The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation honored Senator José Rodríguez with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas during a special presentation in El Paso on April 4. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award.
After several months of leading the charge in the Texas Legislature to fund legal aid, Senator José Rodríguez was successful in persuading Senate leadership to secure funding for basic civil legal services. Through his extraordinary leadership, Senator Rodríguez has helped improve access to justice for those vulnerable Texans unable to pay for legal assistance from private attorneys.
“Senator Rodriguez’s unwavering support in the Legislature helps many struggling Texans receive assistance with basic civil legal services, help that is essential to the integrity of the rule of law,” Justice Hecht said. “Hard economic times both increase the need for legal services and decrease financial support, and we are grateful for the Senator’s tremendous work and support as we continue to provide access to justice to Texans in need.”
"I am incredibly honored and humbled to receive this award. Last session, we worked hard to ensure funding for legal aid and indigent defense, but the fight is far from over. Even with this funding, only one in five Texans in need of legal help - veterans, victims of domestic violence, and senior citizens - are being served. During the next legislative session, I will continue to work diligently to find a stable source of revenue for these critical legal services. If we don't do something to fix this funding crisis, many in need will be denied their fundamental, constitutional right to access the courts," Senator Rodríguez said.
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 Rodríguez, an attorney who has devoted his life to public service, was elected to serve the people of Senate District 29 in the Texas State Senate in November 2010. The son of migrant farm workers, Senator Rodríguez graduated from Pan American University in Edinburg and received his law degree from the National Law Center at George Washington University. He began his 37-year legal career as a staff attorney with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and practiced law with the firm of Rodriguez, Lewis & Collins and worked for 10 years as a staff attorney and director of the farm worker program of Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc, a statewide legal services program.
Immediately prior to his service in the Texas Senate, Senator Rodríguez served as the El Paso County Attorney for 17 years, where he established an unequaled record of achievement, enhancing legal services to protect vulnerable citizens and prevent crime, increasing County revenues and funding for jobs and economic development, and strengthening community health and environmental quality.