News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
December 15, 2009

Texas Access to Justice Foundation Awards New Grants for Pilot Projects Impacting the Texas Legal Delivery System

AUSTIN, Texas The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) has announced special impact initiative grants designed to strategically address broad issues of access to the justice system that can positively impact the Texas legal delivery system for low-income citizens.  As a result of funding from the 81st Legislative Session, the Foundation has awarded $1,200,000 to three nonprofit legal aid organizations and two bar associations to develop pilot projects in underserved, remote or rural communities. It is projected an additional 10,500 low-income individuals will be served with these funds allowing them access to legal relief and providing them legal assistance at critical times in their lives such as foreclosure and eviction defense, access and visitation to children, consumer protection, probate, and health care. 

The two new categories of special impact initiatives grants from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation are: 1) “Expanding the Right to Civil Counsel “Civil Gideon” Pilot Projects” which includes collaborative programs with courts for the delivery of legal services where basic human needs are at risk; such as shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody; and 2) “Self-Represented Litigation Pilot Projects” designed to help the ever-increasing number of litigants representing themselves “pro se” in Texas courts.

The special impact initiative grantees and their pilot projects are:
Expanding the Right to Civil Counsel “Civil Gideon” Pilot Project Grant Awards

Lone Star Legal Aid – “Tenant Defense Project,” $310,38 To create a project that appoints counsel for persons involved in eviction appeals in Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery counties.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid – “Border Foreclosure Defense Project,” $347,611 A project partnering with the courts in Webb, Zapata, Starr, Cameron, Hidaldo and Willacy counties to represent low-income clients in defense of foreclosures.

Self-Represented Litigation Pilot Projects Grant Awards

Lone Star Legal Aid – “Rural Pro Se Litigation Project,” $206,000 Creating court-based self-help centers, web kiosks, standardized forms, and pro se clinics in Nacogdoches and Angelina counties.

Lubbock County Bar Association – “Pro Se Programs,” $76,000 To develop online document assembly stations and an informational video in Lubbock County.

Smith County Bar Foundation – “Self-Help Center,” $65,000 To create a self-help center in the Smith County Law Library.

Texas Legal Services Center – “Self-Represented Litigation Project,” $195,000 Will develop and provide easily accessible legal information, such as about court procedures, standard litigation forms, and individualized advice and brief services from licensed attorneys through a statewide web site, www.texaslawhelp.org.

“As the legal needs of poor and low-income Texans continue to increase, we are encouraging our providers of legal aid services to think strategically, and collaboratively, in creative projects that will have a long-term and future impact on the delivery of legal services,” said Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.  “These pilot projects are designed to help low-income Texans obtain the access to the court system they so desperately need and are often unable to afford.”

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation was created by the Supreme Court of Texas and is the largest Texas funding source for legal services to the poor. TAJF has awarded more than $274 million in grants in its 25 years of existence and annually helps fund more than 40 nonprofit organizations including legal aid and pro bono programs, shelters, domestic violence projects, bar associations, law schools and immigration programs throughout Texas. TAJF collects and administers several funds including: Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), Basic Civil Legal Services (filing fees, fees assessed to out-of-state attorneys practicing in Texas, and other public funding), crime victims’ funds and private donations.

Each year, TAJF grantees help more than 100,000 low-income individuals with their civil legal needs. With the help of grants from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, public interest lawyers give free legal advice and representation to low-income Texans with civil legal problems, such as landlord-tenant issues, family law matters, employment law, access to earned benefits and consumer issues. Unlike the criminal justice system, low-income Texans facing civil legal problems are not guaranteed an attorney.

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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 Texans each year.

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

 

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