The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation honored Texas Representative Richard Peña Raymond 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 Rio Grande Legal Aid office in Laredo, Texas, on February 25. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the court's liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award to Representative Raymond.
Representative Raymond's grasp of the funding gap for Texans in need of help with civil legal issues led to an historic appropriation of funding in the 81st Legislature for civil legal services to poor Texans, an appropriation of more than $20 million. Through his leadership efforts, Representative Raymond helped improve access to justice for poor and low-income Texans.
"A person's income should never determine his or her accessibility to the legal system, especially when faced with unfortunate circumstances that could have a life-altering result," Representative Raymond said. "I am honored to receive this award. At a time when many Texans are struggling, it is imperative that there is equal access to justice."
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.
"The economic downturn has severely hurt those at the poverty level. It increases domestic violence and makes legal help even more vital. As Texans continue to struggle with basic needs, access to the legal system shouldn't be one of those struggles," Harry Reasoner, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said. "We are grateful for Representative Raymond's support and leadership in the effort to provide access to justice to Texans who need it desperately."