2024 Champions of Justice Gala

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G enerouslyco- sponsoredbyth e


The Texas Access to Justice Commission has collaborated for over two decades with the Supreme Court of Texas, the Texas Legislature, the State Bar of Texas, legal aid organizations, and volunteer attorneys to improve access to justice for lowincome Texans. This collaboration has enabled low-income individuals to better navigate the civil justice system. Since 2010, the Commission, with the generous support of the State Bar of Texas, has organized and hosted the annual Champions of Justice Gala. The proceeds directly fund civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans.

Texas, now home to the largest veteran population in the country, boasts over 1.5 million veterans. Of those veterans, almost half a million have a disability stemming from their time in the service. Ninety thousand of our veterans live in poverty. According to the Legal Services Corporation’s 2022 Justice Gap Report, 76% of lowincome veteran households were impacted by civil legal problems in 2021.

The demand for legal assistance among veterans continues to grow. The breadth and scope of their legal needs are increasingly complex. These issues, ranging from consumer matters to healthcare and income maintenance, can exacerbate existing challenges and lead to further distress. When many veterans are already struggling with issues like traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and anxiety, legal problems like eviction or denial of benefits make suicide a frighteningly real risk. The funds raised by this gala are distributed to legal aid groups specifically to help veterans resolve these issues and solve their legal problems.

Organized annually by the Texas Access to Justice Commission, generous contributions and support from sponsors directly impact the lives of Texas’s veterans by ensuring they have access to important, sometimes life-saving, legal assistance, and other resources. Together, we provide a valuable support system to veterans in need. Every contribution made toward this event has a profound impact on veterans, their families, and their communities.



Van H. Beckwith, Halliburton, Houston

Jerry K. Clements, Locke Lord LLP, Austin

Erin Nealy Cox, Kirkland & Ellis, Dallas/Washington D.C.

Monica Karuturi, CenterPoint Energy, Houston

David R. McAtee II, AT&T Inc., Dallas

Ross R. Moody, The Moody Foundation, Austin

Stephen C. Mount, H-E-B, San Antonio

Hilary L. Preston, Vinson & Elkins LLP, Austin / New York

Sandra Phillips Rogers, Toyota, Plano

Hon. Dale Wainwright; Greenberg Traurig, LLP; Austin

Carlos M. Zaffirini, Jr.; Audrey & Carlos Zaffirini, Jr. Family Foundation; Austin

Harry M. Reasoner

Vinson & Elkins LLP

Gala Chair

Texas Access to Justice Commission

Cindy Tisdale President

State Bar of Texas


(As of April 10, 2024)

Barry Abrams

Mike Absmeier

Rick Alexander

Chad Baruch

Susan L. Bickley

Hon. Jane & Doug Bland

Ricardo G. Cedillo

Jerry & Mark Clements

Dean Jeremy Counseller

Erin Nealy Cox & Trey Cox

Alistair Dawson

Maddy Dwertman

Khristina & Joseph Fielder

Robin C. Gibbs

Dean Harvey

Benedict James

Hon. Wallace B. Jefferson

Roland K. Johnson

John R. Jones

Krisi Kastl

Mark & Becky Lanier

Mark Little

Hon. Lora J. Livingston & Eric Kennedy

Michael D. Marin

David & Cristy McAtee

Stephen McConnico

Dean Jason P. Nance

W. Frank Newton

Toni Nguyen

Barrett Reasoner

Dean Patricia E. Roberts

Regina Rogers

Esteban Sandoval

Chris Sileo

Kay Sim

John Sloan

Macey Reasoner Stokes

Neal Sutton

Dick & Kathy Tate

Dean Brad Toben

Robert Tobey

Terry O. Tottenham

Rob Walters

Jane Webre

Dean Patricia Wilson

Kennon Lily Wooten

Paul & Patti Yetter


Welcome Remarks

Harry M. Reasoner, Gala Chair

Color Guard Presentation – National Anthem – Pledge of Allegiance

Presentation of Colors

National anthem performed by Kara Covey, Doctoral of Musical Arts student, University of Texas at Austin

Recognition of Special Guests

Justice Brett Busby, Supreme Court of Texas

Harry M. Reasoner, Gala Chair

Introduction of Keynote Speaker

Harriet E. Miers, Texas Access to Justice Commission Chair

Keynote Presentation

Major General Alfred A. Valenzuela, USA Ret.

