Next Conversation: Tuesday, February 6


“Freedom of the Press and Public Information”

Allen Theater, Student Union Building 5:30 - 7:00p.m.

Mission Statement

Civil Counterpoints: A Campus Conversation Series aims to stimulate thoughtful and respectful dialogue on volatile contemporary issues among members of the Texas Tech community. The series offers the university community opportunities to hear experts in the field tackle difficult topics through the engaged dialogues we encourage in the classroom, the lab, our hallways, and other forums. The series strives to highlight the diversity of research, creative endeavors and critical analysis on campus, and to demonstrate the possibilities for meaningfulcollaboration across disciplines, perspectives, and expertise in a respectful environment. Among the hallmarks of a vibrant and engaged university is the safeguarding of academic freedom, a principle that protects our ability to explore, discuss, investigate, and challenge oneanother's ideas intellectually and courteously.

Civil Counterpoints

Guests for the Feb. 6 Session

Don Richards

Media Attorney

See bio

A former award-winning community journalist, Richards now practices law primarily in the areas of Public Utility Law, Media Law, and Administrative Law. He is Board Certified in Administrative Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, State Bar of Texas, and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Texas Tech School of Law where he teaches the Texas Administrative Law course. He was named to Texas Monthly's 2005 list of “Super Lawyers” for Texas.

In telecommunication and utility matters, Richards regularly represents more than 40 local exchange telephone companies and electric utility cooperatives before the Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission of Texas. He has served as general counsel to the Texas Exchange Carrier Association, and currently is Chairman of the Legal Committees of the National Telephone Cooperative Association. He is a member of Electric Cooperative Bar Association and the Texas Telephone Association and past-Chairman of the Public Utility Section of the State Bar of Texas. He serves as legal counsel to a number of West Texas media clients. He also serves as an Advisory Director and as a hotline attorney for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas on questions of the Open Meetings Act and Public Information Act, and is a frequent speaker on news media law and public utility issues.

A sixth-generation Texan and fourth-generation journalist, Richards was born in Stonewall County, Texas, and is a native of Jayton, Texas, where his father owned the weekly newspaper. He received his undergraduate degree in journalism from Texas Tech University where he served as editor of the student newspaper, The University Daily. He then spent several years in the newspaper business, first as editor of several West Texas community newspapers, and then as publisher of The Azle News. He currently serves as publisher of The Banner of Love, one of Texas' oldest continuing religious newspapers, as well as publisher/co-owner of the Hale Center American weekly newspaper.

He previously was on the Washington D.C. staff of Congressman Kent Hance as Administrative Aide, serving as Press Secretary and handling legislative matters dealing in communication, military and foreign affairs. He held a Top Secret Security Clearance and toured a number of the nation's top military installations.

Richards graduated cum laude from Texas Tech School of Law in the Spring of 1984 and was named to the Order of the Coif for finishing in the top ten percent of the class. He was an Associate Editor of Law Review, Chairman of the Board of Barristers, and was selected to the school's National Moot Court Team.

Don R. Richards was raised in a newspaper family, was editor of the campus newspaper at Texas Tech University and has operated newspapers. From this background came an interest in media law, open records and open meetings law, and an understanding of how to deal with the media. He was a congressional aide and one time nominee for U.S. Congress. From this background came an inside understanding of the legislative and political process and an understanding of community and member relations.

Active in local politics, Richards has in the past entered the electoral arena. He received the Democratic nomination for the 1984 General Election for U.S. Congress from the West Texas 19th Congressional District, and in 1996 received the Democratic nomination for District 84 of the Texas House of Representatives.

Dr. Brie Sherwin

Associate Professor of Law

See bio

Admitted to practice in Texas and before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Dr. Sherwin is an Associate Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law and part of the inaugural faculty of the Master of Public Health Degree Program at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Texas Tech University where she teaches Environmental Health Sciences. She holds a Ph.D. in environmental toxicology, and her dissertation work focused on assessing the potential impacts of oil and gas production on endangered species. She began her career working as an attorney at one of the largest toxic tort litigation firms in the country, representing individuals and communities affected by environmental contamination. She most recently practiced environmental law at the Dallas office of Gardere Wynne Sewell, LLP, representing various companies in disputes involving regulatory environmental matters.

Dr. Sherwin's scholarship covers environmental law, environmental justice, and emerging public health issues, with a specific focus on the use and interpretation of toxicological studies in the regulatory process and in judicial opinions. She has written about trade secret protection and the toxicological concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing, and her scientific research has explored the effects of environmental toxicants and habitat modification on threatened and endangered species. Her recent scholarship has focused on environmental justice and public health issues such as the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan and coal mining practices in Appalachia.

Thomas Williams

Media Attorney

See bio

Tom Williams has served as a trusted counselor to companies, individuals, lawyers and his community for more than 30 years. An experienced litigator and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, Tom has handled cases across a broad spectrum of practice areas, including those involving claims of libel, invasion of privacy and other First Amendment issues, copyright and trademark infringement, professional responsibility and professional liability claims, oil and gas disputes, employment disputes, and a wide variety of commercial, corporate and business issues.

Throughout Tom's career, leaders in his community and profession have turned to him for advice, counsel, and service. Before the age of 30, Tom served as vice-chair of the City of Fort Worth Charter Review and Revision Commission. In 2007 and again in 2010 the Supreme Court of Texas appointed Tom to the Board of Disciplinary Appeals, a statewide judicial body of twelve attorneys appointed by the Supreme Court to hear certain lawyer discipline cases, and Tom served two terms as chair of the Tarrant County Bar Foundation.

In 2006, the Tarrant County Bar Association honored Tom with its Professionalism Award, given each year to a Tarrant County lawyer who best “exemplifies, by conduct and character, professional traits that others in the bar should try to emulate.”

Brandon Formby

Urban Affairs Reporter

See bio

Brandon Formby writes about the challenges facing Texas' largest metro areas as they experience unbridled growth. He joined the Tribune in October 2016 and is the organization's first reporter based in Dallas. The Texas Tech University graduate spent more than 13 years at The Dallas Morning News, where he covered transportation, local government and politics.


Tom "Smitty" Smith

Director of Public Citizen's Texas Office

Calendar of Events

Tuesday, February 6

“Freedom of the Press and Public Information”

Allen Theater, Student Union Building 5:30 - 7:00p.m.

Wednesday, April 4

“Title IX & Inclusion”

Allen Theater, Student Union Building 5:30 - 7:00p.m.

Prior Discussions

President Schovanec's Civil Counterpoints Greeting (Video)Oct. 3, 2017 - "Cooling Down the Heated Debates: Understanding Approaches to Climate Change"

Related Bibliography and Videos

Media reports of conflicts on university campuses 2016-17

Essays/research regarding higher education institution's roles in society during turbulent times

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