The Texas Access to Justice Commission, or TAJC, honored Texas Access to Justice Foundation, or TAJF, Executive Director Betty Balli Torres with the Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to improving Texans’ access to justice during the Champions of Justice Gala on April 25 in Austin.
This award, named after the TAJC’s first executive director, is the commission’s highest honor given for a career dedicated to supporting legal services for Texans in need.
“It is an honor to receive this award, named for my dear friend Emily C. Jones,” Torres said in a press release. “There is still much work to be done to make sure the doors of our courthouses are open to all, especially those who cannot afford help. I will continue working with colleagues from throughout the state and country to improve resources for access to justice for all Texans.”
Torres has served as the executive director of the TAJF, one of the largest funding sources for legal services to low-income Texas, since 2001. Under her leadership, the foundation now grants more than $50 million annually to over 35 legal aid organizations statewide, according to a press release. Torres was also major part of TAJF’s creation of the Prime Partner Bank Program, which serves as a national model. Through this program, financial institutions pay higher levels of interest on lawyer trust accounts, which TAJF then uses to distribute grants to legal aid providers throughout the state.
Additionally, Torres worked with the TAJF’s Board of Directors and the Supreme Court of Texas to ensure the provision of emergency legal aid for families facing imminent eviction. Through a partnership with Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, more than $40 million has been granted to prevent evictions of Texans affected by the crisis, according to a press release.
“Betty’s efforts help us bring access to justice to all Texans closer to reality,” TAJC Chair Harriet Miers said in a press release. “Her extraordinary spirit of putting others first and demonstrated commitment to legal services has improved our society and inspired others. Through her initiatives and awareness of the valuable role legal aid plays, Betty has enhanced access for vulnerable Texans unable to pay for legal assistance, and we are more than grateful for her efforts.”
Photo caption: Supreme Court of Texas Brett Busby presents Texas Access to Justice Foundation Executive Director Betty Balli Torres with the Texas Access to Justice Commission’s Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award, during the Champions of Justice Gala on April 25 in Austin. Photo by Christian De Massis.