AUSTIN – 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 Benefiting Veterans last night at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, where $550,000 was raised to help provide civil legal services to low-income Texas veterans.
Proceeds are distributed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation to legal aid programs across the state to provide civil legal services to low-income Texas veterans.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Brett Busby served as the master of ceremonies for the evening. Justice Busby is the Court's liaison to the Texas Access to Justice Commission. Throughout the evening, he emphasized how important it is for our veterans to come home to a community of support.
Justice Busby was pleased to announce the inaugural “Macey and Harry Reasoner Access to Justice Lecture Series”, which featured Lieutenant General (Ret.) Nadja West, 44th Army Surgeon General and former Commanding General of U.S. Army Medical Command as the keynote speaker for the event.
Lt. General West’s poignant lecture about tradition and military service, both in her personal life and from what she observed while in the service, touched our hearts. She shed light on the extent to which service men and women so nobly carry their oaths of service into civilian life. By sharing success stories of veterans who received help from legal aid to remedy their civil legal issues, West transformed numbers into human faces and offered relatable scenarios illustrating how necessary legal aid is and how much Texas benefits from supporting our veterans when they need it.
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht presented three awards during the evening beginning with the 2022 James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award to Veronica Jacobs, formerly of Houston Volunteer Lawyers. For nearly 30 years, Ms. Jacobs has anticipated her clients’ needs, worked with them to overcome problems they encountered in the legal system, and advocated for changes to remedy their civil legal issues. Ms. Jacobs served as an exemplar in being an effective advocate who embodies empathy and understanding, and often exceeded expectations of a traditional lawyer to support her clients.
Priya Aiyar, Senior Vice President & General Counsel for American Airlines, received the 2022 Harry M. Reasoner Justice for All Award. When Ms. Aiyar started at American Airlines, she immediately began to instill a culture of pro bono by encouraging staff to dedicate their time to help those in need. She led by example in working with survivors of human trafficking. What started as local initiatives have blossomed throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Through partnerships with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and Jones Day Ms. Aiyar’s passion and innovative work has opened doors to new housing, employment, and education opportunities for those survivors.
Bruce Bower, of Texas Legal Services Center, received the 2022 Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award. Known among his colleagues as an unassuming juggernaut of Texas legal aid, Bruce Bower has spent more than 30 years working to help elderly and disabled Texans overcome their legal problems. His efforts have produced a new chapter in the Texas Family Code and amendments to the Texas Estate Code, which protect and serve vulnerable Texans. Mr. Bower has served as a font of knowledge, a pillar of dedication, and a beacon of empathy and understanding to generations of lawyers.
Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans
Harry M. Reasoner, Chair Emeritus of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, chaired the Gala Committee. Gala co-chairs include prominent Texas attorneys who donated their time and talents for the 2022 event: Jerry Clements with Locke Lord, Monica Karuturi with CenterPoint Energy, David McAtee with AT&T, Ross R. Moody with The Moody Foundation and National Western Life, Stephen C. Mount with H-E-B, Sandra Phillips Rogers with Toyota Motor North America, Wayne Watts, Marie Yeates with Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Carlos M. Zaffirini, Jr. with Adelanto HealthCare Venture.
Harriet E. Miers, partner at Locke Lord, serves as chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission.
Texas Legal Aid
More than 5.4 million Texans qualify for civil legal aid but only 10 percent of their legal needs are met due to inadequate funding and staff resources. 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.