Texas Lawyer explains the basic reason in “Bar Turns Over 63,000 Member Email Addresses to Law Student”. As the headline suggests, someone filed an open-records request for this information and (soon after filing a lawsuit) received an electronic file with the addresses. Quite promptly, the person who made the request sent out an email lobbying for even stricter changes to the disciplinary rules. (( The email asks recipients to vote against the proposed new disciplinary rules about sex with clients because the rules are not strict enough, which so far as I can tell, would leave in place the relatively more lax rules we have today. The ways of politics are mysterious to me. ))
I received this email, too. I didn’t know quite what to make of it — the return address was mysterious, and you could tell by the email headers that it had been sent through a bulk-email system (Campaigner).
The Texas Lawyer article hints, but does not quite say, that the bar’s disclosure excluded lawyers who had made an affirmative election under Government Code §552.1176 to keep their email addresses private. (( Sec. 552.1176. CONFIDENTIALITY OF CERTAIN INFORMATION MAINTAINED BY STATE BAR.
(a) Information that relates to the home address, home telephone number, electronic mail address, social security number, or date of birth of a person licensed to practice law in this state that is maintained under Chapter 81 is confidential and may not be disclosed to the public under this chapter if the person to whom the information relates:
(1) chooses to restrict public access to the information; and
(2) notifies the State Bar of Texas of the person’s choice, in writing or electronically, on a form provided by the state bar.
(b) A choice made under Subsection (a) remains valid until rescinded in writing or electronically by the person.
(c) All documents filed with a county clerk and all documents filed with a district clerk are exempt from this section. ))
I don’t much mind a stray email or two; if you want to get all sorts of interesting emails, you should start a law blog. But if for some reason you don’t want your email address included in the next data dump that the state bar provides to a marketing company (and I’d expect that within the next few weeks), this might be a good time to check your email privacy settings on the State Bar website.
Court-watchers might also note that the State Bar won a previous lawsuit about releasing attorney records that made its way to the Austin Court of Appeals. Looking at the law prior to the enactment of §552.1176, the Austin Court concluded that the bar’s attorney records were judicial records not subject to the open-records act. The Texas Supreme Court denied review in that case (DDB).