Access To Justice Commission Update

Texas Access to Justice Commission's Champions of Justice for Veterans Gala

Veterans throughout the state were honored at the Texas Access to Justice Commission's Champions of Justice for Veterans Gala Tuesday, April 26, at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center in Austin, Texas. More than $377,950 was raised to help provide civil legal services to low-income Texas veterans. The event also honored the Texas Access to Justice Commission’s 10-year anniversary and legal aid advocates.

Keynote speaker, Col. David W. Sutherland, special assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a principal focus on Warrior and Family Support, spoke at the gala about the importance of helping veterans and their families reintegrate into civilian society. He addressed the challenges soldiers face when they return home to their communities from the physical and psychological trauma of war. Col. Sutherland also focused on the need to build public awareness of veterans’ needs, encourage community involvement and promote community services for returning veterans, their families and families of fallen soldiers.

“Community leadership is key to the success of reintegrating and transitioning veterans, families and families of our fallen. Veterans do well in communities where they feel they relate,” Col. Sutherland said. “We realize that there are some things that the government just cannot do that independent groups in communities can. These include mentorship programs and direct leadership involvement.”

Several awards were presented at the Champions of Justice for Veterans Gala to distinguished legal aid advocates for their contributions in improving access to justice. Carl Reynolds, director of the Office of Court Administration, of Austin received the Star of Justice Award that recognizes dedication to improving access to justice for low-income Texans. Reynolds was recognized for his leadership and judicial efforts to ensure that access to the courts is available for those in need. Colonel Bryan Spencer of Austin and Sharon Reynerson of Paris, Texas, received the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award that recognizes those who have made a lasting, extraordinary impact on the provision of legal services to low-income Texans. As a result of the need for legal aid for military personnel and their families during Operation Enduring Freedom that began in Afghanistan in 2001, Col. Spencer helped form Operation Enduring LAMP (Legal Assistance to Military Personnel) to assist service members worldwide and currently serves as director. Reynerson, litigation director of Lone Star Legal Aid, was awarded for her contributions in assisting thousands of Texans when faced with tough legal situations for more than 25 years. For many of Reynerson’s clients, legal assistance is the determining factor between having a home or living in the streets, being hungry and feeding a child, or a matter between life and death for a woman seeking safety from domestic violence.

Host committee chairs for the gala included prominent Texas attorneys who donated their time for the effort: Joseph D. Jamail of Jamail & Kolius in Houston, Harriet E. Miers of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP in Dallas, Scott E. Rozzell of CenterPoint Energy, Inc. in Houston and James B. Sales of Fulbright & Jaworski LLP. in Houston.

Major sponsors of the event included: AT&T, Construction Law Section of the State Bar, Baker Botts LLP, ExxonMobil and Charles W. Matthews, Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, Jamail & Kolius, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, and Vinson & Elkins LLP. The State Bar of Texas donated funds to cover the expenses of the gala.

Proceeds from the gala will be distributed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and dedicated to the provision of civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans. These services assist in addressing legal issues related to marital problems, difficulties in getting medical or disability benefits, wrongful foreclosures, and other situations that may arise due to a veteran’s absence during military service. For more information, please visit