AUSTIN, Texas - Fred Fuchs, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law and an attorney with Legal Aid of Central Texas, has received the highly prestigious 2002 Kutak-Dodds Prize for his work in the civil legal aid community, particularly as a housing advocate for the poor. The Kutak-Dodds Prize is considered the leading award given to legal services lawyers.
The National Legal Aid & Defender Association and the Robert J. Kutak Foundation recognized Fuchs for his 25 years of service to low-income individuals and as a leading advocate for justice for the poor in the fields of housing, community development, and tenant rights. Fuchs, a 1976 graduate of the Law School who teaches its housing law clinic, received the prize and cash award of $10,000, at a dinner given by NLADA in Washington, D.C., on May 30.
The Kutak-Dodds Prize is awarded annually to honor the accomplishment of civil legal aid attorneys, public defenders or public interest advocates who, through the practice of law, contribute significantly to the enhancement of human dignity and quality of life of people unable to afford legal representation. Commenting on the award, Fuchs said, "Awards are not earned in a vacuum. This award is really a tribute to an extraordinary staff and board who truly believe that poor families deserve high quality legal representation."
In Texas, Fuchs is considered the leading expert on housing law. He is also as a leading national expert on federally subsidized housing, public housing, rural rental housing, and the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program. Regina Rogoff, director of Legal Aid of Central Texas and a 1973 graduate of UT Law, describes Fuchs as "a national treasure in the legal services community." While in law school, Fuchs volunteered at Legal Aid of Central Texas where he has continued to work as an attorney since graduation and is renown for mentoring others. In 1996, Fuchs also began teaching a housing law clinic for UT Law.
"When Professor Bill Gibson and Fred began the housing clinic at the law school, Bill expressed his admiration for both the quality of Fred's teaching and his supervision of students," said UT Law professor Michael Churgin. "This came as no surprise to me. As one of the dean's appointees to the board of Legal Aid of Central Texas, I have witnessed the high regard in which Fred is held by his fellow attorneys. He is an outstanding lawyer whose empathy for his clients is a model for others," Churgin said.
Fuchs's advocacy is credited with saving Austin's largest public housing site from demolition; preserving rental subsidies in several federally subsidized housing complexes; and setting national guidelines for ensuring that apartments sold through the Resolution Trust Corporation and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation remain available for rental by low income families. He also served as a key expert in the development of state policies to ensure that developers of apartment complexes built with federal tax credits comply with their obligation to lease to poor families with Section 8 vouchers. Fuchs's advocacy has also resulted in significant improvements in the appellate process for low-income tenants; he played a significant role in the development of the rules allowing poor families to appeal eviction cases by paying rent into the court registry and in the statute that gives tenants the right to appeal eviction decisions to the courts of appeals. Fuchs has also enhanced tenant safety through his work on legislation mandating keyless deadbolts and door viewers on all rental units.
In addition, Fuchs is a current board member of the Texas Forum on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights at UT Law. He is a past board member for the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and the Texas Legal Services Center. He was also a member of the Texas Supreme Court Task Force on home equity loan foreclosures. He currently serves as general counsel for the Austin Tenants' Council on housing discrimination complaints it receives from tenants and potential tenants. Fuchs also serves as a mentor for other legal services attorney, regularly teaching at seminars and answering their questions.
"Over three decades, Fred Fuchs has blocked demolition of public housing, fought mismanagement in government housing programs, opened access for more poor people to housing, fought for and achieved desegregated housing for minorities and defended the rights of tenants," stated Karen Paup and John Henneberger, co-directors of the Austin -based Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, in a letter of support for Fuchs's award nomination. "Fred's remarkable depth of expertise, his supreme dedication and his intense caring have ably served to preserve housing and housing rights for hundreds of poor Texans," they stated.