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State Rep. Sefronia Thompson District 141
State Rep. Sefronia Thompson
District 141

Austin State Representative Senfronia Thompson (D- Houston) filed House Bill 1079 to broaden the reach of the Chief Justice Jack Pope Act to expand revenue for civil legal aid grants. “A broad bipartisan group of Texas support this bill including many current and former Supreme Court Justices and Legislators, showing the importance of increasing funding to civil legal aid in Texas,” said Thompson. The bill is joint authored by Representatives Sarah Davis (R-Houston), Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas), Kenneth Sheets (R-Dallas), and Jason Villalba (R-Dallas).

The proposed expansion of the Chief Justice Pope Act, in House Bill 1079, would include civil penalties in areas other than DTPA. Examples of such areas include violations of the Health and Safety Code, violations of environmental statutes, and whistle blower statues in which the Attorney General of Texas is a named party and obtains civil penalties. The bill would not capture funds already designated to other entities under separate statutes.

Civil legal service providers assist low-income clients with family law issues such as domestic violence, child custody, protective orders, evictions, identity theft, and other necessary legal help. “Providing these services to families must to be a priority for our state,” said Thompson “This bill is just another small step in ensuring that legal services are provided to those who may need it most.”

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, the court’s liaison for access to justice, expressed her gratitude to Rep. Thompson, “We are grateful to Rep. Senfronia Thompson, once again, for helping provide access to justice for those in need by her efforts to expand the Chief Justice Jack Pope Act,” stated Justice Guzman. “Access to justice can be life changing for those facing critical civil legal issues and no person should be denied the right to access the civil justice system because they cannot afford it.”

Thanks to legislation like the Chief Justice Pope Act organizations like Lone Star Legal Aid (LSLA) is the fourth largest service provider of free legal aid in the United States. Lone Star Legal Aid has 14 offices throughout east, southeast, and northeast Texas. LSLA serves 72 counties in Texas, Harris County among them, including almost 60,000 square miles from Texarkana, to the Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast state-line. Lone Star Legal Aid service area has nearly 1.5 million income-eligible Texas residents. For more information or help please visit http://texaslawhelp.org/ or http://www.lonestarlegal.org/.

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