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May 1, 2019
Contact: Trish McAllister
Texas Access to Justice Commission
(512) 427-1855

Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans Raises $455,050

AUSTIN – The Texas Access to Justice Commission with its co-sponsor, the State Bar of Texas, honored veterans throughout the state at the Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans last night at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin. More than $455,050 was raised to help provide civil legal services to low-income Texas veterans.

Proceeds are distributed by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and dedicated to the provision of civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman was the master of ceremonies for the night. Justice Guzman is the court's liaison to the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. Throughout the evening, she reminded attendees how important it is for our veterans to come home to a community of support.

Governor Greg Abbott sent his greetings via video, applauding the assistance to veterans in need of help. Texas State Senator Judith Zaffirini presented a Senate resolution recognizing the Texas Access to Justice Commission's Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.

The Champions of Justice Gala was pleased to welcome United States Marine Corps veteran Phil Klay, author of the short story collection Redeployment, which won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction and the Chautauqua Prize in 2015. Harry M. Reasoner, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, introduced this dynamic featured speaker, endorsing Klay’s book as “powerful and haunting.”

Mr. Klay spoke with conviction about the needs of veterans as they return home and seek to reintegrate, highlighting the importance of helping veterans navigate through the system and remove bureaucratic barriers to essential and lifesaving services. At times devastating but also tinged with heartwarming humor, a bit of singing, and incredible depth, Klay’s address compelled attendees to prioritize the complex needs of veterans and continue the work to clear the hurdles they face. Klay stated that veterans are more likely than members of the general population to vote and to be involved in the community and that a powerful “antidote to alienation is: service.”

Mr. Klay implored the audience to ponder the challenge of veterans as they seek to “reconcile the world [they’ve] been a part of with the world around them [at home].”

The 2019 James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award was presented to both Garth Corbett with Disability Rights Texas and William “Gene” Rollins with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. Each recipient gave short remarks.

Garth Corbett was nominated after a 28-year career of tirelessly advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. Mr. Corbett has focused on cases involving Texans who are unnecessarily segregated in institutions and on litigating cases that safeguard permanent supportive housing for those same individuals.

Gene Rollins has worked for Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas for 15 years, representing women in family law cases involving domestic violence obtained some of the first protective orders based on stalking by arguing new law and presenting strong, sympathetic facts. He is also a pioneer in obtaining lifetime protective orders.

Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans
Gala co-chairs include prominent Texas attorneys who donated their time and talents for the 2019 effort: Jerry K. Clements with Locke Lord LLP; Randall M. Ebner with Exxon Mobil Corporation; Thomas S. Leatherbury with Vinson & Elkins LLP; David R. McAtee II with AT&T Inc.; Richard W. Mithoff with the Mithoff Law Firm; Stephen C. Mount with H-E-B; and Dana C. O'Brien on behalf of CenterPoint Energy.

Harry M. Reasoner, of Vinson & Elkins LLP, served as chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission.

Texas Legal Aid
More than 5.6 million Texans qualify for civil legal aid but only 10 percent of the legal needs are actually met due to inadequate funding resources. Legal aid organizations help more than 100,000 Texas families each year.

Media Note:  Photos of the event are available online via this link: https://tinyurl.com/2019-Champions-of-Justice-Gala. For photo captions please contact: kaitlyn.eberhardt@texasbar.com.



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.

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