Justice in Motion — A reminder and a couple of updates

At the writing of this column the state legislature is kicking off its second special session, so at this moment, much still remains unknown. Since the budget has been (or is supposed to be) the primary focus, there has not been much movement on substantive legislation. The same can probably be said about the United States Congress.

On the state level, there are many programs that may be cut or eliminated, such as programs provided by Area Agencies for Aging, Dispute Resolution Centers, Office of Civil Legal Aid, etc. These are just some of the many programs that affect the clients for whom my organization provides services—other important programs are at risk as well. On the federal level, the State of Washington is starting to feel the pinch of sequestration as news unfolds about Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s impending furloughs of civilian jobs and the resulting ripple-effects to local commerce.

The reality is governments at the local, state and federal level have limited resources and many different opinions as to where and how the money should be spent. It is not appropriate for me to say what others should believe or support. This column is just to remind folks that we have a civic duty to let our local, state and federal governments know what we think. If there are services or programs from which you or someone you care about have benefited or that you think are important, this is the time to let our government representatives know what you think. If you don’t speak up now … don’t bother complaining about the outcome.

If you do not know how to contact your government representatives, go to:

Local: http://ghcog.org/members.htm—link to the county or municipalities’ websites

State/Federal: http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/—type in your address, select district type: “Legislative” (for state) or Congressional (for federal)

A quick legislative note:

One bill (Senate Bill 5568) of significance to those who have been victims of certain types of crimes passed and takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. This legislation prohibits tenant-screening companies from disclosing an individual’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or that the individual previously terminated a rental agreement pursuant to the Victim Protection Act (RCW 59.18.570 to .585).

And a P.S.:

In a similar vein, as you may recall in the March 2013 column, I wrote about a case being heard before the Washington Supreme Court (Jafar v. Webb, Case No. 87009-8). A fairly unnoticed little rule of court, General Rule (GR) 34, on which this case is based, may seem a bit esoteric to continue to mention, but this is about our fundamental rights. The court unanimously ruled, “GR 34 provides a uniform standard for determining whether an individual is indigent and further requires the court to waive all fees and costs for individuals who meet this standard. The rule was adopted to ensure that indigent litigants have equal access to justice. Any fees required of indigent litigants are invalid and must be waived under the rule.” The Jafar court cites the United State Supreme court, in Griffin v. Illinois, in which our highest court in the land stated, “[t]here can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.”

The opinion:

http://www.courts.wa.gov/index.cfm?fa=controller. managefiles&filePath=Opinions&fileName=870098.pdf

The oral argument:

www.tvw.org /index.php? option=com_ tvwplayer&eventID= 2013030001C.

GR 34 forms:

www.courts.wa.gov/ forms/ ?fa=forms. contribute&formID=87

To find out if you are eligible for Northwest Justice Project services:

For cases including youth (Individualized Education Program and school discipline issues), debt collection cases and tenant evictions, please call for a local intake appointment Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at (360) 533-2282 or toll free (866) 402-5293. No walk-ins, please.

For all other legal issues, please call our toll-free intake and referral hotline commonly known as “CLEAR” (Coordinated Legal Education Advice and Referral) at 1-888-201-1014, Mondays through Fridays 9:10 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. If you are a senior, 60 and over, please call 1-888-387-7111; you may be eligible regardless of income. Language interpreters are available. You can also complete an application for services at http://nwjustice.org/get-legal-help. Be sure to also check out our law library at: www.washingtonlawhelp.org.

Sarah Glorian is the senior attorney for the Aberdeen office of the Northwest Justice Project, a private, non-profit legal aid organization providing free representation to low-income residents in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.