s Office and the TX Supreme Court to make history. For the first time ithe Supreme Court of Texas provided students with the opportunity to witness two Court proceedings in the comfort of their own campus!

Leaving behind the bustling Texas Capitol, the Austin Interns/LEAP Ambassadors made their journey back to Huntsville, TX. We looked forward to returning to the quaint town of Huntsville, while also knowing we would be greeting and eating with the Texas Supreme Court Justices.

Of course, prior to the Wednesday night dinner with the justices, we had some preparing to do for the actual court cases.  This involved us moving things around and otherwise preparing the Gaertner Performing Arts Center to look like a courtroom.

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That evening, the justices were welcomed to SHSU with a reception and dinner in Austin Hall.  Two of the ambassadors coordinated with the Court’s DPS officers to transport (in golf carts) the justices and other guests to dinner.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, Justice Eva Guzman

Although formally charged with greeting the justices and guests–including elected officials, local attorneys, and University administrators…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, President Dana Hoyt

we were able to spend time with some familiar faces…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, Chuck Vernon

…old friends…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, Mac and Leanne Woodward

…and the justices.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, Chief Justice Nate Hecht

It was appropriate that the event took place in Austin Hall, which was housed by Austin College which, in turn, housed the state’s first law school.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall

In fact, General Sam Houston was on the board of directors for Austin College.  Thus, this historic event traced directly back to the life and career of Texas’s most famous lawyer, and the ambiance seemed to make everyone happier.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall

The real fun, though, was just having the opportunity to mingle and see people having a good time.

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The night’s program included remarks from Professor Mike Yawn…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, Mike Yawn

…President Dana Hoyt…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, President Dana Hoyt

…and Chief Justice Nathan Hecht.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, Justice Nathan Hecht

At least one TXSC Justice was seated at each table, often with at least one attorney, and this arrangement benefited the Ambassadors well in terms of advice in our future law careers.

...and President Dana Hoyt

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Perhaps no one had a better seat than Christina Perez, who sat alongside President Hoyt, Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, 10th Court of Appeals Chief Justice Tom Gray, and County Judge Danny Pierce.  Gray and Pierce, long-time friends of the LEAP Ambassadors, calmed Perez’s nerves, and allowed her to enjoy her time with the TXSC Chief Justice and University President.  And they, in turn, seemed to enjoy the night as well.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall, President Hoyt

As the echoing laughter and chatter in Austin Hall died down, the attending guests bid their farewells to the Justices. The LEAP Ambassadors reflected on the night while standing in the now empty Austin Hall before leaving to get a good night’s rest for what the following day had in store.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Supreme Court, Austin Hall