Our History

Photo of J. Chrys Dougherty III


Texas Appleseed is founded by J. Chrys Dougherty III and a group of other Texas attorneys, further fulfilling their belief in the power of pro bono and serving societal needs.


Diversity Legal Scholars begins, our scholarship that provides free LSAT preparation courses for those interested in attending law school in Texas. The program, which also offers mentoring for aspiring attorneys, is aimed at diversifying the legal profession and is available to low-income Texans of color.


One of our earliest issues begins — work on the Fair Defense Act — to ensure vital reform of indigent defense practices in Texas.

Fair Defense Act


The Fair Defense Act passes, the first of many major legislative and policy wins for our nonprofit. The Fair Defense Act fundamentally changed when and how lawyers are appointed to represent poor people accused of a crime in Texas. For the first time, it required all criminal courts in Texas to adopt formal procedures for providing appointed lawyers to indigent defendants.


Texas' 78th legislative session begins. Among other bills, we advocated for HB 109. The bill, which passed, included important consumer protections and disclosures for international remittances.

Texas Capital


Texas' 81st legislative session begins, with Texas Appleseed advocating for the most vulnerable in our state. One of the bills we helped shepherd was HB 2450, allowing low-income families without clear titles to their home to qualify for disaster assistance with alternative documentation of ownership.


Texas Appleseed and our partner, TxLIHIS, entered into a landmark Conciliation Agreement with the State of Texas in which the State agreed to comply with Fair Housing laws in allocating more than $3 billion in disaster recovery funds, and assuring historically underserved communities would get their fair share of the funds. As a result of this Conciliation Agreement, millions of dollars have flowed to these communities.

Skyline of Dallas, Texas


  • Dallas passes the first Texas ordinance regarding predatory loans. Texas Appleseed was a key collaborator on the city ordinance, which creates protections and affordability standards for borrowers who use payday and auto title loans. Dallas sets a precedent that many other Texas cities later follow, as there are no state protections.
  • The Texas Legislature gavels in for its 82nd legislative session. Our nonprofit succeeded in making legislative gains for Texans in three areas, in K-12 education, financial services, and juvenile justice.
Texas State Capital from above


Texas Appleseed helps spearhead important reforms during the state's 83rd legislative session. One bill eliminated the ability of school-based police officers to issue tickets to children for fine-only Class C offenses. Texas Appleseed worked with the Texas Judicial Council and others to advocate for changes that would eliminate trips to adult court and high-fines for behavior like talking in class or schoolyard fights. These changes have resulted in a massive reduction in the number of fine-only misdemeanor charges filed against children.


The Texas Legislature is in session. Among many other issues, our advocacy efforts also focused on truancy reform. HB 2398 decriminalized truancy in Texas. The law changed the way school districts and courts treat children who have unexcused absences from school, making it a civil matter.

The Core, blog logo


  • Our blog, The Core, launches.
  • Texas Appleseed celebrates its 20th anniversary!
  • Texas Appleseed worked with the Houston ISD school board, students, parents, educators, and other advocacy organizations to end suspensions of students in pre-K through 2nd grade. Houston's leadership of ending these harsh discipline practices for its youngest students helped pave the way for other school districts to adopt this policy and ultimately a similar statewide law in 2017.
Keri Brown (right) and Anita Sybema at the launch of the Managing Someone Else's Money Guides in Texas at the State Capitol


  • Wins for Texas! Texas Appleseed staff advocate for several new laws during the 85th legislative session. Keri Brown, with Baker Botts, speaks at the Capitol to launch the Managing Someone Else's Money in Texas guides, created by Texas Appleseed and AARP Texas and made possible with pro bono support from Baker Botts. The guides emphasized the importance of HB 3921, which created clearer standards and accountability for financial institutions and securities brokers to identify and report financial abuse of vulnerable adults. Anita Sybesma (left) joins her.
  • Our first I Heart Justice event occurs, merging art and social justice in a gallery setting. 


  • #txlege time! Texas Appleseed staff and community partners win victories in Texas' 86th legislative session.
  • The M.D. vs Abbott Monitoring team forms, based on a federal class action lawsuit filed by a separate group of children’s advocates. The court-appointed Monitors are Texas Appleseed Executive Director Deborah Fowler and Kevin Ryan of Public Catalyst Group Corp. in New Jersey. The foster care Monitoring team comprises experts in children’s law and policy, child welfare specialists, data and policy analysts, social workers, and former foster youth. It is tasked with observing and reporting on court-ordered reforms required of Texas’ foster care system.


The Emerging Leaders Council begins, a membership-based arm of Texas Appleseed led by and open to young professionals in Texas.

Moving Justice Forward 25 Years


  • Texas Appleseed celebrates its 25th anniversary!
  • Session begins. During Texas' 87th legislative session, we helped spur reforms across five issue areas of ours.


Our local advocacy work continued in various cities. And, while it was a tough legislative session, visit our page here to learn more about new laws stemming from Texas' 88th session.