What we do
The Equal Justice Coalition educates policymakers and the public about the importance of civil legal aid, and advocates for sufficient federal, state, and local funding for the network of civil justice organizations serving low-income people in Washington.
Unlike in criminal cases, people facing civil legal issues do not have the right to an attorney. Legal aid programs provide cost-free advice and representation for low-income people with civil legal problems.
But the 2015 Washington State Civil Legal Needs Study Update found an alarming justice gap in our state:
- Seven out of 10 low-income Washingtonians face at least one civil legal problem every year, and the average annual number of problems per household increased from 3.3 in 2003 to 9.3 in 2015.
- Yet due to insufficient funding for legal aid, just a quarter of people receive the help they need to address challenges to their health, housing, benefits, employment, family safety, education, debts, and more.
- Civil legal issues disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous people, as well as immigrants, people with disabilities, veterans, youth, and those involved with the child welfare and correctional systems.
- Survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault experience twice as many legal issues as the average low-income person, at a rate of 19.7 annual legal problems per household.
Over the past several years, the EJC has successfully advocated for significant funding increases, with the Washington State Legislature investing in new staff attorney positions at legal aid programs, support for enhanced pro bono services, and more. Funding from the federal government and King County has also grown.
But the need continues to rise as well, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The EJC is committed to achieving true justice for all in Washington, and ensuring that our recovery from COVID-19 is fair, equitable, and provides essential services to those most harmed.
Who we are
The EJC is a standing committee of the Washington State Access to Justice Board, with a chair, staff, and many stakeholders and volunteer advocates.
EJC Chair: Kirsten Barron
Kirsten is a partner at Barron Smith Daugert, PLLC in Bellingham, an advisory board member for LAW Advocates of Whatcom County, and a past chair of the Access to Justice Board.
EJC Chair-Elect: Kara Masters
Kara is Of Counsel at Masters Law Group, PLLC on Bainbridge Island and at Moberg Rathbone Kearns in Ephrata, and a past member of the Legal Foundation of Washington Board of Trustees.
EJC Staff: Will Livesley-O’Neill
Will is the communications and advocacy director for the Legal Foundation of Washington and staffs the EJC. You can contact him at will[at]ejc[dot]org.