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Paul Yetter an Inspiring Recipient of the Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Award

  • March 14, 2019

“What thrills me about this award is that it recognizes the good that lawyers can do in our turbulent times.  Every attorney can be part of the solution.”—Paul Yetter

With a moving and galvanizing acceptance speech, Paul Yetter of Yetter Coleman LLP received the 2019 Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Award and encouraged his fellow attorneys to help repair “what is broken” with the world.

Yetter spoke to a larger-than-usual audience of 630 attendees as he received the award named after former ADL Board Chair Karen H. Susman, of blessed memory.  The award recognizes an outstanding member of the legal community who exhibits an exceptional commitment to equality, justice, fairness and community service, and it is given at a luncheon that this year raised more than $440,000 for ADL programs and resources.  ADL would like to thank its generous sponsors.

Event chairs Diana E. Marshall, Richard W. Mithoff, and the Honorable Susan S. Soussan, all spoke about Yetter’s incomparable legal skills and his devotion to meaningful pro-bono work, especially his law firm’s work on MD v. Abbott.  The landmark case which involved suing the state of Texas over a hopelessly inadequate child welfare system, was successful in starting reforms that will completely overhaul foster care in the state and ensure a brighter future for Texas foster children.

Yetter himself talked about the sad state of Texas foster care: “40 percent of children are moved by the State so far from their caseworkers that they effectively have no caseworker.  Over 60 percent of the pre-teen children are sent to group homes in which abuse is endemic, especially by older children on younger ones.”  He called the system a “system in crisis,” but reported “reform is coming.”

The case went to trial in 2011.  In 2015, Judge Janis Jack found the state violated the plaintiff’s rights to be free from unreasonable risk of harm cause by the state.  In 2016, the judge appointed two independent special masters to create and oversee reforms to Texas’ child welfare system, and in 2017 Governor Greg Abbott called on the Texas Legislature to allocate 500-million dollars for foster care system improvement.

Yetter exhorted his fellow attorneys to seek out wrongs and help right them.  “Yes, that sounds hard,” he said.  “Yes, we’re all busy.  The fact is that we lawyers are so well-placed to improve our world….with our training as lawyers, and with perseverance and help, each of us can become a voice for the voiceless.  The only question left is, Will you?”