Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Texas Civil Rights Project

Late in 2007 when it had become obvious we would not be able to find proper legal representation through normal means, I emailed the highly-regarded Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) and asked for their help. I received an emailed response from them telling me they did not accept cases by email, fax, or mail. I was told to call a certain Austin number at a certain time on any Thursday to speak with one of their intake clerks about our case.

The very next Thursday, I did just that. I discussed our case at length with a very nice young man who said he was a law student doing a volunteer internship with TCRP. He seemed sympathetic to our plight and said he would present our case at their weekly intake meeting later that afternoon. I was encouraged by this because he had questioned me extensively and asked all the right things.

It was disappointing then to receive a certified letter back from TCRP saying they couldn't help us. The intake clerk I'd talked to did call me back and suggest I contact two different private lawyers, one of whom was a prominent civil rights attorney at U. of TX. However, the contact information he gave me for both of them was incorrect, the U. of TX lawyer wouldn't return my phone calls or emails, and the second lawyer had apparently left Texas.

I both mailed and emailed a letter back to TCRP documenting my extensive search for proper legal representation and explained the seriousness and urgency of our situation. (A copy of this letter is posted here.) I then received back a short email from the same intake clerk (but sent from a Yahoo address rather than from TCRP) asking me to call him back, which I did. He said he wanted to present our case to the intake committee again but with a different focus, and he asked me some more questions. I offered to fax him documentation, but he said TCRP did not accept faxed material.

Later, he called me back to say our case had been turned down again by TCRP, and he seemed angry and frustrated about this. He gave me the names and contact information of three more prominent Texas law professors at various schools (all private schools this time) and suggested I contact them for help; he also coached me on what to say to them. I emailed all three immediately. One professor said he couldn't help us, one apparently had already blocked my email, and the third never responded to my repeated attempts to contact him. I reported back to the TCRP intake clerk about my lack of success, and he responded that he was talking to the Texas Advocacy Project about finding us legal help and would get back to me--but he never did. [I'll discuss the Texas Advocacy Project at a later date.] He did give me some additional suggestions (shown here), but none of these panned out, either.

After not hearing anything further back from anyone, receiving more communications from Ed Hodges' lawyer that I didn't know how to deal with because the kids and I still had no one to represent or advise us, and having a particularly upsetting day with regard to harassment, I emailed a long letter to TCRP expressing my frustrations and again asking them to help us (copy shown here). There was no response until the following May, when I received a brief email from the intake clerk saying he was no longer volunteering with TCRP.

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