News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
August 25,  2020

Texas Access to Justice Foundation names former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson as new board chair

Hankinson will be the Foundation's first female board chair

AUSTIN, Texas––  The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), which provides grant funding for civil legal aid in Texas, has announced former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson as the new chair of its board of directors. Hankinson will begin her three‑year term on September 1.

“Justice Hankinson is a trailblazer, and I am proud to welcome her as the Foundation’s new board chair. Her extensive experience and expertise will materially advance the Foundation’s mission of helping to ensure disadvantaged Texans have access to legal aid for their essential civil legal needs,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman said. “Justice Hankinson’s leadership, innovative ideas, and dedication will be invaluable to our incredibly talented board of directors. I was honored to work closely with Richard L. Tate, immediate past board chair, who took the Foundation to new levels during his tenure, and I look forward to working with his equally committed successor.”

Hankinson served on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1997 to 2002 and spearheaded the creation of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, TAJF’s partner in increasing access to justice. In 2019, Best Lawyers in America named Hankinson as the Dallas Arbitration Lawyer of the Year. She is a Fellow of the College of Commercial Arbitrators and a member of the American Law Institute. Her talent as a mediator has been recognized by legal publications and organizations on both a state and national level.

“It’s an honor to be able to serve the Texas legal aid community as chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation board,” Hankinson said. “Throughout my career I have advocated for disadvantaged Texans and have supported the successes of civil legal aid organizations across the state. I am eager and proud to now help guide the Foundation in its mission of equal justice for all."

Hankinson graduated at the top of her class at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. In 1995, she was appointed, and later elected, to serve as a Justice on the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas. The Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates honored Hankinson as the Texas Judge of the Year in 1999. She has been a member of the Executive Board at SMU’s Dedman School of Law since 1998 and received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service from SMU in 2002. In 2017, she received the Distinguished Alumni award from the University of Texas at Dallas. From 2006-2009, she chaired the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.

The Foundation’s board includes 13 attorney and public members—seven are appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas and six by the State Bar of Texas. As the fifth chair of TAJF’s Board of Directors, Hankinson will also be the first woman to serve in this position. She was first appointed to TAJF’s Board in 2003 and has served as vice chair since 2008.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984 to provide funding for the civil legal needs of poor and low-income Texans. The Foundation grants millions of dollars each year to approximately 40 organizations offering free civil legal assistance to qualified Texans. With TAJF grants, legal aid organizations advise more than 150,000 low-income Texans annually on such civil matters as protection from domestic violence, assistance with housing, and other critical legal issues. 


The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (, 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 150,000 Texas families each year.


Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104


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