Texas Access to Justice Foundation
AUSTIN, Texas — As the 84th session of the Texas Legislature closed, $17.56 million in state general revenue has been appropriated for civil legal aid for disadvantaged Texans. In addition, the state budget will include a new $10 million line item for the Texas Supreme Court to provide grants for civil legal services for victims of sexual assault. The funding will be administered by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. An additional $3 million has been added for expanded civil legal services to veterans.
The Legislature also passed House Bill 1079 that expands funding available through the Chief Justice Jack Pope Act that had been enacted in the prior legislative session. The 2013 legislation directed that the Supreme Court will receive penalty funds collected by the Attorney General’s office for violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. House Bill 1079 that is now at the Governor’s office will provide for transfers to the Supreme Court for Legal Aid grants from violations of other sections of the Business and Commerce Code including violations of antitrust and identity theft laws.
“Helping struggling Texans obtain assistance with civil legal concerns is not just necessary for our democracy to thrive, it’s the right thing to do,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, said. “We thank our legislators for supporting our efforts to increase funding for legal services. Legal aid is fundamental to ensuring justice for all citizens of this great state.”
The continued high levels of poverty in our state, combined with a slow recovery of the national economy, has increased the number of low-income Texans in need of free civil legal services. Currently, 5.6 million Texans qualify for legal aid for help with issues such as benefits for veterans, health care for the elderly, domestic violence and foreclosures.
Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) is a significant funding source for legal aid services in Texas, but those funds have decreased significantly due to historically low interest rates. Since 2007, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation has experienced a loss of more than $99 million due to the declines in funding from IOLTA. This decline in funding harmfully affects legal aid programs throughout the state.
The legal aid system in Texas annually provides more than 100,000 families with basic civil legal services in times of desperate need. To qualify for legal aid, an individual cannot earn more than $14,713 a year. For a family of four, the household income cannot exceed $30,313.
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 (http://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 more than 100,000 Texas families each year.
512-320-0099, ext. 104
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