News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
May 17, 2023

Betty Balli Torres honored with Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award

AUSTIN, Texas –– The Texas Access to Justice Commission honored Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, with the Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to improving access to justice in Texas during the Champions of Justice Gala on April 25. This award, named after the first executive director of the Commission, reflects the Commission's highest honor given for a career dedicated to supporting legal services for Texans in need.

“Betty’s efforts help us bring access to justice to all Texans closer to reality,” Harriet Miers, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said. “Her extraordinary spirit of putting others first and demonstrated commitment to legal services has improved our society and inspired others. Through her initiatives and awareness of the valuable role legal aid plays, Betty has enhanced access for vulnerable Texans unable to pay for legal assistance, and we are more than grateful for her efforts.”

With a career dedicated to public interest work, Torres has served as the executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the largest funding source for legal services to low-income Texas, since 2001.

With her leadership, the Foundation now grants more than $50 million annually to over 35 legal aid organizations statewide. Torres was largely involved in providing legal aid for new sources including crime victim services, sexual assault legal services, veterans funding and more.

Torres was a major part of the Foundation's creation of the Prime Partner Bank program, which is a national model. Through this program, financial institutions pay higher levels of interest on lawyer trust accounts. TAJF receives funding from the interest generated by these accounts and uses the money to distribute grants to legal aid providers throughout the state. Torres also worked tirelessly during the pandemic, with the Foundation’s board of directors and members of the Supreme Court, to ensure the provision of emergency legal aid for families facing imminent eviction. Through a partnership with Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, more than $40 million has been granted to prevent evictions of Texans affected by the crisis.

“It is an honor to receive this award, named for my dear friend Emily C. Jones,” Torres said. “There is still much work to be done to make sure the doors of our courthouses are open to all, especially those who cannot afford help. I will continue working with colleagues from throughout the state and country to improve resources for access to justice for all Texans.”

Torres has served on many local, statewide and national committees, boards and task forces related to access to justice. She currently serves as Chair of the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities and ProBonoNet. Torres also serves
on the board of Management Information Exchange, co-chair of the Racial Justice Committee of the National Association of IOLTA Programs, leadership team of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Latino Section and serves on AARO.

Legal aid organizations funded by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation help over 100,000 low-income families in Texas 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.

Deborah Hankinson, retired Texas Supreme Court Justice and board chair for the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, reflected on the Foundation’s past and current efforts to obtain civil legal aid for the most vulnerable of Texans.

“Many Texans in need of legal assistance are unaware of where to begin and how to navigate the courts,” Hankinson said. “Under Betty’s leadership, the Foundation has prioritized accessibility to legal aid for low-income Texans by finding and creating new ways to make access to justice within reach. Her commitment to finding more resources to increase access to justice is an inspiring example for lawyers across the state.”

For more information about civil legal aid providers and Torres’ efforts, visit


Texas Access to Justice Foundation
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 100,000 Texas families each year. For more information, please visit:

Texas Access to Justice Commision
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 and legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission has created several initiatives to increase resources and awareness of legal aid. For more information, visit


Contact: Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104


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