State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has been named a “legislative hero” for his contributions to improve justice in Texas.

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation (TAJCF) honored Hinojosa with the award at the offices of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid on Oct. 27. TAJCF called Hinojosa a hero for improving access to justice to more Than 5.7 million Texans who qualify for legal aid.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award to Hinojosa, recognizing the senator for his "outstanding leadership efforts in the 81st Texas Legislature that led to an historic appropriation of $20 million for civil legal services for poor and low-income Texans," according to TAJCF.

Hinojosa is currently the vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and holds seats on the Senate’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Criminal Justice, Jurisprudence and Natural Resources Committees.

“Times are tough, and funding is scarce for the legal assistance low-income Texans desperately need, whether it’s a protective order to prevent abuse, obtaining benefits for the family, help with an eviction, or other legal services,” Justice Hecht said. “Senator Hinojosa understands, and he has supported this worthy cause with leadership, determination and courage.”

TAJCF  launched the Legislative Hero Award program in 2010 to recognize legislators who have significantly advanced access to justice in Texas by assisting with the appropriation of funds, or other substantive activities related to the provision of legal aid in the state. Hinojosa is the third legislator to receive the award.

Everyone has a right to access the judicial system for protection and relief, and th right is the cornerstone of the justice system, Hinojosa said.

 “A person’s economic status should never interfere with their ability to participate in that system. I remain a staunch advocate for legal aid services. I am honored, but ultimately humbled, by this award," Hinojosa said. "I began my legal career working for legal aid. Those are my roots. This is truly a recognition of the institution of legal aid services.”

As a member of the House of Representatives and Senate for more than 20 years, Hinojosa has helped move along the establishment of the Regional Academic Health Center to promote physician training on the Texas/Mexico Border.

In his tenure as senator, Hinojosa has steered more than $84.7 million in construction funds for the University of Texas-Pan American and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and millions to support the growth of Senate District 20, which includes Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Wells and Nueces counties.

“Senator Hinojosa’s efforts help us bring access to justice to all Texans closer to reality,” Richard L. Tate, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, said. “Without his assistance, thousands of Texans would have had to face the legal system alone and without guidance. We are grateful and appreciative of his efforts.”