The ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants
& The National Legal Aid and Defender Association
Congratulate the Winners of the 2018 Harrison Tweed Award!
The State Bar of Texas
The State Bar of Texas (SBOT) is a recipient of this year's Harrison Tweed Award for its exemplary work in carrying out its mission-statement commitment to "assure all citizens equal access to justice." As the second largest active-member bar association in the United States, the SBOT's Legal Access Division is one of the most comprehensive state bar divisions for support of pro bono volunteerism. The Harrison Tweed Award is being given in recognition of many of the extraordinary contributions of SBOT to pro bono and support for the state's civil legal aid providers, which includes several recent innovative and effective programs and projects.
In August 2017, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the SBOT activated its Disaster Relief Hotline and coordinated with the three major legal aid organizations in Texas and local bar associations to direct victims to available legal aid. Also that year, the SBOT launched its Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator to expand access to justice for low- and moderate-income persons by assisting new lawyers in establishing substantial practices that serve the unmet legal needs of low-income Texans; participating attorneys are required to provide at least 100 hours of pro bono legal services during their first year in the 18-month program. Additionally, the SBOT, since June 2016, has operated ProBonoTexas.org, a one-stop hub for all things pro bono in Texas where users can find the perfect place to volunteer, as well as a library of resources including handbooks, articles, and checklists separated by topics that commonly arise in pro bono cases. Another innovative SBOT technology platform is TexasLegalAnswers.org, a free online legal advice clinic in connection with the ABA's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, which has greatly expanded access to justice for low-income Texans by allowing them to obtain answers to their civil legal problems from anywhere and any device that they are able to access the internet. For these, and many other outstanding efforts made in its comprehensive support for pro bono volunteer legal services for the poor, The State Bar of Texas is greatly deserving of the Harrison Tweed Award.
The Suffolk County Bar Association
The Suffolk County Bar Association (SCBA) was one of the first local bar associations in New York to commit to a pro bono effort in its community, forming The Suffolk Pro Bono Project in collaboration with Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee, Inc. (NSLS), for which SCBA is recognized with this year's Harrison Tweed Award. The success of the Pro Bono Project depends on the active, voluntary involvement of the SCBA and its members working together with NSLS, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC)-funded civil legal services agency that serves Long Island. The Suffolk Pro Bono Project (PBP) is administered by NSLS, with the loyal support of the SCBA and the Suffolk County Bar Pro Bono Foundation, the charitable arm of the SCBA, providing the PBP with financial support, consultation, and oversight of its pro bono efforts.
The primary goal of the Suffolk Pro Bono Project is to increase the availability of legal services to Long Island's poor and disabled population in a variety of substantive civil law areas, including bankruptcy, consumer law, education, family and matrimonial law, disability law, guardianships, and wills and estates. These goals and case priorities are regularly discussed between NSLS and SCBA leaders to confirm that unmet needs are identified. Together with the expertise of the private bar and the NSLS staff of poverty law specialists, a broad range of legal services is delivered to thousands of disabled and disadvantaged people in the Suffolk community every year. In the area of matrimonial law, indigent litigants and victims of domestic violence have relied on volunteer attorneys since the Suffolk Pro Bono Project's inception, especially because there are effectively no other free legal services alternatives in this practice area. Similarly, the Pro Bono Bankruptcy Clinic has been a critical pro bono service since its inception in 1990, especially given the dearth of free bankruptcy legal services. Over time, with changing economic demands and demographics, the SCBA has stepped up to support and help spearhead several initiatives intended to respond to the need for legal assistance and to promote the pro bono ideal to its membership. These include projects to address the mortgage foreclosure crisis, disaster relief related to Hurricane Sandy, and other special programs focused on assistance in the areas of guardianship, SSI/SSD applications, child support, and the legal needs of veterans. For all of the impressive pro bono work and the unwavering volunteer spirit of the SCBA's generous membership, the ABA is pleased to present the SCBA with the Harrison Tweed Award.