ATJ Update

ATJ Update

Giving Thanks
By: Jenny Smith, TYLA Access to Justice Liaison

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, it is a wonderful time to remember those who are unable to access the legal services they may desperately need. In Texas, nearly 5.6 million people qualify for legal aid. Legal aid provides critical legal services to our low-income neighbors that keep them in their homes or safe from domestic violence. Even though legal aid organizations help more than 100,000 low-income Texas families each year with their civil legal needs, they are only able to meet about 20 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income people in our state.

The Texas Access to Justice Commission helps secure stable funding for legal service providers so that they have the resources and staff necessary to serve the legal needs of low-income Texans. In addition to our work advocating for state and federal funding, the commission raises funds with the help of the legal community and the general public. This effort is known as the Access to Justice Contribution campaign

As I think about supporting those in need, I turn to the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, which says, “I am responsible to assure that all persons have access to competent representation regardless of wealth or position in life.” I support the Access to Justice Campaign because people deserve and need to have access to the courts, regardless of income level. As lawyers, we have the opportunity to help create fairness and allow someone’s voice to be heard in court. I support the Access to Justice Commission because it strives to provide this invaluable access to all Texans.

The elderly, veterans, victims of domestic abuse, at-risk families facing issues such as home foreclosure, or victims of natural disasters need our help! I ask you to join me in giving thanks for all we have and for helping our friends and neighbors who do not. Every year, Texas attorneys are asked to donate $150 to support civil legal aid in our state. Consider showing your strong support of Access to Justice and joining the Champion of Justice Society with a gift of $250 or more. Click here to make your tax-deductible end-of-year contribution to the ATJ Campaign today. 

Funds from the Access to Justice Contribution campaign are distributed to legal aid organizations in Texas through grants disseminated by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation. So far in 2014, more than 8,000 attorneys across the state donated more than $1.1 million to support access-to-justice initiatives. If every licensed attorney gave the suggested $150 amount, we could raise $15 million to fund legal needs for the poor in Texas. 

For more information about the ATJ Contribution Campaign or the Champion of Justice Society, contact Liza Levine, director of development, at (512) 427-1892.

Jenny Smith serves on the Access to Justice Commission and is an attorney with the Austin-based firm Cobb & Counsel, PLLC, a commercial litigation boutique with significant experience representing regulated industries challenging local, state, and federal regulations, responding to Texas state agency investigations, and opposing class actions.

Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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