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May 29, 2009

Texas Access to Justice Commission honors three UT Law alumni for major contributors to Texas legal aid efforts

At its twenty-fifth anniversary celebration, the Texas Access to Justice Commission honored three UT Law graduates for their numerous contributions to increasing access to justice in Texas.

On May 27, 2009, Houston lawyer James B. Sales, ’60, the outgoing chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, was presented the Harold F. Kleinman Award by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson,’88. Emily C. Jones, ’77, of Austin, the former executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, was presented the inaugural Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award by Sales. Jeremi K. Young, ’99, of Amarillo, received the Cy Pres: Impact on Justice Award.

The Kleinman award is named after the first Texas Access to Justice Foundation chair, Harold F. Kleinman. As Chief Justice Jefferson presented the award to Sales, he noted how Sales, a former Marine, had met with the entire Court to get its commitment to the task of bolstering legal aid, and got, Jefferson said, a “yes, sir” from each justice.

“You epitomize everything that is noble about our profession,” Jefferson told Sales. “To answer the question you constantly ask of yourself: ‘Have you performed the job admirably? Have you changed the lives of Texans in desperate need of legal assistance?’ To that, I simply answer, ‘Yes, sir!’”

As Sales presented the first-ever Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award to its namesake, he said the award recognizes an outstanding individual whose extraordinary spirit and demonstrated commitment to legal services have improved our society and inspired others.

“Emily Jones is one of a kind,” Sales said. “Her dedication to helping to ensure that poor Texans have the same access to the legal system as others who are more fortunate is legendary. In her own inimitable way, Emily has made a giant impact on so many people’s lives for the better. This award is a small token of the admiration and gratitude that we all feel for this great Texan.”

In addition, three Texas attorneys—Jeff Rasansky of Dallas, Michael C. Smith of Marshall, and Jeremi K. Young, ’99, of Amarillo—received the Cy Pres: Impact on Justice Award in recognition of their efforts to help bolster legal aid in Texas. The three attorneys settled a federal case and played an instrumental role in awarding the resulting cy pres funds totaling $230,160 to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. (Cy pres awards are residual funds from a class action or other proceeding that cannot be distributed to class members or the intended beneficiaries for a variety of reasons.)

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation is the primary funding source for legal aid programs throughout the state. It was created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans.


Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, (512) 417-7330, or