What is access to justice?
The term “access to justice” describes the ability of any person, regardless of income, to use the legal system to advocate for themselves and their interests. Read more about access to justice and barriers to justice here.
What are civil legal services?
Civil legal aid, also known as legal services, is legal help provided at no charge to very low-income people who have non-criminal legal problems and who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Civil legal matters include such things as resolving a landlord-tenant dispute, obtaining a divorce or child support, probating a will, or obtaining medical benefits for veterans.
A person seeking legal aid must meet certain income requirements to get help. Unfortunately, not everyone who qualifies for legal aid is able to receive it. The Commission works to address this gap through increasing pro bono service and other alternative forms of legal representation.
I need legal help. Will you take my case?
The Commission does not provide legal advice or representation. If you need help with a civil legal matter, visit TexasLawHelp.org to find a legal aid organization in your area, or call the State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 252-9690. For a criminal matter, visit the Texas Fair Defense Project for resources.
Do you handle criminal cases?
The Commission does not provide legal advice or representation. The Commission’s work is focused on civil legal aid and civil legal issues, rather than criminal issues or indigent defense. If you need help with a civil legal matter, visit TexasLawHelp.org to find a legal aid organization in your area, or call the State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 252-9690. For a criminal matter, visit the Texas Fair Defense Project for resources.
What is the difference between the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation?
The Texas Access to Justice Commission and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation work closely together but are two separate organizations.
The Texas Access to Justice Commission was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 2001 to develop and implement initiatives designed to expand access to, and enhance the quality of, justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission is responsible for raising funds for legal aid, advocating for policy changes to increase access to justice, developing initiatives to increase access to justice, raising awareness, and educating both attorneys and the public on access to justice issues. You can read more about our work on our Mission and Goals page.
The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984 to administer the newly implemented Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program. The Foundation now grants millions of dollars per year to approximately 30 organizations statewide that provide free civil legal assistance to low-income Texans. You can read more about the Foundation and their work on their website at tajf.org.
How are the Commissioners appointed?
Our Commissioners are appointed for three-year terms by either the Supreme Court of Texas or the State Bar of Texas. Commissioners are chosen to represent the various stakeholders in the legal community as well as the diverse ethnic, gender, and geographic communities in Texas. You can read about the specific guidelines for Commissioner selection in the Supreme Court Order that created the Commission in 2001.
How can I get involved with the Commission’s work?
For ideas on how to support access to justice initiatives and opportunities to get involved, please visit our Get Involved page.
How does someone get nominated for one of the Commission’s awards?
Attorneys and organizations can nominate themselves or their peers for many of our awards. Nominations are then reviewed by our Awards Committee. Several of our awards, like the Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award and the Star of Justice Award, are granted by the Awards Committee to recognize outstanding achievement or advocacy. For a list of our awards and their application forms, visit our Awards page.
I’m not an attorney. Can I still make a donation?
Certainly! Equal access to justice is an issue that affects everyone in our society, not just those in the legal professions. You can make a donation here.
Are my donations tax-deductible?
Yes. All donations go to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the statewide 501(c)(3) organization that disseminates the funds to legal aid providers across Texas. A portion of the contributions made in conjunction with the ATJ Campaign go to the Texas Bar Foundation, a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit that disseminates these funds to legal aid providers for direct service projects. You can make your tax-deductible donations here.
I want to be a Champion of Justice. How do I join?
The Champion of Justice Society is our giving society for those who choose to go above and beyond in their support of access to justice initiatives. We’d love to have you as a member! You can read more about the Society and how to join here.
How is the Commission funded?
By order of the Supreme Court of Texas, the Commission’s operations are funded through the State Bar of Texas. The Commission raises additional funds to support access to justice across Texas. All funds raised by the Commission are distributed to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, which disseminate the funds to legal services providers through a grant application process.