“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” — George Washington

Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans (TLTV) is a new State Bar of Texas committee established by State Bar President‐Elect Terry Tottenham to develop and assist pro bono legal clinics throughout the state for military veterans and their families who otherwise cannot afford or do not have access to legal services they need and deserve. El Paso Lawyers for Patriots (EPLP), initiated by El Paso Bar Association President Carlos E. Cárdenas, is the El Paso extension of the state program. President Cardenas appointed former Family Court Judge Donald L. Williams to represent the El Paso Bar Association on the State Committee and to Chair the El Paso for Patriots Program.

As the son of a disabled veteran of two wars, a former Army JAGC Officer with extensive military criminal law experience, a former criminal law magistrate, a former associate family court judge, a current visiting associate judge, a panelist on two State Bar Webcasts dealing with military and family law issues, and one who has written extensively about Family Law and the Military, Mr. Williams brings a unique perspective to the El Paso Lawyers for Patriots Program. After attending a training sponsored by the State Bar of Texas and hosted by the noted Houston Bar Association, Mr. Williams was appointed Chair of the TLTV Family Law Subcommittee by Chairman Dan King and appointed by State Bar Military Law Section Chair Randy Fluke to the Veterans Court Review Committee. With this knowledge, Judge Ricardo Herrera (County Court at Law #1 in El Paso), who created the second Veterans Mental Health Treatment Court in Texas, recommended that the two separate programs form a collaboration so that the Veterans Court and the Veterans Legal Initiative Program become one.

Therefore, El Paso Lawyers for Patriots has a two-pronged mission: 1) To develop a coordinated network of El Paso lawyers to assist veterans and active duty military and their families who otherwise could not afford or don’t have access to legal services through the El Paso Bar Association, other local bars, similar entities and veterans service providers; and 2) To assist the justice system by helping meet the mental health needs of combat veterans and active military personnel who find their conduct can be attributed directly to post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or other mental diseases and disorders as a result of military service.

The Committee held its first Veterans Legal Clinic on May 22, 2010. The program consisted of an Opening General Session introducing and acknowledging those who played a role in establishing the two programs; presentations on the functioning of the Veterans Mental Health Treatment Court, Veterans Benefits, and the TLTV & EPLP programs; and free one-on-one consultations for veterans and their family members about their legal needs and concerns without regard to financial eligibility. This first clinic/program will be used to evaluate, correct and revise so that the full program kicking off in Fall 2010 will have the greatest chance for success.