Special Recognitions

Justice Brett Busby, Supreme Court of Texas

James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award

John McDaniel Torti

Harry M. Reasoner Justice for All Award

Elizabeth S. Pagel

Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award

Harry M. Reasoner

Access to Justice Star of Justice Award

Hon. Judith Zaffirini

Closing Remarks

Harriet E. Miers, Texas Access to Justice Commission Chair


Major General (ret.) Alfred A. Valenzuela served in the United States Army for thirty-three years and was assigned to three combat corps, six combat divisions, and numerous joint and interagency assignments in posts spanning the globe. Highly decorated for heroism and valor, he holds the two highest peacetime awards: the Distinguished Defense and Army Service medals. With a marriage of over five decades, two accomplished children, and four grandchildren, family and community remain at the core of the General's activities. Business Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics, and he served on the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute. He published No Greater Love: The Lives and Times of Hispanic Soldiers and The Essence and Variation of Soldiers in Politics: A Dimensional Typology of Latin American Leadership and Regimes and was a major contributor to Right Before Our Eyes: Latinos Past, Present and Future.


Upon retirement, Major General Valenzuela worked to address housing problems and create educational opportunities in his hometown of San Antonio. He received presidential appointments to the World War I Centennial and the America 250 Semiquincentennial Commissions. The General is a Senior Consultant at St. Mary’s University’s Center for Terrorism Law and the Warrior Defense Project. He is a proud Eagle Scout, has been named a Distinguished Graduate of Jefferson High School and St. Mary’s University, and was inducted into the Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame. His enduring commitment to leadership, service, and community will shine as a beacon of inspiration for generations to come.


The James B. Sales Boots on the Ground Award recognizes a legal services program attorney or a pro bono attorney who is an exemplary advocate and who gives selflessly of their time and talent to provide legal help to those who have no voice.

John McDaniel Torti

John McDaniel Torti is a legal advocate with Lone Star Legal Aid who has consistently demonstrated a commitment to public service and dedication to securing justice for the most vulnerable members of society. With an almost four-decade-long career, Mr. Torti has proven his proficiency in an array of legal issues, earning the esteem of his peers and community.

Since joining Lone Star Legal Aid, Mr. Torti has been at the forefront of providing legal assistance encompassing an array of practice areas covering nearly every aspect of the civil legal system. His dedication to public interest law is such that he refused opportunities for advancement to continue to serve those in need, and he has taken on some of the most challenging cases brought to Lone Star Legal Aid. His expertise spans federal and state courts, administrative proceedings, and community outreach initiatives, reflecting a unique blend of legal skills and advocacy.

Mr. Torti’s contributions go beyond the courtroom to mentorship of younger attorneys and engagement in community outreach efforts. Whether offering guidance on complex procedural matters or supporting colleagues in need, the example set by his generosity and leadership will be felt for generations in the legal aid community.


The Harry M. Reasoner Justice for All award is named after Texas Access to Justice Commission Chair Emeritus, Harry M. Reasoner. This award recognizes an outstanding attorney who demonstrates dedication and commitment to providing pro bono legal services and promotes a pro bono culture within the Bar.

Elizabeth S. Pagel

Elizabeth S. Pagel is commitment and compassion personified. Impressive though her professional achievements may be, Ms. Pagel’s passion for pro bono work is awe-inspiring. Throughout her career, she devoted her time and expertise to serving those in need. With an extensive caseload of pro bono family law cases, she has contributed countless hours to help her neighbors access the justice system. Her involvement in the Houston Volunteer Lawyers' Equal Access to Justice Champions underscores her dedication to advancing legal services in Harris County.

Ms. Pagel helps encourage a culture of service by motivating her fellow lawyers to provide pro bono services, sharing her expertise and offering guidance. Recognizing the challenges in finding pro bono representation for family law cases, she volunteers as co-counsel on particularly challenging ones, providing much-needed support. Her mentoring of volunteer attorneys enables them to tackle those cases with confidence.

The empathy Ms. Pagel evinces for each client she represents is remarkable. From navigating complex disputes to advocating for her clients’ rights, she approaches every case with dedication and professionalism, ensuring they receive the representation they deserve. Her dedication to exemplary service to her clients demonstrates the impact pro bono work can have on the community and encourages others to mirror her excellence and commitment.


The Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award reflects the highest honor given for a career dedicated to supporting legal aid for low-income Texans. This award, named for the Commission's first Executive Director, recognizes an outstanding individual whose extraordinary spirit and demonstrated commitment to legal aid has improved our society and inspired others.

