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Chancellor McRaven: Every veteran deserves access to justice
AUSTIN, Texas – For those Americans who risk everything in service to their country, there should be no barriers to justice once they return home.
That was the message of University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven when the former admiral spoke at the 2015 Champions of Justice Gala on Tuesday, an event that raised $401,600 to provide civil legal services for low-income veterans in Texas. Photos from the event are available at www.flickr.com/photos/texasatj/sets/72157651379663207/.
During his keynote address, McRaven said that service members transitioning back into civilian life have dramatically less support services available to them. As a result, veterans often face civil legal issues when ensnared by the abundance of predatory payday lending, rent-to-own schemes, child custody or divorce needs, or trouble accessing benefits.
The gala was generously co-sponsored by the the Texas Access to Justice Commission, which works to improve access to civil justice for all vulnerable Texans, including veterans, and the State Bar of Texas. The gala has raised more than $2 million for veterans since its inception in 2010.
“Make no mistake, legal aid changes lives,” Justice Guzman said in her remarks. “Domestic violence, death, disability, disputes with landlords – these are the moments when just a little help can mean the difference between shelter and homelessness, financial security and bankruptcy, custody of your children and losing your family.”
William H. McRaven—Guest Speaker
William H. McRaven leads one of the nation’s largest systems of higher education, with nine academic institutions and six health institutions that educate more than 214,000 students and employ about 90,000 faculty and staff. Prior to becoming chancellor in January 2015, McRaven was a four-star admiral who spent 37 years as a Navy SEAL; his last assignment was as the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command during which time he led a force of 69,000 men and women.
This year’s Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement award was given to two men who have worked tirelessly to make Texas a better place: former Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson and James B. Sales, chair emeritus of the Texas Access to Justice Commission. Peter Hofer, Senior Litigation Attorney with Disability Rights Texas, received the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground award, which recognizes a legal services program attorney or pro bono attorney who gives selflessly to help low-income Texans.
Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans
Gala co-chairs include prominent Texas attorneys who donated their time and effort: Linda L. Addison of Norton Rose Fulbright in Houston, S. Jack Balagia of Exxon Mobil Corporation in Irving, Robert A. Black of Mehaffy Weber, PC in Beaumont, Jerry K. Clements of Locke Lord, LLP in Dallas, Joseph D. Jamail, Jr. of Jamail & Kolius in Houston and Wayne Watts of AT&T, Inc. in Dallas.
Proceeds from the gala will be distributed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and dedicated to the provision of civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans. These services assist in addressing legal issues related to marital problems, difficulties in getting medical or disability benefits and wrongful foreclosures.
Texas Legal Aid
More than 5.6 million Texans qualify for civil legal aid, but only 20 percent of them receive help. Since its inception in 2001, the Texas Access to Justice Commission has steadily championed efforts to increase financial and pro bono resources to improve access to civil justice for vulnerable Texans. Legal aid organizations help more than 100,000 Texas families each year. However, this number is expected to decrease as a result of recent cuts to federal funding.
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 www.TexasATJ.org.