News Release

Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation
 
October 23, 2012

National Pro Bono Week is October 21-27
Free Legal Aid Clinics Highlight Week

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) kicked off Texas Pro Bono Week yesterday during a luncheon with the Supreme Court of Texas. The rest of the week will include free legal aid clinics and other events in various parts of the state. The TAJF, Texas Access to Justice Commission, the State Bar of Texas and Texas legal aid service providers are joining a national effort to highlight the increasing need to expand access to justice through pro bono civil legal services.

During the luncheon, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht invited Houston lawyer Richard L. Horstman, recently retired assistant general counsel at Marathon Oil Company, to share his experiences of pro bono work.  Horstman took his first pro bono case in helping immigrant children in the United States and says it changed his perception of himself and his practice. “I realized that I am one of the few who can do this because of my expertise as a lawyer,” he said. “I regret that I didn’t start doing pro bono earlier.”

Adriana Rodriguez, a lawyer participating in a post-graduate fellowship program sponsored by TAJF and Equal Justice Works, spoke about her work with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Laredo.  Her project provides legal representation and services for victims of intimate partner violence and who suffer from mental illness, including substance abuse.

According to a survey by the University of North Texas Survey Research Center, Texas lawyers provide a total of 2.24 million to 2.56 million hours – or the equivalent of $500 million – of free legal or indirect services to the poor. Even so, there is a large unmet need:  It is estimated that there is only one legal aid lawyer for every 11,000 Texans who qualify for legal aid.

Access to Justice Awards

During the luncheon the Foundation also honored several partnerships that have increased funding for legal services with the Access to Justice Award.  The Construction Law Section of the State Bar of Texas was recognized for continued financial support. The award was also presented to the law firm of Greenberg Traurig LLP and the John M. O’Quinn Foundation for their sponsorship of the Texas Equal Justice Works Fellowship Program.

Recognition

Lawyers William O. Whitehurst of Austin and Ronald “Ned” Dennis of Marshall were honored for 20-year membership in the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono College.  The Pro Bono College recognizes attorneys who have far exceeded the State Bar of Texas’ aspirational pro bono goal in their efforts to address the vast unmet legal needs of the poor by providing more than 75 hours of eligible pro bono service a year.

Also recognized were the Prime Partner Banks who provide extraordinary interest rates through the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program.  PlainsCapital Bank and Lone Star National Bank received the Prime Partners In Justice Award for their five-year participation in the program.  The Texas Access to Justice Commission highlighted several law firms as Champions of Justice for their donations to the annual access to justice contribution campaign.

A complete list of Texas events for Pro Bono Week can be found by visiting: http://www.probono.net/celebrateprobono/events/location.2012-10-01.Texas

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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 s 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 Texas families each year.

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

 

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