Texas Appleseed works for high quality legal representation of persons with mental illness or mental retardation — providing resources for judges and attorneys, handbooks for these defendants and their families, and support for communities to create mental health public defender offices.
After helping pass the Fair Defense Act in 2001, Texas Appleseed realized that barriers to justice for defendants with a mental illness or mental retardation needed to be addressed. Texas Appleseed began an education and outreach campaign aimed at lawyers, judges and consumers to make them aware of the laws and special issues affecting defendants with a mental disability.
As part of this effort, Texas Appleseed produced handbooks for attorneys representing clients with a mental illness or mental retardation, as well as handbooks for defendants and their family members available in English and Spanish. Appleseed Centers in Georgia and Louisiana have replicated these handbooks in their states. Texas Appleseed also has published a series of monographs for judges on issues relevant to cases involving defendants with mental disabilities.
Texas Appleseed has advocated for specialized systems of representation for defendants who have a mental illness or mental retardation, and helped create the first Mental Health Public Defender's Office in the country (located in Austin). In 2003, Texas Appleseed received the Ring of Honor Award from the Mental Health Association of Texas for meeting the legal needs of defendants with mental illness or mental retardation.
Texas Appleseed is grateful to Houston Endowment and Hogg Foundation for Mental Health for generously funding the handbook project. The Hogg Foundation also is providing major grant support to enable Texas Appleseed and its lead pro bono partner Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP to investigate how the immigration court and detention system treats immigrants with mental illness.