News Release

Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation
 
November 15, 2011

Texas Senator Kirk Watson to Receive Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award

Sen. Watson Named "Legislative Hero" for Improving Access to Justice to the More than Six Million Texans Who Qualify for Legal Aid

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation will honor Senator Kirk Watson with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas during a special presentation in Austin on Friday, December 16. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, will present the award to Senator Watson.

Senator Watson has a long history of supporting civil legal aid issues, including efforts that led to an historic appropriation of funding in the 81st Legislature for civil legal services to poor Texans. Through his leadership efforts, Watson has helped improve access to justice for poor and low-income Texans.

“Senator Watson’s support in the Legislature helps many struggling Texans with basic civil legal services, such as benefits for veterans, foreclosures, health care for the elderly and domestic violence,” Justice Hecht said. “At a time of dwindling resources, we are grateful for the support as we continue to provide Texans in need access to justice.”

"I'm honored to receive this recognition from the Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation," said Senator Watson.  "For years, I've worked to assure legal services for the most vulnerable in our community.  We must do more to help them navigate the justice system.  I am proud to support this work in the Texas Senate."

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.

Senator Watson serves on the Senate committees overseeing Business and Commerce, Economic Development, Nominations, and Higher Education. He is also vice chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security. He currently serves as the chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Senator Watson represents District 14, which covers most of Travis County. Before being elected to the Senate in 2006, he was mayor of Austin from 1997 to 2001.

Senator Watson is a partner with Brown McCarroll, L.L.P., working as a lawyer and public affairs consultant. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Baylor University and graduated first in his class at Baylor Law School. Senator Watson has been named "Rookie of the Year" and one of the state's “10 Best Legislators” by Texas Monthly. Among many other accolades, he was also named outstanding young alumnus of Baylor, Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas and Austinite of the Year. Watson is a former president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, presided as chair of the State Bar Committee on Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters, and served on the State Bar of Texas Executive Committee.

Legal aid organizations funded by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation help more than 120,000 low-income Texas families each year with their civil legal needs. Yet, for every person who is helped with legal aid, a qualifying Texan is denied assistance due to a lack of resources. 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 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 more than 100,000 Texans each year.

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

 

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