Housing Justice Project

Preventing Homelessness for Vulnerable Families in King County

Providing legal advice and representation to over 70,000 vulnerable, low-income people in Washington state each year.

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Our Story:

In 2004, Washington’s civil legal aid community of providers and supporters formed the Alliance for Equal Justice to increase client service capacity through efficient and effective collaboration.

Each year, the Alliance for Equal Justice helps more than 70,000 vulnerable, low-income people in Washington secure justice through its network of civil legal aid providers and programs.

The Alliance is comprised of lawyers, judges, legal workers, volunteers and community leaders committed to the fair, effective, and inclusive administration of civil justice in Washington State. In partnership with clients and communities of low-income and vulnerable people, The Alliance works to expand meaningful access to the civil justice system and to identify and eliminate barriers that deny justice and perpetuate poverty.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is Civil Legal Aid?

Civil legal aid helps ensure fairness for all people in the civil justice system, regardless of how much money a person has.

Civil legal aid (also referred to as “legal aid”) is free legal information, advice, and representation for qualifying low-income individuals and families. Through a range of services, legal aid helps people protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families. These services can be the difference between hunger and food on the table, bankruptcy and economic stability, or domestic violence and safety. For examples of legal aid services, check out Alliance success stories.

Why Is Civil Legal Aid Important?

In Washington State, there are approximately 1,250,000 people that eligible for legal aid services (i.e. living at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level).  Of those low-income households, roughly 70% face an urgent civil legal problem every year. But, only about 24% of those households receive any legal help or assistance. The vast majority are left to address their legal problems on their own.

Fair and equal justice is a guiding principle of our society.  Equal justice under the law is a fundamental American value – engraved on the U.S. Supreme Court building and taught in classrooms across our country.  Civil legal aid helps to fulfill our country’s promise of justice for all, not just those who can afford it.

What Is The Difference Between Civil And Criminal Legal Issues?

Criminal issues involve an act in violation of the law against the State or the United States. Some examples of criminal issues are theft, assault, and drug offenses. Civil cases are typically between an individuals, businesses, or governmental bodies. Some examples include landlord/tenant disputes, child custody, and discrimination. In a criminal case, if a person is unable to afford an attorney, they are provided one by the State – a public defender. However, there is no guaranteed right to counsel in civil cases. In other words, in a civil case, if you can’t afford an attorney or don’t have access to civil legal aid, then you will be unrepresented.

How Can I Help?

Visit the “Get Involved” section of our website to learn about opportunities to volunteer time, donate to the work, and advocate for resources. 

"As a unified Alliance, we are working towards ensuring access to justice positively impacts thousands of low-income people that require legal aid services to meet their basic human needs."

− Patrick Palace, 2013-2014 WSBA President

"As an Alliance, we share a deep commitment to serve and advocate alongside our clients as we seek justice. CLS’ vision of justice is that when people have the necessary tools and opportunity to achieve social and economic justice, a more equitable and inclusive society is possible."

− Aurora Martin, Columbia Legal Services Executive Director

"Pro bono services and legal aid programs are critical to helping the most vulnerable in our community enforce their rights and protections under the law."

− Bob Ferguson, State Attorney General