The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.
Judge Migdalia Lopez of the 197th District Court of Cameron County has done pro bono work since she began practicing law. Lopez, who has a masters in social work, says the need is always there so it is part of her everyday routine. She was appointed to the Texas Access to Justice Commission (TATJC) from 2004-2007 because of her pro bono work.
Helping children is Judge Lopez’s passion. She is a past chair of the Juvenile Dept. in Cameron County and a former member of the school board. The Governor’s Office recently appointed her to a term on the Juvenile Probation Commission. Lopez believes that more resources should go toward helping juveniles, and that to prevent crime, the starting point is in helping them. Lopez related that she once took three juveniles with her to Corpus Christi to participate in a triathlon, so that they could see that they could accomplish something and be proud of the work they did – and they were.
Judge Lopez related that the local legal community is committed to those in need. She often asks local bar associations and individual attorneys for help with pro bono cases, and always gets a great response. She also hears a lot of foreclosure cases, and asks attorneys to help out in cases where she sees a real need.
Lopez is one of the judges for the Cameron County pro bono divorce clinic. They just started their first clinic in Willacy County recently, and she is the only judge for that clinic. The clinics in Willacy are held every third month, and they have 10 to 15 cases every clinic. She says there is a “great need” for pro bono there, and the clinic makes the handling of the cases more efficient.