The term "Access to Justice" is generally used to describe the delivery of legal services to those low-income and moderate-income people who cannot otherwise obtain quality legal services.
Some of those services are provided by individual attorneys providing their services for free ("pro bono") or at a very low cost. Other legal services are provided through publicly funded legal service agencies like Columbia Legal Services, the Northwest Justice Project and others.
WSPA encourages and supports pro bono efforts by its members in order to help address this important community need.
The Washington State Supreme Court established the Access to Justice (ATJ) Board in 1994 at the request of the Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors, in response to a growing need to coordinate the access to justice efforts in Washington State and to provide continuity and focus. The ATJ Board's self-described Mission is to: Promote and facilitate equal access to justice in Washington State for low and moderate income people through high-quality legal services.
The ATJ Community in Washington is actively engaged in the process of improving access to quality legal care, whether publicly funded or not. The State Bar provides some helpful information on the Board at their web page found at: http://www.wsba.org/atj. More than 4,000 attorneys provide free legal services for low-income clients through Washington's network of 24 Volunteer Attorney Programs. Types of cases commonly handled by attorneys participating in these programs include housing, protection of financial resources, consumer protection and family law.
Ten years after the ATJ Board's establishment, on December 3, 2004, the Supreme Court adopted a set of fundamental principles to help implement greater use of technology in our court system. For more information, please visit www.atjtechbillofrights.org.
In June 2005 , the State Supreme Court announced it had appointed Jim Bamberger as the very first director for a new state office of Civil Legal Aid, which opened on July 1, 2005. The office was created by the Washington State Legislature in 2005 after a ground-breaking study commissioned by the Washington State Supreme Court's Task Force on Civil Equal Justice showed that an overwhelming majority of low-income residents in Washington get little or no legal help with serious legal problems involving such basic needs as housing, family safety and employment. The statewide study further showed that a majority of those needs are unmet for vulnerable women and children.
Most recently, the Washington State Access to Justice Board released a revised Plan for the Delivery of Civil Legal Aid to Low Income People in Washington State. The ATJ Board adopted its revised State Plan on May 8, 2006. The revision was developed following the review of the findings in the Civil Legal Needs Study, conclusions from the Supreme Court’s Task Force on Civil Equal Justice Funding and Quantitative Report; the 2000 Census; the Legal Services Corporation’s 2003 evaluation of the ATJ Board’s 1999 State Plan; recommendations from the Access to Justice Conferences; and interactive GIS (Geographic Information Systems) maps of significant demographic and resource data. Many members and supporters of the Alliance for Equal Justice participated in the state plan review process and contributed comments to the various drafts. Goals of the revised State Plan are as follows:
A. Establish minimum thresholds for client service delivery
B. Substantially expand access to necessary legal aid services for all low income people
C. Provide an ongoing infrastructure for effective support and accountability
D. Provide a blueprint for future budget requests and resource allocation decision making
For more information, please visit the WSBA web site at http://www.wsba.org/atj/
Public Self Help Web Site for Legal Questions:
One of the best legal information self-help sites on the web is that of the "Washington LawHelp" site, which is provided as a public service by the Northwest Justice Project (NJP) in collaboration with other legal aid providers in the Alliance for Equal Justice and Washington courts. This site permits you to find self-help information and legal aid providers in your area.
NJP also sponsors the Coordinated Legal Education, Advice and Referral system ("CLEAR".) CLEAR is Northwest Justice Project's toll-free telephone service for eligible low-income people to obtain free legal assistance with civil legal problems. Clients in need of interpreter services in order to access legal services through NJP are entitled to those services. If you are low-income and have a non-criminal legal problem outside King County, call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:30 a.m. until 12:15 p.m., and Tuesdays from 3:30 p.m. until 6:15 p.m. All other King County residents should call 206-464-1519 for information and referrals.
For more information, visit their website at http://www.nwjustice.org/about_njp/clear.html.
Disclaimer - No Legal Advice The foregoing information has been compiled from both governmental and non-governmental sources believed to be reliable. This summary has been prepared by the Washington State Paralegal Association as a service to its readers and the Internet community and is not intended to constitute legal advice. WSPA has used reasonable efforts in collecting, preparing and providing quality information and material, but does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, completeness, adequacy or currency of the information contained in or linked to this Web site. Users of information from this Web site do so at their own risk.