Texas Access to Justice Foundation Honors Laredo Judges

Loredo Judges

(Pictured Left to Right) Mr. Israel Reyna, Hon. Jesus Garza, Hon. Elma Teresa Salinas Ender, Hon. Alvino "Ben" Morales, Ms. Fabiola Flores.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation honored several Laredo judges and lawyers for their outstanding pro bono efforts benefiting the local community. The Pro Bono Star Awards were presented by the Supreme Court of Texas, in conjunction with their historic visit to hear oral arguments in Laredo.[1]  The judges honored include:

• Judge Oscar J. Hale, Jr. 406th District Court

• Judge Joe Lopez, 49th District Court

• Judge Monica N. Notzon, 111th District Court

• Judge Elma Teresa Salinas Ender, 341st District Court

• Judge Jesus "Chuy" Garza, County Court At Law No. 2

• Judge Alvino "Ben" Morales, County Court at Law  No. 1


In April 2003, County Court at Law No. 1 Judge Alvino "Ben" Morales, in conjunction with Israel Reyna, director of Texas Rural Legal Aid (TRLA), presented this project to the Board of Judges. A resolution was passed by all of the Judges in Webb County.[2] The purpose of the Social Justice Night Court is to “provide representation for indigent persons residing in Webb County who need assistance with uncontested legal matters.”[3]

Legal Aid advocates with TRLA take applications for legal services and make two determinations: (1) whether the applicant is financially eligible for legal aid; and (2) whether the applicant is requesting assistance with an uncontested matter that may be handled and disposed of by a pro bono lawyer.[4]

The Night Court takes the following types of cases[5]:Hon. Monica N. Notzon (pictured right)

• Uncontested divorces

• Adoptions, after biological parents have signed relinquishments

• Uncontested custody cases

• Uncontested guardianships

• Name changes

• Declaration of heirships

• Wills

• Powers of attorney

• Occupational licenses.

The clinic is equipped with 4 laptop computers provided by TRLA and is staffed by judges, attorneys, court reporters, interpreters, bailiffs, legal secretaries, notaries public and representatives of both the County and District Clerk’s office, all participating on a volunteer basis.[6] The SJNC is held regularly on the second Tuesday of every month.[7]

[1] Texas Access to Justice Foundation, “Awards Presented to Laredo Judges and Lawyers During Historic Texas Supreme Court Visit, Press Release, February 28, 2012, available at http://www.teajf.org/news/releases/LaredoAwardsPresentation.aspx.

[2] http://www.webbcountytx.gov/CountyCourtatLawI/SocialJusticeNightCourt/

[3] http://www.trla.org/pai/social-justice-night-court.

[4] Supra, note 1.

[5]Supra, note 2.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.