Advocacy

The EJC advocates for increased public funding for civil legal aid programs at the federal, state, and local levels.

In 2021, the EJC is asking the Washington State Legislature to invest $11M for the
Office of Civil Legal Aid to continue funding urgent COVID-19 response services:

Civil legal aid has been a key part of our state’s front-line response to COVID-19. Bipartisan state leaders approved emergency funds via the Office of Civil Legal Aid for services including:

  • Defending residents from eviction and foreclosure
  • Securing rightful public benefits including unemployment
  • Protecting against increased risks of violence and abuse

Civil legal aid advances equity and justice, particularly for people of color who are disproportionately harmed by civil legal problems, and now by the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

And the need is still growing, as the crisis continues, while the emergency funds for successful front-line services are expiring.

The Legislature must maintain this funding for the 2021-2023 biennium, so that state-funded legal aid programs can continue to provide support and justice for people most harmed by COVID-19.

Raise your voice for equal justice: Sign up for virtual meetings with your legislators during Equal Justice Lobby Days 2021.

Federal Advocacy

The EJC advocates for increased funding for civil legal aid through the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC). In Washington, LSC provides the Northwest Justice Project (NJP) with more than $7 million per year. Congress appropriates the annual LSC budget.

Every year the EJC brings stakeholders to meet (now virtually) with the entire Washington Congressional delegation in support of the LSC budget request and the American Bar Association’s advocacy. We’re grateful for the consistent support of Senators Cantwell and Murray, and our 10 Representatives, for federal legal aid funding.

Despite the Trump Administration’s consistent attempts to eliminate LSC funding, Congress has, with bipartisan support, increased the agency’s budget in recent years. The 2021 budget passed by the House of Representatives includes $465 million for LSC, a 6% increase and the largest appropriation of actual dollars in history.

Local Advocacy

The EJC currently advocates for funding from King County, which has invested in several local legal aid programs for many years.

The King County Council appropriates funds and also supports the legal aid network with an annual proclamation of Pro Bono Week, to honor the tens of thousands of hours of free services provided by volunteers through legal aid programs every year.

The County’s 2021-22 biennial budget included steady funding for civil legal aid programs, which also receive funds through the Veterans, Seniors & Human Services Levy. The County Council also allocated nearly $3 million in emergency funding for legal aid in response to COVID-19, after the EJC advocated for additional support for services helping people with housing security, unemployment and other benefits, and family safety.

The EJC delegation to Congress after a meeting with Sen. Patty Murray in 2019 (our last pre-pandemic in-person visit to Washington, D.C.). L-R: C├ęsar Torres, Northwest Justice Project; Andy Sachs, former EJC chair; Fred Rivera, Seattle Mariners general counsel; Will Livesley-O’Neill, EJC staff; Angel Tomeo Sam, The Bail Project; Caitlin Davis, Legal Foundation of Washington; Bill Pickett, former Washington State Bar Association president; Justice Mary Yu, Washington State Supreme Court.
EJC stakeholders met with King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, outside the offices of the Eastside Legal Assistance Program in Bellevue, to receive the County Council’s proclamation of 2020 Pro Bono Week. L-R: Michael Terasaki, Pro Bono Council; John Tirpak, Unemployment Law Project; Jerry Kroon, Eastside Legal Assistance Program; Michelle Lucas, Tenant Law Center; Councilmember Dunn; Will Livesley-O’Neill, EJC staff; Terra Nevitt, Washington State Bar Association; Kyle Sciuchetti, Washington State Bar Association president.