News Release

Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
December 11, 2009

Speaker Straus Honored with Star of Justice Award for Access to Justice Efforts

AUSTIN, Texas The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) presented the “Star of Justice Award” to Texas House of Representatives Speaker Joe Straus for his outstanding leadership efforts to help increase state funding for civil legal services to the poor.

The 81st Texas Legislature approved a $20 million appropriation for the biennium dedicated to civil legal services to help offset a dramatic drop in funding due to low interest rates’ affect on the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOTLA) program, a primary funding source for legal aid in Texas.  The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) administers the IOLTA program, and is the largest Texas funding source for legal aid in the state. 

TAJF Board member and San Antonio attorney Lamont Jefferson presented the award to Straus during the Dec. 10 meeting of the San Antonio Bar Association.   “We could not have obtained funding for legal services this biennium with the Speaker’s steadfast support.  These funding measures will allow us to keep the delivery system going as we, hopefully, work our way out of these challenging economic times,” said Jefferson.

Nearly 40 nonprofits receive grant funds from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.  In San Antonio, the six nonprofit legal organizations receive funding from TAJF, include: Catholic Charities of San Antonio, Equal Justice Center, Family Violence Prevention Services, Inc., Refugee & Immigrant Center for Education, St. Mary's Immigration Clinic, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. The services legal aid provides encompass basic civil matters like domestic violence, child custody, foreclosures, disability rights, etc. 

As job losses and a slow economy affect everyone, poor and low-income Texans suffer disproportionately as their need for basic civil legal services increase.  More than 5.1 million Texans qualify for legal aid and there is only one legal aid lawyer for every 11,512 Texans who qualify.  Legal aid organizations help more than 100,000 low-income Texas families each year with their civil legal needs. However, for every one person helped by legal aid, a qualifying individual is turned away; there are simply not enough resources to help everyone who needs the service.

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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 Texans each year.

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

 

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