Contact: Catherine Galloway
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Media Note: Photos from the event are available on Flickr.
AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Access to Justice Commission with its co-sponsor, the State Bar of Texas, honored veterans throughout the state at the Champions of Justice Gala Benefitting Veterans last night at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin. More than $404,000 was raised to help provide civil legal services to low-income Texan veterans.
More than $3.5 million has been raised by the event since its inception. Proceeds are distributed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and dedicated to the provision of civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans. The evening’s program featured Houston attorney Travis Sales, former President of the Houston Bar Association, who discussed the HBA’s Veterans Legal Initiative, and Baylor Law School Director Josh Borderud, who shared the law school’s Veterans program. Both initiatives spotlighted the tremendous needs of veterans and how their respective programs are helping veterans resolve their civil legal matters.
Keynote speaker for the evening was the Honorable Nathan Hecht, the 27th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. Chief Justice Hecht is active in the Court's efforts to assure that Texans living below the poverty level, as well as others with limited means, have access to basic civil legal services.
“Tonight celebrates two values we all treasure -- one is peace: we honor those who have fought for it and who having born the battle, paid for it. Only by their sacrifice can we gather here in a troubled world, in peace,” Chief Justice Hecht imparted. “The other value is justice, which Madison called famously ‘the end of government, the end of society that ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.’ The Supreme Court of Texas proudly joins you in your mission to improve access to justice for Veterans and your pledge to work for liberty and justice for all.”
This year’s James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award was given to Israel Reyna, branch manager and attorney in the Laredo office of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. Since 1980, Mr. Reyna has dedicated his career to fighting for justice for low-income Texans – forever changing the Laredo community and its residents. He has represented farmworkers to address fair compensation matters and assisted colonia and barrio residents who sought resolution on infrastructure and environmental disputes. Mr. Reyna has also served as a mentor to countless lawyers who have worked with TRLA, imparting his values, approach, humility, and respect for the communities he serves.
The Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to David G. Hall. Mr. Hall led TRLA from its early days as Texas Rural Legal Aid through its transformation into the nation’s third largest legal aid provider. Under Mr. Hall’s leadership, TRLA’s service and practice areas have grown tremendously, giving many low-income Texans the help they needed for a new beginning. Mr. Hall created an organization that has become legendary for its fearless social justice work, defending our most impoverished and oppressed.
Champions of Justice Gala Co-Chairs
Gala co-chairs include prominent Texas attorneys who are donating their time for the effort: Jerry K. Clements of Locke Lord LLP in Austin; Randall M. Ebner of Exxon Mobil Corporation in Houston; David R. McAtee II of AT&T, Inc. in Dallas; Richard Warren Mithoff of Mithoff Law in Houston; W. Wayne Watts in Boerne; and Marie Yeates of Vinson & Elkins LLP in Houston.
Major sponsors of the event included: AT&T, Exxon Mobil Corporation, H-E-B, Greenberg Traurig, Locke Lord, LLP, Richard Warren Mithoff, Vinson & Elkins, LLP and Wayne Watts.
Texas Legal Aid
More than 5.6 million Texans qualify for civil legal aid, but only 10 percent of the legal needs are actually met due to inadequate funding resources. Since its inception in 2001, the Texas Access to Justice Commission has steadily championed efforts to increase financial and pro bono resources to improve access to civil justice for vulnerable Texans. Legal aid organizations help more than 100,000 Texas families each year.
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.