Texas Bar Foundation donates $25k for FLDS children's ad litem attorneys

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 18, 2008, 2:40pm

AUSTIN – When hundreds of children were removed from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints compound, hundreds of Texas attorneys stepped up to provide legal representation to the children at no charge.

The Texas Bar Foundation has made a $25,000 donation to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation to help reimburse the pro bono lawyers for some of their expenses.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 100,000 Texans each year.

In April, Child Protective Services took into custody more than 400 children from the Yearning for Zion Ranch in West Texas and placed them in foster homes and other locations throughout the state.

Hundreds of attorneys across the state donated their time and efforts to represent the children in the unprecedented custody case. The children are being reunited with their parents, in part due to the work of these attorneys. The reimbursements are designated to help offset administrative costs, such as travel expenses.

"We applaud these attorneys for their commitment to ensuring the children were well represented and did not get lost in a very large, complicated legal system," Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, said. "We can only provide these attorneys with minimal funds, but every little bit will help."

Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $9 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation's largest charitably funded bar foundation.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation has also set aside $100,000 to assist legal aid organizations with the costs associated with representation of the mothers in the FLDS case. Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid collectively represented 80 mothers, despite being stretched to the limit with their normal caseloads.

The Foundation will begin disbursing the funds to the pro bono attorneys by the end of the summer.

To receive a reimbursement, attorneys should contact the Texas Access to Justice Foundation at 512-320-0099 and ask for a reimbursement form, which will be due in July.

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