Commission celebrates Pro Bono Week, honors pro bono advocates and law firms

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Press Release

Contact: Catherine Galloway | 512-427-1892

Media Note: Photos from the event are available on Flickr.

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Access to Justice Commission (“Commission”) kicked off Pro Bono Week yesterday with a reception honoring law firms and attorneys who support access to justice in Texas.

The Commission’s reception, held at the Omni Austin Downtown hotel, supports the American Bar Association’s effort that highlights the need to expand access to justice by providing pro bono legal services. Proclamations in support of Pro Bono Week in Texas were issued by the Supreme Court of Texas and Office of the Governor. The reception was attended by members of the Texas Supreme Court, State Bar of Texas, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and legal aid service providers.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, the Supreme Court’s liaison to the Commission, presented awards to Champion of Justice law firms that were recognized for their outstanding support of the Access to Justice Campaign which supports and sustains Texas civil legal aid programs. 

Pro Bono College Honorees
State Bar of Texas Board of Directors Chair Joe Escobedo presented awards to several Pro Bono College honorees. Christina Melton Crain, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Unlocking DOORS in Dallas, was celebrated for her 20-year membership. Joe Connors, a solo practitioner in McAllen, was also honored in absentia for his 20-year membership. 

Ned Dennis, a solo practitioner in Marshall, and William O. Whitehurst, of Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar & Higginbotham, PLLC in Austin, were honored for their 25-year membership.  Dennis and Whitehurst were part of a small group of attorneys who founded the State Bar's Pro Bono College in 1992.  Pro Bono College members perform at least 75 hours of pro bono services each year in addition to their normal work hours, without compensation.

Champion of Justice Law Firm Awards
The 2016 Access to Justice Campaign, which helps support and sustain Texas’s legal aid programs, has raised $1,323,295 and is made possible by contributions from more than 9,300 attorneys across the state. Winning firms raised more than $170,600 in support of the Campaign.

Six firms were recognized for raising the highest dollar amount: Andrews Kurth LLP, Baker Botts LLP, Jackson Walker LLP, Locke Lord LLP, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP, and Vinson & Elkins.  Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr PC received honorable mention for their generous contributions and the innovative fundraising effort, the Sticky Fly Guy, designed to promote awareness about Access to Justice and raise funds for civil legal aid in Texas.

Seven firms received recognition for achieving 100 percent participation: Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP, Davidson Troilo Ream & Garza PC, Lynch Chappell & Alsup, P.C., Nathan Sommers Jacobs, Rusty Hardin & Associates, Scott Douglass & McConnico, and Zelle, LLP. Rusty Hardin & Associates received special recognition for their level of participation, noting all attorneys and staff made a contribution to the Access to Justice Campaign.


The Texas Access to Justice Commission was created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission has created several initiatives to increase resources and awareness of legal aid. For more information, please visit