News Release

Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation
 
April 27, 2011

Champions of Justice for Veterans Gala Raises $377,950 for Legal Services for Low-Income Texas Veterans

Texas Access to Justice Commission honored veterans and the Commission's 10-year anniversay at gala on April 26

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Access to Justice Commission honored veterans throughout the state at the Champions of Justice for Veterans Gala on Tuesday, April 26, at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center in Austin, Texas. More than $377,950 was raised to help provide civil legal services to low-income Texas veterans. The gala also honored the Texas Access to Justice Commission’s 10-year anniversary and legal aid advocates.

“The Champions of Justice for Veterans Gala not only celebrated a significant milestone for the Texas Access to Justice Commission, but also honored the service of the brave men and women who have sacrificed for our country,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, said. “The gala took place on the same day the Supreme Court of Texas created the Commission 10 years ago. We have helped many Texans and veterans since then, but we still have a long way to go.”

Colonel David W. Sutherland – Keynote Speaker

Col. David W. Sutherland, special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a principal focus on Warrior and Family Support, spoke at the gala about the importance of helping veterans and their families reintegrate into civilian society. He addressed the challenges soldiers face when they return home to their communities from the physical and psychological trauma of war. Col. Sutherland also focused on the need to build public awareness of veterans’ needs, encourage community involvement and promote community services for returning veterans, their families and families of fallen soldiers.

“Community leadership is key to the success of reintegrating and transitioning veterans, families and families of our fallen. Veterans do well in communities where they feel they relate,” Col. Sutherland said. “We realize that there are some things that the government just cannot do that independent groups in communities can. These include mentorship programs and direct leadership involvement.”

Col. Sutherland has received many accolades for his military service, including the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal with six oak leaf clusters and the Ranger Tab.

The Champions of Justice for Veterans Gala

Host committee chairs for the gala included prominent Texas attorneys who donated their time for the effort: Joseph D. Jamail of Jamail & Kolius in Houston, Harriet E. Miers of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP in Dallas, Scott E. Rozzell of CenterPoint Energy, Inc. in Houston and James B. Sales of Fulbright & Jaworski LLP. in Houston.

Major sponsors of the event included: AT&T, Construction Law Section of the State Bar, Baker Botts LLP, ExxonMobil and Charles W. Matthews, Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, Jamail & Kolius, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, and Vinson & Elkins LLP. The State Bar of Texas donated funds to cover the expenses of the gala.

Proceeds from the gala will be distributed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and dedicated to the provision of civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans. These services assist in addressing legal issues related to marital problems, difficulties in getting medical or disability benefits, wrongful foreclosures, and other situations that may arise due to a veteran’s absence during military service. For more information, please visit www.teajf.org.

ATJ Awards

Several awards were presented at the Champions of Justice for Veterans Gala to distinguished legal aid advocates for their contributions in improving access to justice. Carl Reynolds, director of the Office of Court Administration, of Austin received the Star of Justice Award that recognizes dedication to improving access to justice for low-income Texans. Reynolds was recognized for his leadership and judicial efforts to ensure that access to the courts is available for those in need. The Star of Justice Award is given as earned and not awarded on an annual basis.

Colonel Bryan Spencer of Austin and Sharon Reynerson of Paris, Texas, received the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award that recognizes those who have made a lasting, extraordinary impact on the provision of legal services to low-income Texans. As a result of the need for legal aid for military personnel and their families during Operation Enduring Freedom that began in Afghanistan in 2001, Col. Spencer helped form Operation Enduring LAMP (Legal Assistance to Military Personnel) to assist service members worldwide and currently serves as director.

Reynerson, litigation director of Lone Star Legal Aid, was awarded for her contributions in assisting thousands of Texans when faced with tough legal situations for more than 25 years. For many of Reynerson’s clients, legal assistance is the determining factor between having a home or living in the streets, being hungry and feeding a child, or a matter between life and death for a woman seeking safety from domestic violence.

Texas Legal Aid

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Texas created the Texas Access to Justice Commission to develop and implement initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texas families. Since its inception, the Commission established legal training academies, a student loan repayment assistance program, resource development measures and innovative technology initiatives.

“Legal aid has helped homeless veterans who have been wrongfully evicted, obtained disability benefits for those with injuries suffered from military service, and much more,” Harry M. Reasoner, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said. “In these hard economic times, domestic abuse, child abuse, and other problems increase. People’s futures may depend on legal aid.”

Approximately 5.7 million Texans currently qualify for civil legal aid. Yet for every Texan that is helped by legal aid, a qualifying individual is turned away due to a lack of resources. To be eligible for civil legal aid, an individual must earn no more than $13,613 a year. For a family of four, the household income cannot exceed $27,938. 

The Texas Access to Justice Commission was created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission has created several initiatives to increase resources and awareness of legal aid. For more information, please visit www.TexasATJ.org.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 100,000 Texas families each year.

Contact: Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104
kschmitt@teajf.org

 

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