The Constitution guarantees the right to a lawyer when someone is charged criminally, yet says nothing for civil matters. This leaves countless people, many of whom are already financially stretched, to fend for themselves as they face painful situations like an abusive partner or a looming eviction or possible deportation.
It wasn’t that long ago that vulnerable people battling distressing civil matters were almost without recourse, but that changed in the 1960s with the passage of the first federal funding for civil legal services. Today, in Washington, those funds have helped civil legal aid organizations, volunteer lawyers, and a litany of legal supporters offer free and low-cost legal help for civil matters. In the latest issue of NWLaywer, we celebrate 50 years of civil legal aid in Washington by highlighting the people and programs that make these services possible, as well as the lives that have been changed because of them.
In this issue you will find information about a recent Washington Supreme Court rule amendment to fund civil legal aid, written by Chief Justice Hon. Mary Fairhurst. Salvador A. Mungia lays out the future of civil legal aid described in the Access to Justice Board’s three-year plan. And the issue further looks at the power of pro bono, the impact of civil legal aid on homelessness and immigration, a timeline of the last 50 years of civil legal aid, and resources for how you can help.