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Senator Judith Zaffirini: District 21
Press Release
October 1, 2021
Contact: Laura Felix
Senator Zaffirini Named "Friend of the Judiciary"
Award recognizes her dedication to access to justice

(AUSTIN)—Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, was honored with the "Friend of the Judiciary" award by the State Bar of Texas Judicial Section in a virtual award ceremony last week.

Her membership on the Texas Judicial Council and on the Texas Access to Justice Commission provide opportunities to develop and propose judicial reforms in the Legislature. Notably, she has passed bills preventing cronyism and corruption, promoting access to justice, protecting persons under guardianship and improving courthouse security.

She also has collaborated with judges at all levels, ranging from the Supreme Court to Justices of the Peace, to pass legislation eliminating debtors' prisons, enhancing competency restorations procedures, restructuring criminal and civil case fees and reforming the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

"Giving all Texans equal access to our justice system is essential to a healthy and functioning democracy," she said. "We must remove barriers, address inequities and enact reforms to enable our court system to truly administer justice for all."

An effective judicial system especially is important during emergencies. Hurricane Harvey, for example, displaced thousands of persons and destroyed many courtrooms, delaying court proceedings indefinitely. Accordingly, Senator Zaffirini passed Senate Bill (SB) 40, which relocates courts to the safest and most convenient location following a natural disaster.

The pandemic presented yet another emergency for our justice system. Virtual hearings were implemented in many courtrooms to allow proceedings to continue without risking the safety of court personnel. After receiving positive feedback from defendants, lawyers and judges who appreciated the flexibility and increased attendance presented by the new medium, Senator Zaffirini filed SB 690, which would have authorized judges to continue to hold virtual hearings even after the pandemic ends. Unfortunately, it did not pass, but she intends to file the bill anew next session.

What's more, her courtroom security act, SB 42, was passed in the wake of the attempted assassination of Austin's District Judge Julie Kocurek.

"Anticipating and adapting to changing circumstances will preclude future miscarriages of justice in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency," she said. "All Texans deserve equal access to justice, no matter the circumstances."

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SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-LAREDO received the "Friend of the Judiciary" award from the State Bar of Texas Judicial Section. She is the second highest-ranking senator and the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic senator.