In response to the 2015 Washington State Civil Legal Needs Study Update, which revealed a troubling gap in access to justice in our state, the Equal Justice Coalition launched the Justice for All campaign to highlight the critical need, emphasize the vital importance of legal aid for low-income individuals and families, and convince legislators in Olympia to increase state funding for civil legal aid.
The EJC believes that the state should recommit to access to justice by nearly doubling the number of state-funded civil legal aid attorneys, expanding the level of volunteer attorney involvement in the delivery of essential civil legal aid services, and building awareness of legal aid services in low-income communities.
These steps are crucial for Washington to reach “minimum access,” defined nationally as one legal aid attorney for every 5,000 low-income residents. Based on 2016 population and demographic data, Washington needs 240 full-time equivalent legal aid attorneys to reach this standard. In 2016, we had 130. But thanks to the advocacy of the civil legal aid community, real progress continues to be made.
The Legislature has committed to a Civil Justice Reinvestment Plan (CJRP) to address the crisis and reach minimum access. The first stage of the CJRP increased state funding for legal aid, but much more funding is needed to honor the Legislature’s commitment. During the 2019 legislative session, the EJC will advocate for legislators to fully fund the next steps of the Plan, which would add 40 new civil legal aid attorneys around the state and maintain service capacity at existing programs.
The Justice for All campaign received significant media attention around the state, including the articles and editorials below:
Skagit Valley Herald: Study Finds Few Low-Income Washington Residents Get Civil Legal Aid
The Spokesman-Review: Study: Most Poor Washingtonians Don’t Get Legal Help They Need
Wenatchee World: Equal Justice is Still Our Promise
The Olympian: There’s Truly Big Need for Civil Legal Aid
Tacoma News Tribune: Attorneys Hope to Ease Burden on Poor of Legal Needs
Seattle Times: ‘Justice For All’ Threatened by Inaction in Olympia
The Columbian: Low-Income Residents Deserve Access to Civil Legal Aid (by State Sen. Ann Rivers)
North Kitsap Herald: Legal Needs of Many Are Not Met
Tacoma News Tribune: Justice Shouldn’t Be Denied for Low-Income Citizens (by State Rep. Christine Kilduff)
The Olympian: Legal Aid is Big Help for Survivors of Domestic Violence
Kitsap Sun: Access to Legal Aid Must Be Funded (by State Rep. Drew MacEwen)
Spokane Journal of Business: Bill Hyslop: Ensuring Accessibility
South Seattle Emerald: The Justice Gap: The Case for Civil Legal Aid (by U.S. Rep. Adam Smith)