The Center for Legal and Social Justice at the St. Mary’s University School of Law has received nearly $372,000 in grants this semester – four in the past few weeks. The grants enable the Center to expand its reach and continue to provide high quality legal and community services to local residents as well as communities throughout South Texas.
Funds were awarded by the Internal Revenue Service, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), the School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Fund, and the Nationality Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.
A Volunteer Income Tax Assistance grant provided by the IRS will allow the Center to continue offering free, year-round tax services, including the preparation of complex returns for low-to-moderate income taxpayers.
The IRS also awarded a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic grant to support the Center’s legal clinic, which gives students the opportunity to represent low-income individuals and small businesses that have tax disputes. The grant also funds the Center’s efforts to deliver education and outreach to taxpayers who speak English as a second language. The St. Mary’s University School of Law is only the second law school in Texas to receive the prestigious LITC designation.
The three TAJF grants will support the Center’s free civil legal assistance, victim-related civil legal services and immigrant services. The most recent grant funds the St. Mary’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Project. The Crime Victims Civil Legal Services grant supports victim-related civil legal services to low income clients. The Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts grant benefits general civil and immigration representation to immigrants in South Texas.
The Texas Access to Justice Commission also recently honored the St. Mary’s University School of Law with the 2013 Law School Commitment to Service Award.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Fund will allow the clinic to provide free, well-screened, well-prepared and well-documented applications for the DACA and other immigration relief for high school students and young adults. This funding also will help increase students’ awareness of the need for free immigration services and encourage them to provide pro bono assistance after graduation.
The grant from the Immigration and Nationality Law Section of the State Bar of Texas will benefit the Immigration and Human Rights Clinical Program. Its caseload includes defense of immigrants in removal proceedings, applications for asylum, benefits under the Violence Against Women Act and claims to U.S. citizenship.