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May 14, 2004

Press Contact: Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, (512) 471.7330
William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law: Eden Harrington, Director, 512-232-7068

UT Law Establishes William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law

Law School receives $1 million to endow work of the Justice Center

Photo of Judge William Wayne Justice
Judge William Wayne Justice
photo credit: Wyatt McSpadden

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas School of Law has established the William Wayne Justice Fund for Public Service in honor of Judge Justice, a 1942 graduate of UT Law, and his remarkable commitment to public service and equal justice for over 50 years. The Justice Fund endows the work of the Law School’s Center for Public Interest Law, now called the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law.

The new name for the Center, which was created in 2000, was announced by UT Law Dean William Powers at the Justice Fund Celebration Dinner on April 23. It was also announced that gifts and pledges to the Justice Fund have now reached $1 million.

The mission of the Justice Center is to educate all law students about the need to increase access to justice and the rewards of fulfilling their ethical obligation to engage in pro bono, public service, and public interest law as part of their professional lives. The endowment created by the Justice Fund will allow the Justice Center to expand programs and develop new initiatives such as clinical internships, lectures and conferences, pro bono projects, student awards, and fellowships for students engaged in public service.

“Judge William Wayne Justice has been and is one of the great and courageous judges of our time,” said Dean Powers. “We are honored to have his name associated with our Law School, especially in a way that will support public interest law,” he said.

Judge Justice was appointed to the federal bench in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. Since then, Judge Justice has worked courageously to protect civil rights and uphold constitutional freedoms. His landmark rulings have safeguarded the rights of minorities, the poor, and the politically powerless in many areas. These decisions have addressed race discrimination in schools and housing, inhumane conditions in prisons and juvenile treatment facilities, the dilution of voting rights, inadequate education for immigrant and non-English speaking children, and the unnecessary institutionalization of the mentally retarded.

UT Law Professor Lynn E. Blais, who clerked for Judge Justice in 1988-89, noted that “the endowment of the Justice Center makes concrete the Law School’s longstanding commitment to promoting public service lawyering among its students and graduates.” Of Judge Justice, Professor Blais said, “He has a unique capacity to empathize with challenges he has not faced and struggles he has not endured. Our nation’s legal traditions have been ennobled by his contributions, and naming our public interest law center after the Judge is a fitting tribute to a great man.”

Eden Harrington, director of the Justice Center, said the $1 million is an initial endowment and the Law School is continuing to seek support through the Justice Fund for operating programs and a larger endowment for the Justice Center. Steering committee co-chairs for the Justice Fund are Richard Warren Mithoff, a former law clerk to Judge Justice and 1971 UT Law graduate who practices civil litigation with Mithoff & Jacks, and William O. Whitehurst, Jr., a former president of the State Bar of Texas and a 1970 UT Law graduate who is a senior partner at Whitehurst Harkness Ozmun & Brees.