State Rep. Elliott Naishtat (pictured), D-Austin, received the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award in recognition of his work to improve access to the courts in this state during a special presentation Dec. 14, 2012, in Austin.
The Texas Access to Justice Commission (TAJC) and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) jointly presented the award to Naishtat, who is of counsel at Scanlan, Buckle & Young in Austin.
Naishtat says he is honored to have received the award and pleased to have played a role in the Texas Legislature to secure funding for basic civil legal services for persons unable to afford to pay for assistance from private attorneys.
“I have always worked on civil rights issues, human rights issues and access to justice issues,” he says.
Among other things, the TAJC and TAJF recognized Naishtat for sponsoring legislation to expand protective services for elderly and disabled persons. Naishtat, who is now in his 11th term as a legislator, says he has worked on that issue since the late 1980s when he served as staff counsel for then- state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin.
Naishtat says he also spent 14 years trying to pass legislation to authorize state court judicial review of final administrative decisions concerning the granting, payment, denial or withdrawal of Medicaid, food stamps or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
“Every other state in the nation allows state court review of these decisions,” he says.
Naishtat says that he passed a bill in 2007 that authorized reviews of adverse agency decisions in Medicaid and food stamp cases in Texas He says he finally passed legislation authorizing the same reviews in TANF cases in 2009.
-- Mary Alice Robbins
Robbins is an Austin-based freelance writer and a former Texas Lawyer senior reporter