Jerry and Sherri Alexander Support the EAJ Campaign
by Michelle Alden
Jerry and Sherri Alexander decided to celebrate their 35th anniversary in a new and different way: by generously contributing to this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign in the amount of $30,000! The Alexanders have a long and distinguished history of contributing to the Campaign. Including this gift, the Alexanders have donated more than $115,426 to legal aid for the poor since 2006, along with a $50,000 pledge to the DVAP Endowment. The Equal Access to Justice Campaign is the annual fundraising campaign which supports the activities of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP). The Alexanders’ gift makes it possible for DVAP to continue to provide and enhance legal aid to the poor in Dallas, keeping the doors to the courthouse and our overall justice system open to many more people in our community. Since 1982, DVAP has provided, recruited, and trained pro bono lawyers to provide free legal aid to the poor in Dallas. Last year, a 16-member staff supported over 3,000 volunteers in their efforts to volunteer at legal clinics and advise and represent clients.
The Alexanders are very involved in the Dallas legal community. Sherri Alexander is a prominent health care lawyer and a partner in the Polsinelli firm, working primarily out of the Dallas office. Jerry Alexander is President and a Shareholder at Passman & Jones and focuses primarily on business litigation. He is a former President of the Dallas Bar Association (the 107th President), and is presently a Director on the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas. In response to the question, “why support DVAP?,” Sherri and Jerry offered up the following answers:
Jerry: “First of all, it is a superlative program. Not only does it have a good purpose, IT WORKS! There are so many ‘good ideas’ that never come to fruition because they are difficult to execute. DVAP is difficult to execute. Think about it. Attorneys have to be encouraged to volunteer, then matched up with a qualified client in need, and the services monitored and rendered successfully, and $1,000,000 needs to be raised every year to keep it going.
“In some ways, it is like running and controlling a large law firm, except the attorneys do not work for you and the clients cannot pay. Last year 2,027 clients were served, which means 2,027 times willing volunteers were matched up with clients in need. That also means 2,027 minor miracles occurred for people who need help but cannot afford to pay. DVAP found attorneys willing to do just that. Awesome!”
Sherri: “I know the Civil Trial Courts in Dallas County appreciate DVAP providing attorneys for litigants in civil matters who cannot afford representation. These Judges are concerned about equal access to justice. Additionally, they care about the efficiency of their Court and litigants with attorneys can address the judicial process more quickly than pro se litigants.
“Not only does the legal system function better, but the attorneys who provide these pro bono services are greatly enriched. Young people, graduating from law schools, are focused on helping others in the community, and DVAP is a perfect vehicle for them to accomplish their goals.”
Jerry: “On any given day, 100 potential pro se litigants appear at the Dallas County Law Library really not knowing if they have a legal problem. These people, if they qualify, are encouraged to apply with DVAP for assistance, and there are volunteers there who help these people determine whether or not there is even a legal issue to be decided.
“These people simply cannot be turned away. It is wonderful that they are coming to a courthouse for justice instead of seeking it through other means. They need to be encouraged to use the wonderful legal system that we have in place, and DVAP is very important in doing that. If you turn 100 people away a day who are looking for justice, in a year you have turned away 25,000, and in four years you have turned away 100,000. Sooner or later, the negative societal impact of this would begin to manifest itself in other ways.
“Instead, either at the library or at clinics, these people are greeted by volunteers who ask if they can help them and direct them either to DVAP, to lawyer referral if they can afford a lawyer, or to some other agency for assistance, since many of these people really do not necessarily have legal problems, but just do not know where to start.
“That they think of the courthouse, which has courts and judges and lawyers in it as a place to go to look for help, is a good and hopeful thing for all of us. DVAP nurtures that.”
The commitment of Dallas attorneys and the DBA to the Equal Access to Justice Campaign is impressive. Since 1997, the DBA and Legal Aid have joined forces to raise money for the program, with Dallas lawyers donating almost $13 million. Many thanks to Jerry and Sherri for their support, and the staff of DVAP and the DBA join in wishing them a very happy 35th anniversary!
DVAP is a joint pro bono program of the DBA and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The program is the only one of its kind in Texas and brings together the volunteer resources of a major metropolitan bar association with the legal aid expertise of the largest and oldest civil legal aid program in North Texas. For more information, or to donate, visit www.dallasvolunteerattorneyprogram.org.
Michelle Alden is the Director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.