Texas Access to Justice Commission Honors Organizations Working to Improve Access to Legal Services

Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 15:34

The Texas Access to Justice Commission will be honoring local bar associations, young lawyer associations, and State Bar of Texas sections who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to pro bono service and improving access to justice. 

The Pro Bono Service Awards and the Deborah G. Hankinson Awards will be presented at the Bar Leaders Luncheon, which is held as part of the State Bar’s annual Local Bar Leaders Conference. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht will introduce the organizations and present the awards.

The Pro Bono Service Award

The Pro Bono Service Award recognizes State Bar of Texas sections and local bar organizations that create self-sustaining pro bono projects that motivate lawyers from specialized practice areas to provide pro bono legal assistance directly to poor Texans. 

The 2013 Pro Bono Service Award Winners, who will receive a certificate of recognition and $1,000 to reinvest in their programs, are as follows:

Small Sections or Bars (Fewer than 500 members)

The Hays County Bar Association will be recognized for their Pro Bono Divorce Clinic, which provides pro bono representation for low-income Texans filing for divorce in Hays County. The award will be accepted by Hays County Bar Association President Kyle Maysel of San Marcos and Megan Meekins, clinic volunteer and Associate Attorney with Gosnell Law Firm in Austin.

The Austin Lawyers Guild will be honored for their School to Prison Pipeline Pro Bono Referral Program, which provides pro bono representation to students facing Class C misdemeanors for minor disciplinary infractions. The award will be accepted by Brian McGiverin, member of the Austin Lawyers Guild and attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Medium Sections or Bars (501 – 2,000 members)

The Jefferson County Bar Association will be honored for their Veterans Initiative, which provides veterans in Jefferson, Chambers, Hardin, Liberty, and Orange counties with pro bono legal advice and representation. The award will be accepted by David Grove of Beaumont, incoming President of the Jefferson County Bar Association, and Bonnie Dean, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Bar Association.

Large Sections or Bars (More than 2,001 members)

The State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section will be recognized for their mobile applications for legal services attorneys, which provide free access to state-of-the-art technology to enable legal aid attorneys to more efficiently serve the needs of their indigent clients. The award will be accepted by Anthony Ng, incoming Section Chair and attorney with Yudell Isidore Ng Russell PLLC in Austin, and Jason Smith, immediate past Section Chair and an attorney with Duff & Phelps in Houston.

The Houston Bar Association will be recognized for their Veterans Legal Initiative, which provides pro bono legal advice and representation to veterans in the Harris County area. The award will be accepted by Brent Benoit, attorney with Locke Lord LLP in Houston and immediate past President of the Houston Bar Association, and Kay Sim, Executive Director of the Houston Bar Association.

The Deborah G. Hankinson Award

The Deborah G. Hankinson Award honors local bar associations and young lawyer associations that demonstrate a commitment to access to justice in their communities and to raising financial support for legal service providers on a local and statewide basis.

The 2013 winners of the Deborah G. Hankinson Award are as follows:

Division I Bar Association (Fewer than 500 members)

The Smith County Bar Association will be honored for their pro bono programs, including Settlement Week, a twice-yearly event where Bar Association members volunteer to assist litigants in settling their cases by serving as mediators. The award will be accepted by Megan Pinckard, Volunteer Attorney Coordinator for the Smith County Bar Association.

 Division II Bar Association (501 - 900 members)

The El Paso Bar Association will be honored for their commitment to equal access to justice for the El Paso community. The Bar Association organizes the El Paso Lawyers for Patriots Free Legal Clinic and the Access to Justice Legal Fair to provide pro bono legal services and help connect community members with legal aid organizations. The award will be accepted by Laura Enriquez, an Associate with Mounce, Green, Myers, Safi, Paxson & Galatzan and President-Elect of the El Paso Bar Association.

Division III Bar Associations (901 - 5,000 members)

The San Antonio Bar Association will be recognized for their fundraising activities, which last year raised more than $105,000 in donations for the San Antonio Bar Association’s Community Justice Program. The award will be accepted by Andy Kerr, a Partner with Strasburger & Price, LLP and President of the San Antonio Bar Association.

Division IV Bar Association (More than 5,001 members)

The Houston Bar Association will be honored for their Houston Volunteer Lawyers program, which offers weekly pro bono legal clinics for veterans and regular legal clinics for victims of domestic violence. The award will be accepted by David Chaumette, President of the Houston Bar Association. 

Young Lawyers Association

The Austin Young Lawyers Association will be recognized for increasing awareness of access to justice issues and providing pro bono legal aid services through programs like the Permanency Project, which pairs volunteer attorneys with foster children.  The award will be accepted by David Courreges, President of the Austin Young Lawyers Association.