Harry M. Reasoner

If Harry M. Reasoner is a towering figure in the legal profession, his impact on access to justice is gargantuan. He graduated from UT School of Law in 1962, clerked for luminaries like Judge Charles E. Clark and Justice Thurgood Marshall, and joined Vinson & Elkins in 1964, where he would serve until retiring in 2023.

Mr. Reasoner’s career has been defined by a commitment to fairness and equality, and Texas would not be the same without him. He served on the Texas Access to Justice Commission for fifteen years, twelve of those as its Chair, and spearheaded initiatives for underserved communities. The Commission developed Supreme-Court approved forms for pro se litigants, like the Transfer on Death Deed, ensuring Texans had access to the justice system and that wealth was correctly and affordably passed between generations. The Commission educated the public and the bar about limited-scope representation’s ability to bridge the justice gap and promoted rule changes to make courts more accessible to pro se litigants and waive court costs for indigent defendants.

Mr. Reasoner’s faith in the legal system and in lawyers to positively impact their communities is best described in his own words, “.…let’s keep a tenacious spirit of helping others in the forefront of our minds, continue doing pro bono, and strive to keep the doors of the courthouse open to everyone, not just to those who can afford it.”


The Star of Justice Award honors individuals who have demonstrated outstanding dedication to advancing legal services for the underserved and enhancing access to justice for all Texans.

The Honorable Judith Zaffirini

Senator Judith Zaffirini's upbringing in Laredo exposed her to marginalized populations and shaped her commitment to social justice, propelling her into a civil service career. Elected in 1987 to represent District 21, she was the first Hispanic female elected to that chamber and is now the highestranking member and Dean of the Texas Senate. Her perfect voting and attendance records highlight her commitment to public service.

Senator Zaffirini's appointment to the Texas Access to Justice Commission in 2017 underscored her dedication to improving Texans’ lives. Advocating for initiatives to bridge the justice gap, she has supported the expansion of legal aid services statewide. She sponsored or co-sponsored bills to help Texans access the courts, including bills that safeguarded crime victims’ compensation eligibility and defrayed court costs associated with interpreters.

Beyond her legislative endeavors, Senator Zaffirini has engaged in community outreach and educational initiatives raising awareness about access to justice. She has participated in forums, workshops, and conferences dedicated to addressing inherent barriers to legal assistance and empowering individuals to assert their rights. Her dedication to this cause reflects a belief in the principle that justice should be accessible to all, regardless of their circumstances. Her legacy as a advocate for access to justice in Texas continues to inspire meaningful change across the state.


David J. Bertoch

GUARDIANS, 2023-2024

David Anthony Bloomer

Travis Bryan

John Fleming

Paul E. Anderson, Jr.

Timothy Azevedo

Sharon Beausoleil

Ron Dale Betz

Rebecca Bishop

Hugh T. Blevins

Eric Boettcher

Ronnie Earl Bounds

Marian Lyia Brancaccio

Brian Broussard

Alice A. Brown

Wm. Kevin Cherry

William R. Crow

Sabrina DiMichele

Carol E. Dinkins

Sara E. Dysart

Richard A. Edwards

Quinton Alan Farley

Kem Frost

Kerry Galvin

Kara Elizabeth Gehan

Michael W. Hilliard

Alexander Knapp

Dwaine Morris Massey

Harriet E. Miers

HEROES, 2023-2024

Kevin Bernard Gerrity

Andrew Gould

Jose Guerrero

Bryan H. Hall

Holly R. Haseloff

George B. Hernandez, Jr.

Paul Herz

Steven Hollingsworth

Morgan Hollins

Dee Dee D. Hoxie

Lynne James Hudson

Jeanine Hudson

Sadik Huseny

Caroline W. Jackson

AnnMarie Johnson

Eileen Keiffer

Lawrence Kelly

Stephanie Lynn Koury

Robert Bruce Laboon

Allen Ladd

Heather Mackenzie

Peggy Montgomery

Corrie Thomas Reese

J. Michael Solar

Carlos M. Zaffirini, Jr.

Hon. Michael C. Massengale

Charles Black McFarland

Meredith Morrill

Stephen S. Mosher

Robert T. Mowrey

Maureen Murry

Kelly O'Neill

Alexander Piala

Ann Kaylene Ray

Harry M. Reasoner

Christopher Vincent Ryan

Demetris A. Sampson

Kevin Simmons

Jane Snoddy Smith

Matthew R. Stammel

Joel Jay Steed

Macey Reasoner Stokes

William Sutton

Ben Vaughan

Allen Eugene White


Maria Nan Alessandra

DEFENDERS, 2 0 2 3-2 0 2 4

Theodora McShan Anastaplo

Elizabeth Anne Apperley

Kevin Barnes

John P. Beall

Hon. Brett Busby

Michael Caywood

Kevin Clark

Richard Alfred Cort

Brian Cramer

Karen Crawford

Katrina Crenshaw

Mario Davila

Emma Doineau

Merilee M. J. Fong

Julia Patterson Forrester

Hon. Thomas C. Fuller

Hon. W. Royal Furgeson, Jr.

