Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson, who began her three-year term as TAJF’s board chair on September 1, is the first woman to hold the title.

“Justice Hankinson is a trailblazer, and I am proud to welcome her as the foundation’s new board chair. Her extensive experience and expertise will materially advance the foundation’s mission of helping to ensure disadvantaged Texans have access to legal aid for their essential civil legal needs,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman said in a press release. “Justice Hankinson’s leadership, innovative ideas, and dedication will be invaluable to our incredibly talented board of directors. I was honored to work closely with Richard L. Tate, immediate past board chair, who took the foundation to new levels during his tenure, and I look forward to working with his equally committed successor.”

Hankinson, the board’s longtime vice chair, spearheaded the creation of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, which partners with the foundation to expand legal aid opportunities for Texans. The board includes 13 attorney and public members—seven appointed by the Texas Supreme Court and six by the State Bar of Texas.

She began work on the board in 2003 and became vice chair in 2008 before being named this year as the fifth chair.

“It’s an honor to be able to serve the Texas legal aid community as chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation board,” Hankinson said in a press release. “Throughout my career, I have advocated for disadvantaged Texans and have supported the successes of civil legal aid organizations across the state. I am eager and proud to now help guide the foundation in its mission of equal justice for all.”

Additionally, Houston attorney Travis Torrence was added to the foundation’s board of directors. As leader of the Global Litigation Bankruptcy & Credit Team at Shell Oil Company, he manages a team of attorneys and legal support professionals handling bankruptcy and credit legal issues for all of the company’s business units in the U.S. and Canada. Torrence, in his time as a Fulbright & Jaworski senior associate, chaired the Houston office’s Recruiting Committee and helped found the firm’s Diversity Advisory Council. He also clerked for Judge Edward C. Prado, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Torrence is a member of boards and councils at Yale Law School Fund Board and Tulane University’s School of Liberal Arts and the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. At the State Bar of Texas, he was a member of the board of directors’ Executive Committee.

“Travis is a tremendous talent in both law and life,” Hankinson said in a press release. “He brings a wealth of legal knowledge and a giving and generous spirit to the board, and we are honored to have his perspective in guiding the foundation in its mission of ensuring access to justice for all Texans.”

For more information about the Texas Access to Foundation, go to