News Release

Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation
 
March 3, 2011

Texas Representative Richard Peña Raymond Honored with Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award

Representative Richard Peña Raymond Named “Legislative Hero” for Improving Access to Justice to the More Than 5.7 Million Texans Who Qualify for Legal Aid

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation honored Texas Representative Richard Peña Raymond with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas during a special presentation at the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid office in Laredo, Texas, on Friday, Feb. 25. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award to Representative Raymond.

Representative Raymond’s grasp of the funding gap for Texans in need of help with civil legal issues led to an historic appropriation of funding in the 81st Legislature for civil legal services to poor Texans, an appropriation of more than $20 million. Through his leadership efforts, Representative Raymond helped improve access to justice for poor and low-income Texans.

“Representative Raymond’s support was vital during the 81st Legislature as resources for the Texas legal aid system were minimal,” Justice Hecht said. “With his support, tens of thousands of deserving Texans received the legal help they desperately needed with civil legal issues, such as foreclosures and domestic violence.”

“A person’s income should never determine his or her accessibility to the legal system, especially when faced with unfortunate circumstances that could have a life-altering result,” Representative Raymond said. “I am honored to receive this award. At a time when many Texans are struggling, it is imperative that there is equal access to justice.”

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.

“The economic downturn has severely hurt those at the poverty level. It increases domestic violence and makes legal help even more vital. As Texans continue to struggle with basic needs, access to the legal system shouldn’t be one of those struggles,” Harry Reasoner, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said. “We are grateful for Representative Raymond’s support and leadership in the effort to provide access to justice to Texans who need it desperately.” 

Representative Raymond currently serves as the chair of the House Human Services Committee, and was recently elected to serve on the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. Representative Raymond serves District 42, which covers most of Webb County. In 1992, he ran for public office and won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives for the first time against an incumbent. In 1998, Representative Raymond won the Democratic nomination for land commissioner.

Prior to his political career, Representative Raymond worked as a business consultant. He obtained his undergraduate degree from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in government and a minor in history. He received his law degree from The University of Texas School of Law.

Legal aid organizations funded by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation help more than 100,000 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 10,838 Texans who qualify.

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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 more than 100,000 Texans each year.

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

 

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