Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Hecht Delivers Online Lecture to Regent Law Students: Access to Justice
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (April 7, 2021) – On Monday, April 5, 2021, the Honorable Nathan Hecht, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, addressed J.D., M.A., and LL.M. students in Regent University’s School of Law. The online Zoom event centered on the importance of access to justice for those unable to afford legal representation.
Regent’s School of Law Dean Mark Martin, J.D., LL.M., introduced Chief Justice Hecht, highlighting his efforts that have helped Texans living below the poverty level access basic civil legal services.
“We are so pleased to host Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court at Regent Law. He is a nationally recognized expert on access to justice issues and currently serves as the President of the Conference of Chief Justices,” Martin said.
Hecht, a staunch advocate of providing essential legal services to poor and low-income Americans, said he hoped his lecture would offer students a better understanding of legal aid, its history, and their future role in it.
Hecht is on record for saying, “Justice for only those who can afford it is neither justice for all nor justice at all.” He explained: “Justice is doing right—based on truth, law, and morality. Many times, we think of those things as subjective, things we can disagree over. … We don’t disagree on what justice isn’t. Justice is not partial, unequal, or unfair.”
Hecht referenced Moses’s instruction to the judges not to show partiality but to “hear the small and the great alike” and judge fairly (Deuteronomy 1:17).
He talked about the significance of Legal Services Corporation (LSC)—the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the nation for low-income Americans—and how it has evolved. Hecht noted attempts to abolish LSC over the years as opponents felt the nonprofit had become too politicized.
The heart of the LSC program is to provide basic civil services for those who need help the most and are facing issues related to domestic violence, child custody, housing, and veteran’s rights. Hecht said the goal is to “level the playing field for the poor” and offer hope to those who would never be able to afford legal representation on their own.
He shared that he has become more involved in legal aid cases from an institutional standpoint and explained how legal aid proponents are open to out-of-the-box solutions. These solutions could include offering retail-style law services and also paralegals who legally represent someone in a limited capacity.
Hecht also addressed the increased role of legal aid in disaster preparedness and relief with national emergencies like Hurricane Harvey and COVID-19. With some of the most vulnerable impacted, he has been a vocal proponent of keeping some of the temporal accommodations like remote access to courtrooms.
Regarding the efficiency of online access, Hecht highlighted the benefit of saving “time driving to court and waiting hours for a case to be called.” He noted how people give up their day in court due to “limited income, childcare, transportation or job demands.” Remote proceedings have “changed participation rates from 80% no-shows to 80% appearances” in many cases.
To learn more about the Legal Services Corporation, visit lsc.gov.
ABOUT CHIEF JUSTICE NATHAN HECHT
The Honorable Nathan L. Hecht is the 27th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. He has been elected to the Court seven times, first in 1988 as a Justice, and in 2014 and 2020 as Chief Justice.
He is the longest-serving member of the Court in Texas history and the longest-tenured Texas judge in active service. Throughout his service on the Court, he has overseen revisions to the rules of administration, practice, and procedure in Texas courts and was appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States to the federal Advisory Committee on Civil Rules. He is also active in the Court’s efforts to assure that Texans living below the poverty level and others with limited means have access to basic civil legal services.
Chief Justice Hecht was appointed to the district court in 1981 and was elected to the court of appeals in 1986. Before taking the bench, he was a partner in the Locke firm in Dallas. He holds a B.A. degree with honors in philosophy from Yale University, and a J.D. degree cum laude from the SMU School of Law, where he was a Hatton W. Sumners Scholar. He clerked for Judge Roger Robb on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps. He is President of the national Conference of Chief Justices, a Life Member of the American Law Institute and a member of Council, and a member of the Texas Philosophical Society.
Regent Law’s more than 3,300 graduates practice law in 49 states and over 20 countries and include 38 currently sitting judges. The School of Law currently ranks 14th in the nation for obtaining judicial clerkships and ranked 20th in the nation for Ultimate Bar Passage in 2019. The school offers the Juris Doctor (J.D.) in three-year and part-time formats, an online M.A. in Law, an online M.A. in Financial Planning & Law, an on-campus and online LL.M. in Human Rights and an on-campus and online LL.M. in American Legal Studies.