The Texas Access to Justice Foundation is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. ECPR has worked with the Foundation on legislative communication projects since 2007. Our work has focused on media outreach—including press conferences with state legislators and Texas Supreme Court justices at the State Capitol—communication planning, social media and legislative initiatives. These efforts have resulted in hundreds of media stories, including editorials supporting legal aid funding running in every major newspaper in Texas.
For the last 10 years, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation has found itself facing a serious funding crisis. Due to a drop in interest rates, which are tied to a major funding source for legal aid in Texas, the Foundation has lost more than $128 million in funding for civil legal aid programs since 2007.
There is approximately one legal aid lawyer for every 9,800 Texans who qualify for free legal services. Many of the services provided by civil legal aid organizations go towards helping victims of domestic violence leave their abusers, veterans trying to obtain vital benefits they earned and families avoiding homelessness. Without access to a free legal aid attorney, these families are left to face the justice system alone. The impact that a loss of funding has on people unable to afford the high costs associated with hiring an attorney is undeniable.
ECPR has worked with the Foundation to raise awareness of the need for the state legislature to create additional funding streams for civil legal aid. To do this, ECPR has organized several press conferences at the state Capitol with leaders of the access to justice community, members of the Texas Supreme Court and leaders of the Texas legislature. Additionally, ECPR has arranged for editorial board meetings with major newspapers in Texas, coordinated op-eds on behalf of the Texas Supreme Court and planned social media campaigns aimed at garnering grassroots support for legislative efforts.
In coordination with legal aid lobbyists and supporters, our work has played a key role in garnering bipartisan support for state funding for legal aid, including appropriations of more than $30 million in funding during the 84th Texas Legislature.