The Board of Directors for Oficina Legal del Pueblo Unido, Inc. oversees governance for the Texas Civil Rights Project across Texas.
Updated February, 2012
Pablo Almaguér, President of Hidalgo was also elected to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas (2010-2011). Almaguer is the Private Attorney Involvement Group Coordinator for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA), and was previously the Branch Manager for the Edinburg Office, and Team Manager for the Domestic Violence/Family Law Practice Area Team. His practice has focused on the areas of domestic violence and employment/labor law and he has extensive bench and jury trial experience. His current position includes the organization-wide responsibility of bridging the communication gap between pro bono volunteers and TRLA’s opportunities.
Almaguer served as President of the Hidalgo County Bar Association/Hidalgo County Bar Foundation and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Texas Civil Rights Project. He is the first legal services attorney to serve on the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas, previously served as co-vice chair of the State Bar of Texas Local Bar Services Committee, and was a council member of the State Bar of Texas Hispanic Issues Section.
He is a member of the Mexican-American Bar Association, and is co-founder of the Hidalgo County Domestic Relations Office Advisory Board. He obtained his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Texas – Pan American and his law degree from Chicago-Kent School of Law. He married Linley Boone-Almaguer, a fellow TRLA attorney, in October 2009.
Veronica Carbajal was raised in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua by her mother and grandparents. Early on, she realized the privileges that accompanied her U.S. Citizenship and allowed her to commute daily to El Paso, Texas for school. Veronica graduated with Honors from Brown University in 1998 with degrees in Environmental Studies and Ethnic Studies. While at Brown, Ms. Carbajal was named an Andrew W. Mellon Minority Fellow. She received her J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law in 2004 and soon after began working at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA).
In 2009, Ms. Carbajal became the team manager for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Project (HPRP) – El Paso. While at TRLA, she has personally provided legal advice to hundreds of clients and legal services ranging from limited services to litigation to over 250 clients, in addition to her supervisory role in more than 350 cases. These cases include housing and real estate, public benefits, civil rights, and environmental justice.
Ms. Carbajal has co-counseled a number of cases with the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project and has served on its local board since 2008. In 2010, Texas Super Lawyers magazine named Ms. Carbajal named a “Rising Star.” She is passionate about social justice, the environment, and animal rights.
Carlos Eduardo Cárdenas is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Since then he has moved into the practice of Civil Trial Law with an emphasis on Administrative Law.
Mr. Cárdenas practices at the Law Firm of Carlos Eduardo Cárdenas, P.C. in Austin, Texas, and is counsel to the Law Offices of Joseph (Sib) Abraham, Jr. in El Paso, Texas. For eight years he served as a legal consultant to the Texas Senate. Prior to that, he worked as both general counsel and legislative assistant to Senator H. Tati Santiesteban.
In early 2011, Mr. Cárdenas served as Course Co-Director for the 27th Annual Litigation Update Institute for the State Bar of Texas. Since 2007, he has served as Vice-Chair of the Local Bar Services Committee to the State Bar of Texas.
Mr. Cárdenas recently received a Community Service Award from Black El Paso Democrats, was selected to be a Sustaining Life Fellow for the Texas Bar Foundation, and was designated by the Texas Bar Journal as “Access to Justice Pro Bono Champion.”
Roxann Thomas Chargois is the former executive director of the Austin Housing Authority, a former principal with Houston-based Chargois Investment and Insurance, and a former financial officer of JMC Auto Group, parent company of Pavilion Lincoln Mercury in Austin.
Chargois earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Active in the Austin community, Chargois has served as president of the St. James’ Episcopal School Board and also has served on the boards of Laguna Gloria Art Museum, the Austin Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Charity League.
Leona Diener is originally from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Leona attended Goshen College in Indiana where she met her husband, Darrel. Soon after graduation, they married and went to Puerto Rico in voluntary service for one year. Following that year they remained in Puerto Rico for approximately thirty years, where they raised their three children.
Leona was employed by the Mennonite General Hospital where she directed the Clinical Laboratory and Blood Bank. She obtained her masters degree in Health Care Administration from Central Michigan University. Leona has been involved in the work of the Mennonite Church all her adult life. The church teaches a discipleship of service, love for all persons and the environment, and non-violence, peace and social justice. She served as administrator of the Cooperativa Menonita de Ahorro y Credito, (Credit Union), served on the governing board of the Mennonite Church in Puerto Rico, and the board of Directors of Liberia Cristiana Menonita as well as positions in her church.
She and the family traveled to Nepal to work in a rural clinic for two six month terms. She and her husband moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 1994. She has served as the volunteer assistant administrator of Comfort House, a special care facility for the terminally ill, and has been on the Board of Directors and committees of Habitat for Humanity, Council of United Neighbors, Hidalgo Star Medical Alliance, RGV Mennonite Relief Sale, and Unidad Cristiana de Iglesias Menonitas.
