graphic for CROP

Removing a Barrier to Reentry

By | Courts, Criminal Justice, Legal Aid | No Comments

By: Tarra Simmons, 2016 Goldmark Fellow 
Northwest Justice Project

On June 24, 2016 I became the first person in our state to obtain a Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity. The Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) became available to persons with a criminal conviction on June 9, 2016 after the unanimous passage of ESHB 1553 in the 2016 state legislative session.  The law allows people who have been convicted of certain crimes to petition a judge for a certificate that shows they have completed their sentence and have been law abiding citizens. In the words of King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg a CROP is “a receipt that says the person has paid their debt to society and can move forward.” Read More

2016 Supplemental Budget

State Legislative Session Wrap Up

By | Advocacy, Legal Aid, State Funding | No Comments
By: Jay Doran, Education Director of the Equal Justice Coalition

A little after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29th, the Washington State Legislature passed the 2016 Supplemental Budget and adjourned the Supplemental Session later that night.  The budget, which adds $191 million of new spending to the 2015-2017 biennium, passed with a 27-17 vote in the Senate and 78-17 vote in the House.  Thanks to the advocacy efforts of civil legal aid supporters, the Supplemental Budget includes $552,000 for the Office of Civil Legal Aid (OCLA), which administers and oversees state funding for legal aid.

OCLA requested $555,000 in the Supplemental Budget to cover unanticipated health care premium increases and non-personnel costs of its contractor the Northwest Justice Project (NJP). Without this funding, NJP would have been forced to reduce personnel and client service, with potentially devastating impact on our state’s already strained and overwhelmed legal aid system.  For more details, check out this one-pager produced by the Equal Justice Coalition.

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Rubber Stamp pic

Report Finds Courts Sacrifice Justice for Efficiency With Regards to Debt Buyer Cases

By | Courts, Debt, Legal Aid | No Comments

By: Scott Kinkley, Attorney at the Northwest Justice Project

Garnishment is a terrifying, if not catastrophic, event especially for someone living on the margins of poverty where a single garnishment can produce devastating collateral damage like divorce and homelessness. It should never be acceptable for this harsh remedy to be employed against people who never got their day in court or never owed the debt in the first place. Yet, with increasing frequency the media is reporting horror stories about poor people being garnished for debts they paid or never owed by a handful of billion dollar companies most people have never heard of. These companies, debt buyers, do exactly what their moniker implies. They buy debt. They buy debt in bulk for pennies on the dollar from creditors or other debt buyers. This industry has flooded state courts with lawsuits on defaulted credit obligations bought and sold in a number of unregulated markets. Fueled by Read More

Thank You, Alliance for Equal Justice

By | Advocacy, Legal Aid | No Comments

By: Michael Pellicciotti, Equal Justice Coalition Chair (2012-2015)

Dear the Alliance for Equal Justice Community:

Michael J. Pellicciotti Chair, 2012-2015

Michael J. Pellicciotti
Chair, 2012-2015

It has been an honor to serve as the Chair of the Equal Justice Coalition since December 2012, and I am proud of the work that we accomplished during this time to further access to justice in Washington.

Despite incredible challenges and attacks against public funding for civil legal aid, as a result of our talented staff and lobbyists, we were able to either maintain or increase funding each year at the local, state, and federal levels. Importantly, at all levels of government there is an increased respect by lawmakers for civil legal aid that will pay dividends in the coming years. Read More


Congressman Joseph Kennedy III Planning Access to Justice Caucus

By | Congress, Federal Funding, Legal Aid | No Comments

By: Richard Zorza, Attorney and Author of Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog

Congressman Joseph Kennedy III (D. Mass) told us in a speech at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences last week that he plans to launch an Access to Justice Caucus in the House of Representatives next year.

This is obviously an important additional step in the now rapidly building of a new national support network for access to justice innovation and resources.  It joins the Conference of Chiefs Resolution, the White House Presidential Memorandum on LAIR , the DOJ Access Initiative, and the Public Welfare Foundation’s access work, as very significant additions to the group of existing organizations that have previously been involved in this work. Read More


Innovations Funded to Improve Incarceration Outcomes

By | Beyond Bars, Criminal Justice, Grants, Legal Aid | No Comments

By: Andrea Axel, Director of Grant Programs at the Legal Foundation of Washington

The Legal Foundation of Washington recently made four $25,000 grants for groundbreaking projects to ameliorate harmful effects of mass incarceration in our state. Each grant will support a novel approach or collaboration designed to tackle problems that overwhelm people and families trying to rebuild their lives after incarceration. The projects described below will be underway this fall.

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Section 8 blog graphic

A “Golden Ticket” Doesn’t Guarantee Admittance

By | Food for thought, Housing, Legal Aid | No Comments

By: Eric Dunn, Attorney at the Northwest Justice Project

On September 29th, The Seattle-Times ran a compelling story about Seattle bartender Dana Disharoon and her struggle to find housing for herself and her family in Seattle with a “Housing Choice Voucher” (formerly known as a “Section 8 voucher”).  The somewhat ironic headline called the voucher her “golden ticket to landing a home,” while the story itself chronicled Ms. Disharoon’s frustrating interactions with landlords and property management firms, social service agencies, and other players in the leasing game.  And several of those experiences were particularly frustrating because they were legally dubious—if not blatantly contrary to law. So why can’t a participant of the Section 8 voucher program find housing? As demonstrated by Ms. Disharoon’s case, it’s because some people don’t play by the rules.  Read More


Join Goldmark Intern Ingrid Zerpa to Learn About Legal Financial Obligations

By | CLE, Legal Aid, Pro Bono | No Comments

By: Ingrid R. Zerpa, 2015 Goldmark Equal Justice Intern

Ingrid R. Zerpa, 2015 Goldmark Intern

Ingrid R. Zerpa, 2015 Goldmark Intern

As the 2015 Goldmark Equal Justice Intern, I had the privilege of working for 10 weeks with The STAR (Successful Transition and Reentry) Project in Walla Walla. As a legal intern, one of my main responsibilities was to educate attorneys, judges, and court administrative staff about the mandates of State v. Blazina, which addressed the burden of Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) on defendants. As the culminating project of my internship and in an effort to reduce the number of people who are unfairly burdened with LFOs that they cannot afford, I invite you to attend Legal Financial Obligations After Blazina – Best Practices.

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BMAC Volunteer Attorney Program: Changing Lives in Eastern Washington

By | Legal Aid, Pro Bono | No Comments

By: Katharine Nyden, Program Coordinator of Blue Mountain Action Council Volunteer Attorney Program

I have worked as the Program Coordinator at the Blue Mountain Action Council Volunteer Attorney Program for 3 years. In my work, I am constantly reminded of the positive impact civil legal aid services can have for individuals and families in our community. Cierra’s story is a perfect illustration of how our volunteer attorneys help empower our clients to improve their lives. Read More

CEH rare brief one time

Civil Legal Aid Meets Ending Homelessness in King County

By | Homelessness, Housing, Legal Aid | No Comments
By: Alex KF Doolittle, Executive Director of Seattle Community Law Center

I believe that homelessness is a symptom of poverty. Homelessness occurs to the most vulnerable among us, and yet, a lot of people are closer to homelessness than they think.  Depending on the source of the research, roughly one-third of Americans are just one paycheck away from the streets.  The reasons that people are homeless are many and varied, and this is where legal aid helps.  Loss of income, landlord disputes, and foreclosures are all examples of hardships that can cause one to become homeless, and they are all examples of civil problems that legal aid helps low-income people solve.

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