Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
Civil justice out of reach for most low-income residentsOctober 13, 2003
An overwhelming majority of low-income residents in Washington get little or no help with serious legal problems involving such basic needs as housing, family safety and employment, according to a ground-breaking study commissioned by the Washington State Supreme Court’s Task Force on Civil Equal Justice.
The Washington State Civil Legal Needs Study, received recently this month by the Supreme Court, reveals an alarming lack of access to legal services for the state’s most vulnerable residents, with findings that have significant implications for the state’s justice system, say task force members involved in the study.
“The most troubling aspect of the survey is that unmet civil legal needs disproportionately affect women and children in our society,” said Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles W. Johnson, Co-Chair of the Task Force. “The study serves as a wake up call for all of us who believe in our democracy’s promise of equal justice under the law.”
The study is the first of its kind in state history, commissioned after the state Supreme Court established the Task Force on Civil Equal Justice Funding in November, 2001. The Task Force was created to assess whether the state’s poor and vulnerable residents have meaningful access to the civil justice system, to learn the consequences of poor access, and to develop recommendations for improving access.
The study involved three parts — An in-depth field survey of 1,300 low-income residents across the state by researchers from Portland State University; a random telephone survey of 800 residents by Washington State University’s Social and Economic Research Services Center; and a series of interviews with stakeholders such as judges, attorneys, court personnel, social service providers and legal service providers.
According to their findings:
The Task Force on Civil Equal Justice will use the study findings to complete the second part of its mission, to develop recommendations for improving access to the civil justice system for the state’s low-income and vulnerable residents.
CONTACTS: Task Force Co-Chair Justice Charles W. Johnson, Washington Supreme Court 360-357-2020; Task Force Co-Chair Chief Judge Mary Kay Becker, Court of Appeals Division One 206-464-7656.
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