News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
October 1,  2020

Texas Access to Justice Foundation creates new fellowship to bring legal aid services to rural areas

Fellows will help fill critical gap in services for rural Texans

AUSTIN, Texas––The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), which provides grant funding for civil legal aid in Texas, today announced the creation of the Rural Justice Fellowship in honor of the long and dedicated service of former TAJF board chair, Richard L. (Dick) Tate, who retired from the TAJF Board of Directors on Aug. 31, 2020.

The new Richard L. Tate Rural Justice Fellowship will be a priority for one of the annually selected, TAJF-sponsored Equal Justice Works Fellows to help address the persistent and growing shortage of lawyers in rural areas and close the gap in legal aid services for rural Texans. Each year a Rural Justice Fellowship will be selected ensuring that two lawyers are routinely placed to address the pressing legal issues facing rural communities throughout Texas.

“The increasing lack of civil legal aid services in Texas’ rural communities is something that must be addressed as all Texans deserve equal and fair access to our civil justice system, said Betty Balli Torres, executive director at TAJF. “Dick Tate was an exceptional and dedicated leader of TAJF, and we’re honored to create this fellowship in recognition of his ceaseless efforts to preserve funding for civil legal aid in all communities—no matter how small—across Texas.”

Tate’s commitment to TAJF’s vision––that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income––was the biggest factor in his decision to help shepherd the Foundation’s work for 27 years. The Richard L. Tate Rural Justice Fellowship is an extension of that commitment and a reflection of Tate’s dedication to ensuring access to justice for vulnerable Texans.

Laura Tucker has been selected as the inaugural Rural Justice Fellow. Tucker’s fellowship will focus on making civil legal services more accessible to rural residents of the Trans-Pecos region of Far West Texas through data analysis and creative community engagement. Tucker lived in the area prior to law school and was inspired to return and help with some of the needs she witnessed.

In this region, residents have a multitude of legal needs that are currently not adequately addressed. Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the sole legal aid organization providing direct services to the area is often a two-or-more-hour drive for many clients. Tucker’s fellowship will strategically map the needs of surrounding communities, seek to raise awareness of TRLA’s services and increase access to them by hosting day-long legal clinics across the region, providing crucial legal services to underserved areas. Tucker will begin her two-year fellowship on Oct. 11, 2020 in TRLA’s Alpine office.



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 140,000 Texas families each year.


Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104


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