“We’ve been working diligently to increase the effort of providing services to indigent Texans. If this recognition can further those efforts here in Texas, or serve as a model in other states, we’re very pleased about that,” says Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson about winning a 2012 ABA Grassroots Advocacy Award.
Another Grassroots Advocacy Award is going to Betty Balli Torres (pictured), executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. She says she feels honored to win the award but she feels the credit should to go to “an entire team effort.”
The high court is winning the award because in 2011, its “actions were just so critical in getting the Texas Legislature to appropriate money” to fund legal-aid services for indigent Texans, says ABA spokesman Rob Boisseau.
Texas Lawyer reported during the 2011 legislative session that Jefferson and Justice Nathan Hecht sent a letter and visited lawmakers to communicate that the state’s civil justice system would be in grave danger if legislators did not fund indigent legal aid.
Boisseau says Balli Torres is winning the award because, among other things, a couple of years ago she worked to lobby Congress to pass a bill to fully insure Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts, which fund legal-aid organizations across the nation.
Balli Torres explains she was president of the National Association of IOLTA Programs when she lobbied for the bill. Without full insurance, lawyers may not have deposited client funds in IOLTA accounts, leading to devastating funding cuts for the legal-aid groups that rely on interest from those accounts.
-- Angela Morris