AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation honored Representatives Will Hartnett and Jerry Madden with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for their contributions to improving access to justice in Texas during a special presentation on Wednesday, May 30, in Dallas. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award to Rep. Hartnett and Rep. Madden during the 60th anniversary celebration of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas.
Through the extraordinary leadership and diligence of Rep. Hartnett and Rep. Madden, the Texas Legislature helped fund basic civil legal services for the past two years. Rep. Hartnett and Rep. Madden realized the important role legal aid plays in providing access to our courts and helped improve that access for vulnerable Texans unable to pay for legal assistance from private attorneys.
“The bipartisan support we received in the Legislature helps many struggling Texans receive assistance with basic civil legal services; help that is essential to the integrity of the rule of law,” Justice Hecht said. “Hard economic times both increase the need for legal services and decrease financial support, and we are grateful for the tremendous work and support of Representatives Hartnett and Madden as we continue to provide access to justice to Texans in need.”
The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation launched the Legislative Hero Award program in 2010 to recognize legislators who, through their efforts, have significantly advanced access to justice in Texas by assisting with the appropriation of funds and/or other substantive activities related to the provision of legal aid in the state.
“A cornerstone of our democracy is the rule of law and the ability of our citizens to access our justice system,” Rep. Hartnett said. “I am honored to receive this award that reflects the importance of ensuring that our court system is available to all.”
“I’m honored to accept this award from the access to justice community,” Rep. Madden said. “Our basic fundamental rights are protected by our justice system, and all citizens should have access to that system when they are in need.”
Rep. Hartnett was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1990 and is serving his eleventh and final term of office. He serves as vice chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and on the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. Rep. Hartnett previously served for six years as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and for eight years as vice chair of the Judicial Affairs Committee.
During his legislative career, Rep. Hartnett has received numerous awards, and during four of the last five sessions of the Legislature, he has authored and passed more legislation than any other member of the Dallas County House delegation. He has been the lead House sponsor of 159 pieces of legislation and a co-sponsor of dozens of other enacted bills.
Rep. Hartnett is a partner in The Hartnett Law Firm, which has six lawyers, including his father, three brothers and a sister. The firm specializes in estate and trust administration and litigation. He is board certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law, and is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and of the Texas Bar Foundation. Rep. Harnett is listed in the 2011 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.
First elected to the Texas Legislature in November 1992 and now in his tenth and final term, Rep. Madden chaired the House Committee on Corrections in 2011 and from 2005 to 2009. He is also a member of the Select Committee on Election Contest, the Redistricting Committee, and the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.
Different legislative initiatives for which he has been commended include the highly successful 2007 criminal justice system reforms, which sought to divert individuals from prison through mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. He also established a state virtual education system, supporting participation of military voters in elections, advocating for victim's rights and instituting judicial campaign fairness. He has been honored for his work in a variety of policy areas by several organizations.
A resident of Collin County for nearly 40 years, Rep. Madden has been involved in numerous veteran and community organizations. He worked 11 years for Texas Instruments, eight years for Teledyne Geotech, and, in 2000, he formed Jerry Madden Insurance to offer group health plan coverage options to small businesses out of his independent agency's Plano offices. In July 2008, he sold his company and retired from the insurance business.
Legal aid organizations funded by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation help more than 100,000 low-income Texas families each year with their civil legal needs. However, due to a lack of resources, only about 20 to 25 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income and poor Texans are being met. Currently, only one legal aid lawyer is available to provide assistance for every 11,152 Texans who qualify.
The Texas Access to Justice Commission was
created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of
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
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