While living here in the Valley, she has become aware of the many needs on people living here, especially immigrants. She actively wants to help in providing services needed and working for social change. She and her husband take pleasure in being involved in the lives of their eight grandchildren. They have enjoyed traveling on five continents, visiting and attending conferences of the worldwide Mennonite Church.
Molly Gochman is a conceptual artist whose family has long been committed to civil rights in Texas. Ms. Gochman has exhibited in galleries, museums, and public spaces in the U.S. and abroad. She also serves on an advisory committee at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, a sanctuary for people concerned with peace, freedom, and social justice, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Academy Sports and Outdoors. Ms. Gochman received her BFA in 2001 from Quaker-founded Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Tom Gutting is an associate in the Houston office of King & Spalding and a member of the firm’s Litigation Practice Group. His practice areas are civil litigation and environmental and toxic tort litigation. Tom graduated magna cum laude with a J.D. degree from the University of Houston Law Center where he was a member of the Houston Law Review. He holds a B.A. degree with honors in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University. Tom’s publications include “Mercury on the Move” from Law360.com, June 1, 2010. He has been honored as Order of the Coif and was a Texas Civil Rights Project Pro Bono Champion for 2009. He has been admitted to Practice in Texas, the Texas Southern District Court, and the Texas Northern District Court.
Chuck Herring Not only is Austin attorney Chuck Herring Texas’ leading legal ethics expert, he works tirelessly to expand legal services to the poor, and he takes an active role in reforming the Texas justice system. When Judge Keller’s actions in closing the courthouse doors in the Richard death-penalty case resulted in Richard’s death on a day when he should have lived, Chuck helped draft the disciplinary complaints against Judge Keller, the Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Those resulted in the Judicial Conduct Commission’s unprecedented disciplinary hearings against Keller. Chuck also sent out hundreds of emails to Texas lawyers to petition the court to change its rules to permit e-filing. More than 350 lawyers signed the petition, and the court changed its rules. He received the First Annual Professionalism Award from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism, and he also currently serves on the Texas Supreme Court’s Grievance Oversight Committee.
Chuck also designed and drafted the original Gomez suit, challenging the State Bar to increase its pro bono activities. As a result, the Texas Supreme Court created an administrative proceeding and the Access to Justice Commission, which continues to bring together leading lawyers and judges to work on increasing funding for free legal services for low-income Texans. For many years, Chuck served on the State Bar’s Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee. In 2004 when a funding crisis hit Texas legal services providers, he drafted and circulated petitions among lawyers and citizen advocacy groups, leading an effort to obtain emergency funding from the State Bar. Chuck has also worked and testified at the Texas Legislature on issues designed to increase legal services to the poor. Chuck also has been active in local, state, and national political circles for over 30 years.
Renato Ramirez Whether the category is agribusiness or industrial development, the defining word for a number of cities along the U.S./Mexico border is “growth.” As President of the fastest growing bank in South Texas, IBC–Zapata, Renato Ramirez has been a partner and supporter of commercial growth in his service to IBC customers since arriving in Zapata in 1983. His leadership in a variety of civic organizations and projects has also established Ramirez as an important participant in the progress of the Zapata and Starr communities in general.
Prior to joining IBC–Zapata at its founding more than 20 years ago, Renato Ramirez applied his expertise in International Finance in Laredo where he managed foreign loans to Mexico under the Export/Import Bank program. His thorough knowledge of all areas of banking is enhanced by over 10 years of teaching finance at Laredo State University and Louisiana State University where he also served as associate dean of LSU’s Escuela Bancaria Superior de Centro-America. During those years, he was also a consultant to the Tennessee Valley Authority on the impact of banking practices on regional economic development. His personal impact on regional development goes beyond his banking leadership and includes a very generous philanthropic heart. Recently the Images for Conservation Fund dedicated their third book to Renato Ramirez for his dedication and support to preserve wild spaces and its inhabitants. He has constructed a golf course for the community, made significant donations to an orphanage in Ciudad Mier, Mexico, Mary Help of Christians School, Harmony Science Academy, and to the Sacred Heart Orphanage, all in Laredo.
He also established scholarship programs at Laredo Community College and at Texas A & M International University, contributed to the Tejano Capitol Monument and to the National Hispanic Institute, and made significant donations to the Zapata Boys and Girls Club. The Texas Land and Mineral Owners recently named him Volunteer of the Year and he was also appointed to the Board of The Texas Civil Rights Project. Ramirez has been awarded the Meritorious Service Award by Laredo Community College and was recently inducted into the Martin High School Tiger Legends. Bilingual and bicultural, Renato Ramirez is also one of those rare Texans who know how to “gig’em” and “hook’em” having earned his B.S. degree from Texas A&M University and his M.B.A. from the University of Texas. In addition, he completed all graduate studies toward his Ph.D. in finance and economics at the University of Tennessee.