The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation honored Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas during a special presentation at the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid office in Edinburg, Texas, on October 27. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the court's liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award to Senator Hinojosa.
Senator Hinojosa is being recognized for his outstanding leadership efforts in the 81st Texas Legislature that led to a historic appropriation of $20 million for civil legal services for poor and low-income Texans.
"Times are tough, and funding is scarce for the legal assistance low-income Texans desperately need, whether it's a protective order to prevent abuse, obtaining benefits for the family, help with an eviction, or other legal services," Justice Hecht said. "Senator Hinojosa understands, and he has supported this worthy cause with leadership, determination and courage."
"I believe in the fundamental right to legal representation. That right is the cornerstone of our justice system - everyone has a right to access the judicial system for protection and relief," Senator Hinojosa said. "A person's economic status should never interfere with their ability to participate in that system. I remain a staunch advocate for legal aid services. I am honored, but ultimately humbled, by this award. I began my legal career working for legal aid. Those are my roots. This is truly a recognition of the institution of legal aid services."
The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation launched the Legislative Hero Award program in 2010 to recognize legislators who, through their efforts, have significantly advanced access to justice in Texas by assisting with the appropriation of funds and/or other substantive activities related to the provision of legal aid in the state. Senator Hinojosa is the third legislator to receive the award.
"Senator Hinojosa's efforts help us bring access to justice to all Texans closer to reality," Richard L. Tate, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, said. "Without his assistance, thousands of Texans would have had to face the legal system alone and without guidance. We are grateful and appreciative of his efforts."
Senator Hinojosa is currently the vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and holds seats on the Senate's Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Criminal Justice, Jurisprudence and Natural Resources Committees. He is the eldest of eight children and served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Vietnam War. Senator Hinojosa graduated with honors from the University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor's degree in political science, and completed his legal studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Legal aid organizations funded by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation help more than 100,000 low-income Texas families 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. Currently, only one legal aid lawyer is available to provide assistance for every 10,838 Texans who qualify.