TexasBar.com

State Bar of Texas
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2009

Contact: Kim Davey, kdavey@texasbar.com, 800.204.2222 x 1713 or 512.427.1713

State Bar of Texas Announces Pro Bono and Legal Services Awards

AUSTIN – The State Bar of Texas Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2009 Pro Bono and Legal Services Awards.

The Frank J. Scurlock Award will be presented to two recipients: John Crews of Crenshaw, Dupree & Milam, L.L.P. of Lubbock, and Ed & Maria Hernández of Hernández & Hernández Law Office in El Paso. The award is named for the late Frank J. Scurlock, the first chair of the Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, known for his tireless efforts to provide legal services to the poor.

John Crews has donated over 400 hours of free legal services to the poor through the Equal Justice Volunteer Program at Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (LANWT). In 1992, Crews became one of the founders of free evening legal clinics at St. John's United Methodist Church in Lubbock with the then West Texas Legal Services (now LANWT), which he and his firm have continued to sponsor. His influence on the provision of pro bono legal assistance in Lubbock County cannot be quantified. Crews is a recipient of the "Lubbock County Legal Clinic Volunteer Attorney Award" and the "Pro Bono Attorney of the Year" award, which was later renamed after him.

Ed & Maria Hernández have devoted their entire careers to providing pro bono assistance to low-income people. They are exemplary community-oriented lawyers who, along with others, helped bring a civil rights center to El Paso, the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project. They have volunteered as pro bono co-counsel and serve on the office's regional Council of Directors. In 2006, the Texas Civil Rights Project recognized Ed and Maria's community work with its Henry B. González Award, which Congressman Charles González presented to them.

Other attorneys excelling in providing pro bono legal services to low-income people and named as finalists for the Frank J. Scurlock Award include: Margaret Allen of Dallas, Ron Bunch of Waxahachie, Amanda B. Childs of Dallas, Donald Johnston of Sherman, Eric Klein of Dallas, and Marcy E. Kurtz of Houston.

The Pro Bono Award will be presented to the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program (HVLP). This award honors a volunteer attorney organization that has made an outstanding contribution toward guaranteeing access to the legal system by the poor.

HVLP is a volunteer-driven organization with a mission to provide pro bono legal services to indigent and low-income people in Harris County and to promote volunteerism within the legal community. During 2008, HVLP screened a total of 26,850 requests for assistance, representing a 21 percent increase over 2007. Volunteer attorneys donated 21,882 hours of their time and accepted 1,756 pro bono cases. Using $200 per hour as the base rate, volunteers provided legal services valued at $4,376,400. Highlights of HVLP's 2008 initiatives include: 1) a Crisis Response Team for Hurricane Ike; 2) "A Day of Giving," a project HVLP conducted with the Houston Bar Foundation and the Houston Bar Association (HBA), which manifested in 10 simultaneous legal advice clinics in diverse locations throughout Harris County; 3) expansion of services to Houston-area veterans through the HBA's Veterans' Legal Initiative (a partnership between HVLP, the HBA and local veterans' service providers); 4) enhanced collaboration with other area legal service providers, such as Houston's Catholic Charities, Texas C-Bar and the Southeast Texas Legal Clinic; and 5) increased outreach to Houston's Asian community through its monthly Will and Legal Clinics.

Other programs named as finalists for the Pro Bono Award include: Children at Risk's Legislative Fellows Program of Houston, Fannin County Bar Association (Bonham), and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas – Equal Justice Volunteer Program of Midland.

The J. Chrys Dougherty Legal Services Award will be presented to Scott Medlock of the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) in Austin. This award honors an outstanding legal services staff attorney and is named for J. Chrys Dougherty, who helped build a strong working partnership between the State Bar of Texas and legal services providers.

Scott Medlock is the Prisoners' Rights Attorney for TCRP's Austin office. He represents prisoners and their families in a wide variety of cases involving disability discrimination, medical neglect, wrongful death, jail suicide, free speech, excessive force, and due process. Due to Medlock's success, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation provided TCRP with funding to expand the Prisoners' Rights Attorney program. In 2008 the program assisted over 200 individuals. Medlock is an active volunteer for cases outside of his grant funding and assumes a variety of leadership roles. He currently serves as chairperson of the Texas Access to Justice Commission's Inmate Representation Workgroup, which brings together various interest groups to improve inmates' ability to access courts and lawyers.

Other attorneys excelling in providing pro bono legal services to low-income people and named as finalists for the J. Chrys Dougherty Legal Services Award include: Donna Guion of Fort Worth, Nelson Mock of Austin, Erica Britt Schommer of Weslaco, and Brianna Stone of El Paso.

The W. Frank Newton Award will be presented to Vinson & Elkins LLP's Veterans Initiative. Named for the former law professor, dean and State Bar president, this award recognizes the efforts of attorney groups that have made outstanding contributions toward increasing access to legal services for the poor.

From a small project conducted by a few lawyers in just two offices, the V&E Veterans Initiative has grown to a firm-wide initiative with a practice group of 35 lawyers among each of V&E's five offices in the United States. V&E launched the Veterans Initiative in 2007 as a standing pro bono practice, dedicated to assisting veterans and servicemen without financial resources with their legal needs. V&E has assisted veterans with matters ranging from improper denial of benefits and efforts to take unfair financial advantage of deployed personnel, to defending military men and women in custody battles, evictions, and even in military proceedings. To ensure that its legal services for this project are going to those who have the strongest and most urgent needs, V&E has partnered with the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other groups.

Other finalists for the W. Frank Newton Award include American Airlines, Inc., Dallas/Fort Worth; Baker Botts L.L.P., Houston; Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwick Dickson & Squires, LLP, Waco; Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, Austin; JCPenney Legal Department, Plano; Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP, Dallas; Marathon Law Organization, Houston; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Dallas. The 2009 Pro Bono and Legal Services Awards will be presented at a luncheon June 25 during the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Dallas.

The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system.