TYLA eNews | By Harriet Miers, Commissioner, partner at Locke Lord Edwards, LLP
Throughout each legislative session, the Texas Access to Justice Commission works to provide lawmakers across the state as much information as we can about how barriers to having access to our justice system affect our court system and their constituents. Our efforts are to raise awareness about the importance of access to justice for all Texans and solicit legislators’ help in providing needed access. The 84th Texas Legislative Session convened on January 13th and concludes on June 1.
On February 3, the Commission is hosting an informational breakfast on civil legal aid sponsored by Rep. Sarah Davis, along with the Commission, for first and second term Representatives. The purpose of this breakfast is to provide an overview of the entire civil legal aid system and how strengthening that system assists their constituents and communities.
Additionally, on February 18, the Commission is hosting an ATJ Day at the Texas Legislature during which leadership and friends of the ATJ community will visit with state lawmakers about additional needed support for civil legal aid and to emphasize the critical access to justice issues affecting their constituents. In the past, this outreach has helped solidify legislative support for legal aid funding and other support. The Commission hopes to increase the number of lawmakers and other leaders in our State who make access to justice a priority. As we in the legal community realize, great needs exist in our State for increased legal help for those who have dire legal needs, but who cannot afford a lawyer, such as, women and children threatened by domestic violence, the elderly, and our Veterans.
State funding for civil legal aid has been our primary advocacy issue in recent years.
The remarkable bi-partisan support for legal aid over the past few sessions has helped replace some of the funding lost during this economic downturn, but not all. Since interest rates remain low and, as a result, IOLTA funds are greatly diminished, the Commission will once again be asking legislators to support funding through the courts budget at $17.56 million. We will also advocate for changes and tools that help address challenges faced by the poor in probate matters and expansion of the Chief Justice Pope Act which was passed during the 83rd session.
To stay informed on the ATJ legislative initiatives, sign-up for the Commission’s quarterly e-newsletter, visit the commission’s website or contact Jocelyn Fowler, staff attorney at the Texas Access to Justice Commission, at TexasAccesstoJustice@outlook.com or by phone, 512-427-1859.
Harriet Miers serves on the Texas Access to Justice Commission as Chair of the Legislative Committee and is a partner at Locke Lord, LLP where she focuses on commercial litigation and public policy, representing a broad range of clients in varied industries. She served in the administration of President George W. Bush from 2001-2007 as Staff Secretary, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Counsel to the President.