Chip Gage

Gary Gex

Stephen Andrew Gibson

Michael Louis Goldstone

P. Rowland Greenwade

Manuel Guerra

Patricia M. Hanson

Sara Harris

Mark Edward Heidenheimer

Joshua Henderson

Mary Taylor Henderson

David H. Herndon

Hon. Federico G. Hinojosa

Jason Aron Itkin

Lamont A. Jefferson

Krisi Kastl

Thomas Craig Kildebeck

Ronald Kirk

Caroline Rene Kirksey

Jeanne Leslie

Nathaniel Lounsbury

Mary Olga Lovett

Michael Lowenberg

Elizabeth E. Mack

Austin Mathis

Stephen Mierop

Patrick J. Moran

Karen Sue Neeley

Robert Nelson

Wendy Pellow

Howard K. Prol

Aleed Janet Rivera

Penny Robe

Beth Sanchez

Stacey Beth Saunders

Dan Settle

Nancy Shivers

Stuart Charles Smith

Michael Steinmark

Regina Uhl

Luke Abraham Weedon

Sarah Williams

Chad Wilson

Barbara C. Wingo

Lori Wrotenbery

Hon. Evan Young

The Commission established the Champion of Justice Society in 2012 for individuals who wanted to show their strong support of access to justice in Texas. Contributions received from Society members are part of the annual Justice for All Campaign which raised over $1.5 million last year to support civil legal aid for lowincome Texans.

We are pleased to have the very generous support of our sponsors.

(As of April 10, 2024)



We are pleased to have the very generous support of our sponsors.

(As of April 10, 2024)


Baker Botts L.L.P.

Gibson Dunn

The Lanier Law Firm

Harriet E. Miers

Perkins Coie LLP

Patricia Villareal, Thomas Leatherbury, & the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation


Alexander Dubose & Jefferson LLP

Baylor Law School

Beck Redden LLP

Hon. Jane & Doug Bland

Blank Rome LLP

The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson

Davis Cedillo & Mendoza, Inc.

Enoch Kever PLLC

Gibbs & Bruns LLP

Haynes and Boone, LLP

Henna Chevrolet

Jackson Walker

Johnston Tobey Baruch PC

Kastl Law

A|I Legal

King & Spalding LLP

David & Cristy McAtee

Norton Rose Fulbright

Phillips 66

Sandoval & James, PLLC.

Scott Douglass & McConnico

Kay Sim

Southern Methodist University

Dedman School of Law

SBOT Corporate Counsel Section

Richard L. Tate

Texas A&M University School of Law

Yetter Coleman LLP


Jerry & Mark Clements

Erin Nealy Cox & Trey Cox

Randall M. Ebner

Khristina & Joseph Fielder

Goranson Bain Ausley, PLLC

Hon. Lora J. Livingston & Eric Kennedy

W.Frank Newton

Regina Rogers, in loving memory of Joe Jamail

Sloan Law Firm

Neal Sutton

Maria Thomas-Jones

We also extend our appreciation to Kara Covey, Doctorate of Musical Arts student, University of Texas at Austin, for the performance of the National Anthem.


Harriet E. Miers


Pablo Javier Almaguer


Hon. Nicholas Chu


Alistair B. Dawson


Joe Escobedo, Jr.


Hon. Roy B. Ferguson


Lisa Hobbs


Roland K. Johnson

Fort Worth

Krisi Kastl


Thomas S. Leatherbury


Hon. Michael C. Massengale


David R. McAtee II


Karen Nicholson


Hon. Latosha Lewis Payne


Marshall Sales


Brad Toben


Terry O. Tottenham


Maj. Gen. Alfred Valenzuela

San Antonio

Kennon Lily Wooten



Hon. Brett Busby



For the Governor

James P. Sullivan


For the Lieutenant Governor Hon. Judith Zaffirini


For the Speaker of the House

Hon. Gene Wu



Harry M. Reasoner



April Faith -Slaker

The State Bar of Texas, our co-sponsor, generously helps underwrite the 2024 Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans so that the proceeds directly support civil legal aid to low-income Texas Veterans.

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