White House Honors Phoenix Attorney Lillian Johnson as Champion of Change

By Steve Barr
October 11, 2011

Washington, DC-Four longtime leaders at legal aid programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) will be honored on October 13 by the White House as Champions of Change for dedicating their lives as lawyers to closing the justice gap in America.

The four honorees are David G. Hall, executive director of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid; Nan Heald, executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Maine; Lillian Johnson, executive director of Community Legal Services in Phoenix, and Addison Parker, former litigation director at the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky.

"These honorees have made extraordinary contributions to their communities and in helping low-income Americans find solutions to their pressing civil legal problems.  All of us at LSC join in applauding this recognition of their commitment to fulfilling the nation's promise of equal access to justice," LSC President James J. Sandman said.

The four are among 16 leaders in the legal profession being honored at an event hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Justice Department's Access to Justice Initiative. The event is part of President Obama's Winning the Future Initiative and seeks to honor persons who inspire others through their ideas and creativity.

At the event, Attorney General Eric Holder, Senior Counselor for Access to Justice Mark B. Childress, and White House representatives are scheduled to participate in a discussion, which will be streamed live to more than 100 law schools across the country, on efforts to close the nation's justice gap.  Recent studies show that half of eligible applicants at LSC-funded programs are turned away because of underfunding, and that, across the nation, less than 20 percent of the legal needs of low-income Americans are being met.

The leaders from the LSC-funded programs have dedicated their professional lives to civil legal assistance and access to justice. David Hall has led Texas RioGrande Legal Aid since 1975 and was selected by Texas Lawyer magazine in 2000 as one of 100 Texas lawyers who have shaped the state's legal history. Nan Heald became executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance in 1990 and has encouraged the innovative use of technology to expand access to legal information and self-help resources. Lillian Johnson has served as executive director of Community Legal Services since 1982, and serves on several boards and committees working to enhance access to civil legal assistance. Addison Parker, who retired in June after 32 years with the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, oversaw consumer law, foreclosure defense and appellate work at the LSC program. He now provides pro bono services to the program's clients, and recently received the Kentucky Justice Association's Consumer Safety Award for his work in expanding the rights of consumers across Kentucky.

For information on the Champions program, see www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

Established in 1974, LSC operates as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation to promote equal access to justice and to ensure the provision of high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. About 95 percent of LSC funding is for field grants for local nonprofit civil legal aid programs across the nation.