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Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
September 14, 2010

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

Texas Access to Justice Foundation Given Largest Cy Pres Award for Legal Aid
More than $2.6 million given to legal aid providers to help Texans with disabilities

AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Access to Justice Commission and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) have announced the largest cy pres award to legal aid in Texas – more than $2.6 million to TAJF and five legal aid organizations that provide civil legal services to Texans with disabilities. The funds resulted from a lawsuit litigated by Austin attorney Hamp Skelton of Skelton & Woody, the late Charles Shaddox of San Antonio, and two Florida lawyers, Stephen Senn of Peterson & Myers and Robert Fegers. The award to the TAJF and five legal aid organizations was, collectively, the largest portion of a total cy pres distribution of more than $9 million that will flow to non-profit organizations who serve the needs of Texans with disabilities as a result of the lawsuit.

Cy pres awards are residual funds from a class action or other proceeding that cannot be distributed to class members or the intended beneficiaries for a variety of reasons. The class action suit, Meyers et. al v. State of Texas, et. al, involved allegations that the state violated Title II of the American with Disabilities Act by charging Texans with disabilities for the standardized blue placards used for parking. The cy pres funding received from this suit will help provide legal aid to Texans with disabilities.

“It is gratifying to know that our efforts will be used to protect the legal rights of people with disabilities,” attorney Hamp Skelton said. “The case presented us an opportunity to contribute to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice.”

Nearly 28 percent of the cy pres award was given to legal aid organizations that include TAJF, Advocacy, Inc., Legal Hospice of Texas, Texas Civil Rights Project, Texas Legal Services Center, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. The more than $800,000 given to TAJF will be granted to legal aid organizations later this year.

“As more Texans face poverty during these difficult economic times, the extraordinary efforts of attorneys like Mr. Skelton ensure that legal aid providers are able to continue serving the legal needs of our most vulnerable populations,” Houston attorney Tom Godbold, chair of the Court Award Strategies Committee, a joint committee of the TAJF and the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said. “Cy pres awards to legal aid demonstrate the commitment of judges and lawyers in the legal system to help fill the gaps in funding for legal aid.”

Nearly 5.3 million Texans qualify for legal aid. To qualify for civil legal assistance from a legal aid program, an individual normally cannot earn more than $13,538 per year. A family of four must earn less than $27,563 per year.

TAJF has awarded nearly $285 million to legal aid organizations in its 26 years of existence. TAJF collects and administers several funds, including Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, Basic Civil Legal Services (filing fees, fees assessed to out-of-state attorneys practicing in Texas, and other public funding), crime victims’ funds and private donations.

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.

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