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Domestic Violence: Training Lawyers to Better Handle Cases Involving Abuse


9:00 A.M. – 1:00 P.M.

University of Houston Law Center
4604 Calhoun Road | Houston, Texas 77204

Texas MCLE approved for 4 hours with .5 hours of ethics




Presented via Zoom

One of the most important services organizations can provide in helping to end domestic violence is to ensure that law practitioners understand what domestic violence is and areas of law it affects. Because domestic violence is a pattern of actions, legal professionals must be trained to scrutinize even seemingly benign activities. This program will equip lawyers practicing in all areas with the necessary tools to handle DV or to screen for domestic abuse and provide appropriate legal advice when domestic violence has been identified as an issue.


Family Bar of Fort Bend

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One institution and an EEO/AA institution


9:00 am

Welcome Remarks

Judge Janet Heppard/Judge Barbara Stalder

9:05 am

Application Requirements and Relief Requested for PO

Judge Janet Heppard, Presiding Judge, 387th Judicial District Court
Judge Rick Bell, Associate Judge, 387th Judicial District Court

9:35 am

Trauma Informed Interviewing (e)

Speaker: Ann Webb, Ph.D., J.D., LCSW

10:05 am


Judge Barbara Stalder, 308th Judicial District Court
Maisha Colter, CEO, AVD

10:35 am

Temporary Exparte Orders and Request for Kickouts

Speaker: Nora Law, The Law Firm of Nora La

11:05 am

Defending the PO and Affirmative Defenses

Speaker: Carolyn Robertson, Attorney at Law

11:35 am

Burdens of proof under TFC, the Criminal Code, and Additional Relief

Speaker: Melissa Cass Pickett, Kutty Law Firm

12:05 pm

Final Hearing (e)

Speakers: Carolyn Robertson, Melissa Cass Pickett, Maisha Colter, Nora Law

1:00 pm Adjourn



Judge Richard (“Rick”) Bell

Judge Richard (“Rick”) Bell graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1997 and practiced primarily as a family law attorney in Fort Bend and surrounding counties.  He currently serves as the Associate Judge of the 387th Judicial District Court.  Judge Bell is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education conferences.  Judge Bell has served on the boards for several non-profit organizations and is an active volunteer in many community service programs.  

Maisha Colter

Maisha Colter MSW, JD returned to Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) in March of 2012 as the agency’s managing attorney and quickly transitioned into the Director of the Legal Advocacy Program leading all of the agency’s victim service programs.  Maisha has dedicated her professional life to advocating for the needs of children and families in crisis.  Maisha has always found work that allows her to draw on the strengths of her educational training in social work and law.    Maisha attended school in New York graduating from Syracuse University with dual bachelors’ degrees in Social Work and Public Policy.  After obtaining her Masters in Social Work from New York University, Maisha was a licensed social worker in Brooklyn, New York working tirelessly with children and families involved with the State’s Child Protective Services Authority.  She later returned to Law School with the sole goal of securing a law degree to continue to advocate for families in crisis.  She received her law degree from Rutgers University in 2001. After relocating to Texas 2003 she learned about AVDA and reached out to the Executive Director to volunteer, and was instead hired as the agency’s only staff attorney in 2004.  She remained with the agency for almost 4 years and returned in 2012 to lead the distinguished staff of attorneys and paralegals charged with fighting on behalf of countless victims of domestic abuse in Harris, Fort Bend, Austin, Grimes, Waller and Washington Counties.  She was selected after a nationwide search to serves as AVDA’s Chief Executive Officer on August 1, 2019.

Judge Janet Heppard

Judge Janet Heppard graduated from the University of Houston in 1993 with a joint JD/MBA degree.  She is currently the Presiding Judge of the 387th State District Court (Family) in Fort Bend County, Texas and is busy as a Professor of Practice teaching the Civil Clinic Program class at the University of Houston Law Center where she taught for more than 25 years before her election to the bench.  The civil clinic, which she directs as an adjunct, provides pro bono legal services primarily in the areas of family law, probate, guardianship and estate planning. 

Nora V. Law

Nora V. Law is a family law attorney who has been a solo practitioner for over 10 years. Shepractices mainly in HarrisCountyandFort Bend county, but has set foot in Brazoria and Montgomery County. Prior to opening up her own law practice, Nora worked as an Assistant D.A in Victoria Texas for awhile and then overseas for a petrochemical company in Saudi Arabia.

Nora earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Vanderbilt University and her law degree from South Texas College of Law many many years ago.

Nora has 1 unruly husband, 2 unruly daughters and 2 unruly dogs.

Melissa Pickett

Melissa Pickett is an Associate Attorney with the Kutty Law Firm in Sugar Land, Texas. She became Board Certified in Family Law in 2020. She received her law degree from South Texas College of Law in 2007, and in her final year as a law student, she interned at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office where she handled protective order hearings in the Harris County Family District Courts with a third-year student bar card. After her licensure in 2008, Melissa provide family law services to survivors of family violence at Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse. In 2013, she transitioned into private practice, representing clients in divorce, paternity, child support, adoption, and protective order cases. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Houston. She also serves on District 4 Panel 5 of the Grievance Committee, which considers complaints involving lawyer conduct.

Carolyn Robertson

Carolyn Robertson is licensed to practice law since November 1993, and Board Certified in Family Law since 2003. When she isn’t managing a busy law practice, she spends time with her three children and five grandchildren.

Judge Barbara J. Stalder

Judge Barbara J. Stalder was elected to the 280th District Court bench in November 2018.  Prior to the election Judge Stalder worked in private practice where she represented victims of domestic violence, mediated divorce and custody disputes and was appointed as Amicus Attorney in high conflict custody matters.  Judge Stalder is a former clinical professor at UH Law Center where she spent eight years supervising law students in a variety of civil matters, including divorce and custody matters.  Early in her legal career Judge Stalder was a staff attorney at Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse where she represented men, women and children in family violence protective orders and family law matters.  Judge Stalder began her legal career as an distinguished Equal Justice Works fellow where she created a nonprofit organization representing children in abuse, neglect and family violence cases. Judge Stalder has been married to her husband Fred for 31 years, has four furkids living at home and enjoys cheering on her Houston Coogs and Kansas City Chiefs. 

Ann E. Webb, Ph.D., J.D., LCSW

Ann E. Webb, Ph.D., J.D., LCSW

Ann E. Webb is an attorney, a licensed clinical social worker, and a 2019 Ph.D. graduate of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  Dr. Webb’s research focuses on the intersection of social work and the law, with a particular interest in interdisciplinary practice involving social workers and lawyers, and immigration issues affecting children and families.  She has served as faculty on collaborative projects involving social work and law students assisting detained families seeking asylum and has developed a unique experiential learning program to engage social work students in practice arenas involving law and social work. Her scholarly agenda is informed by her experience as a lawyer and social work clinician, and by her role as an advocate for underserved populations.  As adjunct faculty at the University of Houston, Dr. Webb teaches assessment and advanced social policy, and has provided guest lectures to both social work and law students on topics relating to social work and the law, social work with immigrants and refugees, and trauma and secondary trauma as it impacts immigration law and practitioners.