The State Bar of Texas Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee announced its 2024 Pro Bono Excellence award winners.

Retired Judge Lora J. Livingston, of Austin, received the Judge Merrill Hartman Pro Bono Judge Award; Nathaniel Peter Holzer, of Corpus Christi, received the Frank J. Scurlock Award; Lauren Joyner, of Edinburg, received the J. Chrys Dougherty Award; Methodist Justice Ministry, of Fort Worth, received the Pro Bono Award; Sylvia Chavez, of Plainview, received the Pro Bono Coordinator Award; Susan Davis, of Fort Worth, received the Pro Bono Support Staff Award; and Haynes and Boone, of Dallas, received the W. Frank Newton Award.

Judge Merrill Hartman Pro Bono Judge Award—Retired Judge Lora J. Livingston

 The Judge Merrill Hartman Pro Bono Judge Award honors a sitting or retired judge who has provided exemplary pro bono service, including outreach to attorneys to increase the quantity and quality of pro bono representation; modifications to court processes to increase access to justice; advocacy on behalf of access to justice; service as a volunteer judge for pro bono clinics; or other pro bono proceedings. Retired Judge Lora J. Livingston was elected to the bench of the 261st District Court in Travis County in 1998. At that time, she became the first African American woman to preside over a Travis County district court. Livingston has been recognized both in Texas and nationally as a leader in advocating for equal access to justice. She was appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas to serve on the board of the Texas Access to Justice Commission and has also served on the board of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. Livingston’s accomplishments include overseeing the design and construction of the Travis County Civil and Family Courts facility, which includes a self-help center and law library for pro se individuals. Following her 40-year commitment to volunteer legal aid and public service, Livingston retired from the bench in 2022.

Frank J. Scurlock Award—Nathaniel Peter Holzer

The Frank J. Scurlock Award honors an individual attorney in good standing who has provided outstanding pro bono work. Throughout his career, Nathaniel Peter Holzer has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to pro bono legal services, a testament to his compassion and commitment to justice. He has regularly accepted pro bono cases from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, establishing volunteer work that has spanned decades. In the past two years alone, Holzer has generously dedicated more than 330 hours to pro bono work, significantly impacting the lives of many Texans.

J. Chrys Dougherty Award—Lauren Joyner

The J. Chrys Dougherty Award recognizes an outstanding legal services staff attorney. Lauren Joyner’s commitment extends beyond individual client representation. She actively mentors other immigration attorneys at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and beyond, collaborating with local organizations to provide community education and professional development trainings through the Hidalgo County Bar Association, the Texas/New Mexico Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Federal Bar Association.

Pro Bono Award—Methodist Justice Ministry

The Pro Bono Award honors a volunteer attorney organization that has made an outstanding contribution toward guaranteeing access to the legal system by the poor. Established in 2006 by accomplished attorney and ordained Methodist minister Brooks Harrington, Methodist Justice Ministry has grown from humble beginnings to become a vital pillar of support within the Fort Worth community. To date, Methodist Justice Ministry has filed over 1,200 family lawsuits, representing over 3,000 vulnerable community members impacted by family violence.

Pro Bono Coordinator Award—Sylvia Chavez

The Pro Bono Coordinator Award is presented to an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the delivery of, and access to, legal services for the poor. This individual also serves as the pro bono coordinator for a volunteer attorney organization or group, local bar association, law firm, law school, corporate legal office, governmental law department, or legal services organization. Sylvia Chavez has engaged 50% of the available lawyers in her surrounding 10-county service area even though pro bono recruitment presents a distinct challenge because the area is represented by very few attorneys. Her dedication to expanding access to justice is underscored by her extensive outreach efforts and the strong relationships she has cultivated with local judges and court personnel.

Pro Bono Support Staff Award—Susan Davis

The Pro Bono Support Staff Award recognizes the exemplary contributions of non-attorney volunteers such as paralegals, administrative assistants, interpreters, and other support staff who work on pro bono projects. Susan Davis has exhibited an untiring commitment to supporting legal professionals and advocating for those in need. Since 2014, she has been actively involved in volunteering for numerous pro bono clinics organized by Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and the Tarrant Volunteer Attorney Services committee of the Tarrant County Bar Foundation. In 2022, she became the Tarrant Volunteer Attorney Services co-chair of the Tarrant County Bar Foundation.

Frank Newton Award—Haynes and Boone, Dallas

The W. Frank Newton Award recognizes the pro bono contribution of attorney groups whose members have made an outstanding contribution in the provision of, or access to, legal services to the poor. In 2023 alone, Haynes and Boone dedicated over 16,000 pro bono hours firmwide, with the Dallas offices contributing over 7,600 hours, including extensive support for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. These efforts have garnered widespread recognition, with the firm receiving prestigious awards such as the 2023 Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year from the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the 2023 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.