News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 
May 11, 202

Local leader in access to justice honored by National Legal Aid & Defender Association

Betty Balli Torres of Texas Access to Justice Foundation presented with the 2021 Innovations in Equal Justice Award

 AUSTIN, Texas––  Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), was presented with The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA)’s 2021 Innovations in Equal Justice Award in a ceremony this past Thursday. The award honored Balli Torres for her decades of contributions to and support of the provision of civil legal services at the local, state, and national levels.

“Betty works tirelessly on behalf of the underserved and is an invaluable voice in the national conversation to advance civil legal aid,” said Deborah Hankinson, TAJF’s board chair. “For decades, she has advocated for equal access to the justice system and redoubled TAJF’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that emergency civil legal aid, which is more essential than ever, is available to those who need it. I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of this award.”

Since joining TAJF as executive director in 2001, Balli Torres has supported the nonprofit’s vision of justice for all through various campaigns and programs. After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin School of Law, she started her career as a staff attorney at Legal Aid of Central Texas, where she saw first-hand the work of pro-bono attorneys and organizations she would later help fund. She has held various public interest law positions and has served on many local, statewide and national committees, boards and task forces related to access to justice. She has also been engaged in activities related to racial equity and diversity.

Balli Torres has earned many accolades for her decades of commitment to equality and justice. In 2020, she was appointed to three new positions within the American Bar Association (ABA)––chair to the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities; a special advisor to the ABA Commission on Immigration; and a member of the ABA Center for Diversity and Inclusion. She is a Past President of the National Association of IOLTA Programs, Past Co-chair of the Board of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees and Past-Chair of the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas. In 2018, the Austin Bar Association named her the Distinguished Lawyer of the Year and honored her with the Regina Rogoff Award. She has received numerous other awards, including the American Bar Association’s Grassroots Advocacy Award.  

As the first in her family to graduate high school, Balli Torres experienced the effects of inequality as she moved often throughout the country, which contributed to her desire to study law in the first place. After attending a legal aid clinic while in law school at the University of Texas, Balli Torres knew that this would be the type of law she wanted to pursue. Her professional accomplishments, including this new honor from NLADA, reflect her dedication and drive to help the vulnerable


The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the largest state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to more than 140,000 Texas families each year. For more information, please visit:


Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104


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