Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans Raises $348,450

Friday, May 16, 2014
Press Release

Contact: Liza Levine  | 512.427.1892

Texas Access to Justice Commission honored veterans at gala on May 13
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 on Tuesday, May 13, 2014, at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center in Austin, Texas. 

“Veterans bravely risk their lives serving our country. Legal aid can help low-income veterans obtain health benefits they deserve for injuries obtained during military service,” Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, said. “These courageous men and women should not be without legal assistance and deserve access to justice.”

“The Champions of Justice Gala honors the service of the valiant men and women who have made great sacrifices for our country,” Harry M. Reasoner, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said. “We owe them gratitude and assistance in returning to civilian life. Many face life-changing legal problems, including improper denial of disability and health benefits. With the funds raised at the gala, we can continue the fight to improve access to justice for Texas veterans.”

Laura Marsh, M.D.—Guest Speaker
A geriatric neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Marsh is the Executive Director of the Mental Health Care Line at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and a Professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Neurology at Baylor College of Medicine where her clinical and research expertise focuses on the recognition and treatment of psychiatric disturbances in patients with Parkinson’s disease.  Dr. Marsh graduated from Oberlin College and studied medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.  She completed her psychiatry residency training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and completed research fellowships in brain neuroimaging and neuropsychiatric disorders at the National Institute of Mental Health Stanford University School of Medicine.  In September 2009, she relocated to Houston to direct the Mental Health Care Line at the Houston VA and joined the Baylor College of Medicine faculty.  One focus of her administrative role is to facilitate integration of psychiatric and mental health care into medical care and to promote healthy attitudes towards mental health care and psychiatric illnesses.  Dr. Marsh also serves on advisory boards for the Houston Area Parkinson’s Society, the Houston/Harris County Coalition for the Homeless Continuum of Care, the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, and the National Parkinson Foundation.

Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans
Host committee co-chairs for the gala included prominent Texas attorneys who are donating their time for the effort: S. Jack Balagia of Exxon Mobil Corporation in Irving, Jerry K. Clements of Locke Lord LLP in Dallas, Joseph D. Jamail of Jamail & Kolius in Houston, Janet L. Kelly of ConocoPhillips in Houston, Judith A. Lindquist of H-E-B of San Antonio, and Wayne Watts, of AT&T, Inc. of Dallas.

Major sponsors of the event included: AT&T, Exxon Mobil, Jamail & Kolius, Locke Lord LLP, H-E-B, Vinson & Elkins LLP, Locke Lord LLP, Advocates for Justice, Arnold & Porter LLP, and Norton Rose Fulbright.

Proceeds from the gala will be distributed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and dedicated to the provision of civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans. These services assist in addressing legal issues related to marital problems, difficulties in getting medical or disability benefits, wrongful foreclosures, and other situations that may arise due to a veteran’s absence during military service.

James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award
Christine P. “Chris” Larson has spent the majority of her career helping disabled and elderly individuals secure their futures.  Chris began her career as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Central Texas where she worked primarily on family law, domestic violence and custody cases representing low-income families and senior citizens.  Being in private practice for more than twenty years allowed Chris to specialize in estate planning, probate, guardianship, elder law and family law, and she was able to also serve as an Attorney Ad Litem in legal aid cases.  Currently, Chris is the Director of Guardianship Estate Services at Family Eldercare.  The Estate Services program provides legal protections to indigent, severely disabled, ill or cognitively impaired individuals who are not able to meet their own financial, medical, and legal affairs and do not have family or friends to take on that role.  Chris’s work ensures that clients do not continue to face incidents of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation within the system.  Under her leadership, the Guardianship program has grown substantially, added staff and is able to serve dozens of additional low-income clients.  Ms. Larson is passionate about helping those who have no voice navigate the complex legal system and get the quality of service they need and deserve.
Texas Legal Aid

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. However, this number is expected to decrease as a result of recent federal Legal Services Corporation funding cuts.

Today, there are more than 5.7 million Texans who qualify for civil legal aid. Due to a lack of resources, only about 20 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income and poor Texans are being met. To be eligible for civil legal aid, an individual must earn no more than $14,363 a year. For a family of four, the annual household income cannot exceed $29,438.


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