What We Do
Texas Poverty Law Project exists to fight the issues that put people in poverty, trap people in poverty, and punish people for being in poverty. We help individuals overcome economic barriers to justice and promote awareness and reform for a legal and judicial system that unfairly punishes people for being poor and perpetuates poverty.
We envision a legal system that provides true access to justice for all citizens, regardless of income, and are working to make that vision a reality in Texas.
TPLP is committed to a wide spectrum of issues that affect folks experiencing poverty, including:
more representative jury pools through virtual trials
ending debtor’s prisons
housing security and eviction
clearing and sealing criminal records
giving people back the ability to drive so they can work
Who We Are
TPLP was started in 2019 by attorneys Carl Guthrie and Kannon Moore, two criminal defense lawyers that saw the need for a holistic approach when helping their clients with legal issues - one that recognizes the unique barriers for people in poverty and how the justice system often perpetuates poverty. They started the Texas Poverty Law Project to try to combat these issues and give every Texan the access to justice they deserve.
Carl Guthrie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Theatre and History Departments, and University of Texas School of Law, where he was inducted into the Order of Barristers and received the 2017 Niemann Cup for outstanding advocate. Before co-founding Texas Poverty Law Project, Carl worked almost exclusively in indigent criminal defense. Through TPLP, Carl is fortunate enough to be able to fight against the basic notion that justice, or access to the justice system, should include a price tag. As of fall 2020, he is an adjunct professor at University of Texas School of Law's trial advocacy department.
Kannon Moore enlisted in the Navy after high school, deployed three times, and served for eight years before leaving the military to become a lawyer. As the first in his family to go to college, Kannon knew he was going to use the law to help people, not seek money or defend big businesses. Kannon received his B.A at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and his J.D. at Saint Louis University Law School. Since getting licensed in Texas in 2018, Kannon opened his own firm in Austin where he now lives with his wife and daughter, and in 2019 he co-founded Texas Poverty Law Project to provide free legal representation to Central Texans facing legal issues caused by poverty, trapping them in poverty, or punishing them for being in poverty.
Karly Jo Dixon is a staff attorney at the Texas Fair Defense Project. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas School of Law. She was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2016, her project focused on TFDP’s Criminal Justice Debt Initiative. Using direct representation, community education, and advocacy, she worked to stop jurisdictions from incarcerating people who cannot afford to pay their Class C tickets and related fees. Her fellowship project is now a full-time program at TFDP and includes community clinics, driver license recovery work, pro bono attorney training and placement, and direct services including individual representation.
Annie Melendez entered the workforce during high school and continued after graduation to help her household. While working, Annie mastered her interpersonal communication, immediately realizing her empathic skills. Recognizing there were many underserved in the community, Annie knew she had to find a place to help. She found an opportunity at the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas (LRS) as an intake counselor—helping the community find a lawyer or legal resource for their legal need. Here she found her calling to help those by being involved in bridging the gap to access to justice. Later, Annie continued her education at Austin Community College, earning her Associate of Arts degree in History and is currently deciding which university to transfer and pursue a bachelor's degree. Although a non-traditional academic student, Annie's early work and volunteer experience allowed her to recognize the local community's need, inspiring her to help underserved populations. Annie is the current Executive Director at the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, celebrating twelve years. She also is the administrator for the Travis County Court Appointed Family Advocates program, a group of private attorneys who volunteer to represent indigent parents or children in civil Child Protective Services cases via court appointment. Annie enjoys time with her husband, family, and three dogs. A real bookworm, you will find Annie with her nose in a book when she finds downtime.
Donald Robertson served in the United States Marine Corps Infantry after high school and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in his four year enlistment. After his service, Donald attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his B.A., and later his J.D. Donald split his time his last two semesters at Law School working part time at IBM in its procurement department, and also working with the Childrens' Rights Clinic at the law school representing children and acting as student attorney ad litem in cases in which the state seeks custody or termination of parental rights based on allegations of abuse and neglect. Donald now works as in-house Legal Counsel with GLG , where he also helps out with the Veterans' Diversity Network group whose goal is to help hire and retain veterans.