Texas Tech University

Law Professor Receives State Award for Advocacy for Texans With Disabilities

George Watson

October 21, 2020

law school

The Governor’s Trophy is part of the Lex Frieden Employment Awards presented by the State of Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities.

Brian Shannon, a Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor in the School of Law at Texas Tech University, has been awarded the Governor's Trophy, a part of the Lex Frieden Employment Awards given by the Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) within the Office of the Texas Governor.

The Lex Frieden Employment Awards recognize the best practices in hiring and accommodation of all Texans with disabilities to help build an inclusive, accessible work environment. The Governor's Trophy is the committee's highest honor, awarded to the person who has achieved the highest success in enhancing the empowerment and employment of Texans with disabilities. The Governor's Trophy recognizes long-term commitment and outstanding efforts at both the community and state level.

Brian Shannon

"I am extremely honored and grateful for this recognition," Shannon said. "It came as a complete surprise. I want to express my gratitude to the appointees and staff of the Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities for their tireless efforts both to further opportunities for persons with disabilities to enjoy full and equal access to participation in society, and in speaking out against discrimination and exclusion. I also am deeply appreciative of both Texas Tech University and the School of Law for their consistent, ongoing support of research and service such as mine that can positively contribute to systemic improvements for persons with mental illness or other disabilities."

Shannon has been a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. In 2003, former Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to the first of four terms on the GCPD. In 2000, Shannon filed an amicus curia brief at the U.S. Supreme Court in PGA Tour, Inc. v. Casey Martin, which involved the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to professional golf tours. Casey Martin, who suffered from a circulatory condition that impaired his ability to walk while playing golf, sought court relief to use a golf cart as a reasonable accommodation for his disability during the tour qualifying tournament and PGA events. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Martin, 7-2.

Through appointment by the lieutenant governor, Shannon also served on a task force in 2002-03 that re-wrote the state's criminal competency statutes.

He has written multiple editions of a popular guide book on Texas Criminal Procedure and Offenders with Mental Illness, and recently wrote the latest article for the Texas Tech Law Review website, "Texas Mental Health Legislative Reform: Significant Achievements with More to Come."

The article focused on a discussion of legislative actions from 2017 and 2019, with further discussion of some proposals from the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health for 2021. Shannon chaired one of the commission's legislative subcommittees after being appointed to a two-year term on the commission in 2018. The commission was established by the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals to better serve people struggling with mental health issues.

Shannon has been a popular professor in the School of Law since 1988 and has won numerous teaching awards, including the 2013 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching Award, the President's Academic Achievement Award and the President's Excellence in Teaching Award. IN 2019, Shannon also was awarded the Barnie Rushing Distinguished Research Award. He also served as associate dean for academic affairs from 2001 to 2007.

He is a board appointee for StarCare Specialty Health System (formerly known as Lubbock Regional MHMR Center), where he has served for more than 25 years and is a former chair. He also has served on the boards of Advocacy Inc., which is now Disability Rights Texas, and the Texas Council of Community Centers.

Shannon is an elected member of the American Law Institute and was the 2008-09 president of the Lubbock Area Bar Association. He is a past chair of the State Bar of Texas Disability Issues Committee.

Additionally, Shannon has served as the NCAA faculty athletics representative at Texas Tech since 2008 and also is the Big 12 Conference's representative to the 1A Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) national board as an immediate past president after serving three two-year terms as president from 2012 to 2018.

Shannon served a four-year term (2015-2019) on the NCAA Division I Council, which came as a result of an overhaul of the NCAA's governance system. The primary responsibility of the council includes creating Division I legislation, developing and recommending policies to the Board of Directors and supervising and acting on a wide array of issues, including NCAA championships.

"The School of Law and the state of Texas are incredibly fortunate to have Professor Shannon as a committed and passionate advocate for improving our legal system for those affected by mental illness," said Jack Wade Nowlin, dean of the School of Law. "He is widely regarded as the state's leading expert on mental health law, and I am so pleased his efforts and expertise are being recognized with the Governor's Trophy. Professor Shannon's dedication to empowering Texans with disabilities is truly inspiring."