Law & the Media Seminar 2020

Page Navigation


34th Law and the Media Seminar: Is Speech Still Free?

Freedom of speech and expression are guaranteed and protected by the First Amendment. Courts, legislatures, the executive branch, educational institutions, the media and citizens are among those who have interpreted, challenged and championed those rights over more than two centuries. What roles do the media and the legal system play in defining and protecting the limits of free speech? In this year’s Law & the Media Seminar reporters, attorneys and scholars discuss freedom of speech in 2020.


Thank you for making this event a success!





About the Event

The Law & the Media Seminar was co-sponsored by the HBA Law & the Media Committee and the Society of Professional Journalists. This yearly educational event is where legal professionals and members of the press gather to discuss current events and issues in both fields.

The theme of the 34th Annual Law & the Media Seminar was “Is Speech Still Free?” This year’s seminar featured attorneys, journalists and scholars discussing freedom of speech concepts, news and related issues.

Saturday, February 1 at the South Texas College of Law Houston Emilie Slohm Conference Room.


  • 8:00 - 8:55 a.m. Registration, continental breakfast, and networking
  • 8:55 - 9:00 a.m. Welcome and introductions
  • 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. Free Speech "Lightning Round"
    • Anti-SLAPP - Adam Milasincic is a trial lawyer who has defeated some of the largest companies in Texas, both in front of juries and appeals court justices. Since then, his client victories have earned coverage in Forbes, the Houston Chronicle, KPRC-TV, and other media. Milasincic entered the Texas Verdicts Hall of Fame for an $11.4 million verdict he obtained within his first three years as an attorney.
    • Extra-judicial Speech - The Honorable Susan Criss is a partner at Criss & Rousseau Law Firm. An elected judge of the 212th District Court of Galveston County for 15 years and a former prosecutor at the Galveston County District Attorney’s office, she is a frequent lecturer on high profile cases and social media for trial attorneys and judges. She presided over several high profile trials, including the Robert Durst murder trial and the 2005 Texas City British Petroleum explosion case.
    • Campus Speech - As the ninth dean of the University of Houston Law Center, Leonard M. Baynes brings a national reputation as a communications law scholar with specializations in business, media, and diversity issues. He manages more than 60 full-time faculty and oversees 12 centers and institutes. He has written more than 25 law review articles on corporate law, communications law, and diversity.
    • The Texas Public Information ActJoe Larsen has extensive experience in all aspects of media representation including prepublication, subpoenas, defamation and access cases under freedom of information laws. He also has an active practice in commercial and general litigation. Joe is the recipient of the 2010 James Madison Award from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, and he now serves as a board member and chair of the Review Committee for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
  • 10:15 - 11:15 a.m. Keynote Address
    • Mike Hixenbaugh is a national investigative reporter for NBC News, based in Houston. Prior to joining NBC earlier this year, he spent three years at the Houston Chronicle, where his reporting about a troubled heart transplant program led to changes to improve patient safety. He graduated from the University of Akron in 2007 before going to work at newspapers in Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia. His 2015 investigation into neglected Navy and Marine Corps helicopters led the military to spend more than $350 million in repairs. The reporting became the basis of a full-length documentary, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?
  • 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Panel on "The Limits of Provocative Speech," featuring
    • Moderator Mizanur Rahman has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years. He has worked in the Detroit area, at The Virginian-Pilot, Dallas Morning News and is currently an assistant city editor at the Houston Chronicle.
    • Charles “Chip” Babcock is a Texas-based trial and appellate lawyer with Jackson Walker. He has tried over 100 cases to a jury and argued over 50 appeals. He is an expert in media and First Amendment litigation, and he has represented individuals such as Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil McGraw, George W. Bush, and Reggie Love, an aide to President Obama. His corporate clients have included ORIX USA, Celanese Corp, Fox News Network, CNN, Google, CBS Television Studios, Warner Brothers Pictures, New Line Cinema, 3M Corporation, and The Oprah Winfrey Network. 
    • Holli V. Pryor-Baze is senior counsel with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, where her practice concentrates on complex litigation and arbitration. She earned her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. Holli has extensive experience handling matters involving software, health care, catastrophic personal injury, trade secrets, energy, and class actions, and she has handled numerous anti-SLAPP motions in state and federal courts.
    • Brian Rogers is a media consultant and criminal appellate attorney. A career journalist with a law degree, he was the Legal Affairs Reporter for the Houston Chronicle for 13 years. He left in 2019 to open his own law firm and start a consulting business.

Back to top

Planning Committee Members

Attorney Co-Chairs:
Charles Sharman (Porter Hedges LLP)
Greg Ulmer (BakerHostetler)

Media Co-Chairs:
Laura Isensee (Houston Public Media)
Juan Lozano (Associated Press)

HBA Staff Liaison:
Tara Shockley

Back to top

Gerald Birnberg
Jaclyn Carr
Joe Carroll
Zach Despart
Brandy Douglas
Scott Durfee
Tracee Evans
Mary Flood
Kristen Lee
Juan Lozano

Kody Lyons
Jim Magill
Kassia Micek
Jane Mumey
Jonathan Needle
Ted Oberg
Erin Powers
Miya Shay
Matthew Sheridan


Learn More

To learn more about the event, contact Tara Shockley at or Carly Wood at, or call (713) 759-1133.

Back to top