TexasBar.com

Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation
September 24, 2010

Contact: Kimberly Schmitt, 512-320-0099, ext. 104, kschmitt@teajf.org

Texas Senator Steve Ogden Honored with Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award;
Senator Steve Ogden Named “Legislative Hero” for Improving Access to Justice to the More Than 5.7 Million Texans Who Qualify for Legal Aid

BRYAN, Texas - The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation honored Senator Steve Ogden with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas during a special presentation at the Lone Star Legal Aid office in Bryan, Texas, on Fri., Sept. 24. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award to Senator Ogden.

Senator Ogden’s grasp of the funding gap for Texans in need of help with civil legal issues led to an historic appropriation of funding in the 81st Legislature for civil legal services to poor Texans, an appropriation of more than $20 million. Through his leadership efforts, Ogden helped improve access to justice for poor and low-income Texans.

“Times are tough, and funding is scarce for the legal assistance low-income Texans desperately need,” Justice Hecht said. “Lots of people are working hard to keep civil legal services available to those who can least afford them, but no one, and I mean no one, has helped this worthy cause more than Senator Steve Ogden.”

"In order to form a 'more perfect union and establish justice…' as stated in our Constitution, the poor need competent legal help,” Senator Ogden said. “I am proud that the Legislature recognized this last session and I accept this award on its behalf."

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation launched the Legislative Hero Award program in 2010 to recognize legislators who, through their efforts, have significantly advanced access to justice in Texas by assisting with the appropriation of funds and/or other substantive activities related to the provision of legal aid in the state.

“Senator Ogden's leadership made possible legal services for thousands of poor Texans. Those legal services give many a chance to lead a decent and productive life,” Harry Reasoner, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said. “Protection from domestic violence and child abuse, veterans' medical care and disability payments, Social Security benefits, and recovery for hurricane victims can all depend on the availability of legal representation.”

Senator Ogden is currently chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and is a leader in the Texas Senate on budget issues, criminal justice, school finance, higher education funding, child protection and transportation safety. He served three terms in the Texas House of Representatives before he was elected Senator for District 5. Senator Ogden is currently president of Ogden Resources, an independent oil and gas company, and has more than 20 years experience in the oil and gas industry. He received his MBA from Texas A&M University, and also graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served nine years as an officer in the U.S. Navy submarine fleet.

Legal aid organizations funded by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation help more than 100,000 low-income Texas families each year with their civil legal needs. Yet, for every person who is helped with legal aid, a qualifying Texan is denied assistance due to a lack of resources. Currently, only one legal aid lawyer is available to provide assistance for every 10,838 Texans who qualify.

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.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to more than 100,000 Texans each year.