Equal justice timeline snapshot from 1600s through 1988

Our Rich History

Washington State’s equity and justice community has a rich history. Despite the roller coaster rides of funding, ongoing systemic oppression of marginalized communities and individuals, and rising numbers of people in poverty, Washington’s community of civil legal aid advocates, supporters and partners have remained steadfast in their commitment to work together to advance equity and justice.

Learn about the history of civil legal aid in Washington, the Alliance for Equal Justice 
and the Access to Justice Board.

Access to Justice Board: It All Started with a Recognition of the Need

In the 1980’s, the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) sounded the alarm and insisted on prioritizing the massive growing civil legal needs of low-income people. In 1992, the WSBA formed an Access to Justice Task Force, which proposed solutions to the lack of continuity, coordination, and organization in the delivery of existing services, and ultimately recommended the creation of the Washington State Access to Justice Board (ATJ Board). The Washington Supreme Court established the ATJ Board in 1994 to serve as an autonomous body operating under the auspices of the WSBA with authority granted by the Supreme Court.

Alliance for Equal Justice: Together We’re Stronger

In mid 1990s, the Access to Justice Board created the Access to Justice Network, which included legal aid and pro bono programs, judges, law librarians, county clerks and others. With such wide-ranging representation of members, the ATJ Board’s Communications Committee set out to address the Network’s need for a common mission and strategic messaging. In 2004, that Committee developed a Communications Plan which included the formation of the Alliance for Equal Justice (Alliance) whose predominant mission was to provide civil legal aid to low income people. Since then, the Alliance has expanded beyond providers and now includes any organization that furthers equity and justice and supports civil legal aid to low income, vulnerable, and marginalized individuals and communities.

This is Our Story

View a detailed timeline of civil legal aid milestones, success and growth in Washington State that further tells our story. Below are two videos that highlight pivotal moments in our legal aid history.

Living History: Attacks on Legal Services

Living History: How Northwest Justice Project was Named