News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
January 30, 2014

Texas Access to Justice Foundation Honors William O. Whitehurst for Access to Justice Efforts  

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) honored Austin lawyer William O. “Bill” Whitehurst with the prestigious Harold F. Kleinman Award on Thursday, Jan. 23, during a 30th anniversary reception of the TAJF held at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht presented the award to Whitehurst for his efforts in growing the IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts) program in Texas when it first began in the 80s, earning him the title “Father of IOLTA”.  In the beginning of the IOLTA program,
attorneys voluntarily pooled the interest earned on trust accounts to provide civil legal services to the poor. Now mandatory, TAJF distributes the money generated by IOLTA in grants to legal aid providers across the state that help more than 100,000 Texas families each year.

Whitehurst is a founder of the Texas personal injury firm Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees & Cheng, P.C. In addition to his commitment to the Texas IOLTA program, he also co-founded the national organization, Bar Leaders for the Preservation of Legal Services to the Poor to champion funding on a national level. He later served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Public Interest Law and is past chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.  He has served as the attorney advisor to the University of Texas School of Law’s Texas Law Fellowships program (Public Interest Law Grants) since its inception and he and his wife, Stephanie, announced in 2010 a gift to UT Law School to fund the Whitehurst Public Interest Summer Fellowships program.  Whitehurst has received numerous awards for his work in legal services and public interest law. He is a past president of the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, among other organizations.  

Established by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation in 1995, the Harold F. Kleinman Award, named for the Foundation’s first chairman, is given to individuals whose outstanding character, commitment and public service to the people of Texas, make them true leaders in access to civil justice.

The award presentation was part of the 30th anniversary kickoff event of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation which also included a distinguished panel discussion featuring U.S. Congressman Pete Gallego of the 23rd District of Texas, Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow; moderated by Elizabeth Christian, President of Elizabeth Christian & Associates Public Relations and President of the LBJ Foundation Board of Directors.

The Supreme Court of Texas created the nonprofit Texas Access to Justice Foundation in 1984 to support legal aid efforts throughout the state. Using funding from the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program, as well as public funding and private donations, TAJF grants millions of dollars each year to various organizations that provide basic civil legal services to low-income populations. Since its inception, TAJF has granted more than $375 million to nonprofit organizations; helping more than 100,000 Texas families each year.

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The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the leading 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 Texans each year.

 

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

 

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