April 18, 2016

2016 Champions of Justice Gala hosted on April 6

The Texas Access to Justice Commission hosted its annual Champions of Justice Gala benefiting veterans on April 6, 2016 at the AT&T Conference Center. The State Bar of Texas co-sponsored the event. Supreme Court of Texas Justice Eva Guzman served as MC, while Retired Justice Harriet O’Neill commemorated the Commission’s 15th anniversary. A touching tribute to Joseph Jamail was given by Supreme Court of Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht.

The keynote speaker was General Peter Pace, United States Marine Corp (Ret.). General Pace served for more than 40 years in the USMC, and was sworn in as the sixteenth Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff in 2005. In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor a President can bestow. General Pace is associated with a number of charities focused on supporting the troops and their families. He spoke of the many sacrifices veterans and their families make for this country, and how important it is for them to receive the kind of help and support the Commission provides to them through the veterans’ assistance programs.

The Austin Bar, through a grant received by the Texas Access to Justice Commission, is working to expand its monthly Free Legal Advice Clinics for Veterans in Travis County to include several surrounding counties in order to serve more veterans in the Central Texas area.

BronwynBlakeChief Justice Hecht presented the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award to Bronwyn Blake, Legal Director of Texas Advocacy Project. This prestigious award honors a legal services program attorney or a pro bono attorney who is an exemplary advocate and who gives selflessly of his/her time and talent to provide legal help to those who have no voice.

Blake has spent over a decade improving the lives of domestic violence survivors in Texas. She first began helping this population of people in 2002 as an undergraduate volunteer at Texas Advocacy Project. During law school at the University of Texas, she earned the prestigious UT Law Faculty Fellowship in Public Interest Law. The stipend allowed Blake to create the Texas Advocacy Project’s Teen Justice Initiative, where she developed services tailored to teens including healthy relationship education, legal rights education and free confidential legal services for teens experiencing abuse in a relationship. At the time, Blake also worked closely with the legislature to develop HB 121, which effectively mandates that all school districts in Texas adopt and implement a dating violence policy. Today, as the Project’s Legal Director, Blake works with a team of 17 other direct service staff and is in charge of case strategy for the Project’s clients. During her time at the Project, Blake has closed over 6,000 cases involving a wide range of services including emancipation, protective orders, custody, terminations and adoption. Blake’s clients have ranged in age from 13 to senior citizens, who share the need for free legal services to live a life of safety.

Established in 1982 with the mission to provide free legal services, and access to the justice system, to victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking throughout the State of Texas, Texas Advocacy Project’s services affect the lives of thousands of Texans each year.

The Texas Access to Justice Commission was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 2001 and is charged with developing and implementing initiatives designed to expand access to, and enhance the quality of, justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. By promoting policies that removed barriers to our judicial system and championing efforts to increase funding for legal services providers, the Commission strives to endure that our judicial system hears the voices of all Texans-regardless of their economic status.