Ensuring equal access by providing free legal assistance to those in need
The Metropolitan King County Council today proclaimed the week of October 23rd as “Celebration of Pro Bono Week” in honor of all attorneys who provide free legal service to maintain equal justice under the law.
“As a proud member of the Washington State Pro Bono and Legal Aid Committee, this is an issue that is near and dear to my heart,” said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “It is so important to maintain equal access to justice and an essential part of that are lawyers who volunteer their time. We honor that sacrifice today.”
While lawyers are provided in criminal proceedings, low income people frequently don’t know about resources available to them in civil cases. Whether it be landlord-tenant disputes, domestic violence cases, child support, home foreclosures or bankruptcies, low income people don’t use the court system because they don’t have access to representation.
“In these challenging economic times, the Washington State Bar Association is grateful that the King County Council recognizes the importance of providing justice for all, including our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Michele Radosevich, President-elect of the Washington State Bar Association and Partner at the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine. We join the council in celebrating the pro bono work of Washington lawyers to provide critical legal help to those in need.”
In 2010, over 5,000 attorneys volunteered over 75,000 hours of free legal assistance to over 20,000 low-income individual and families. Organizations such as the Alliance for Equal Justice, the Access to Justice Board and the Washington State Bar Association’s Pro Bono and Legal Aid Committee are working to expand legal aid programs and provide legal representation to all those who need it.
WHEREAS, although defendants in criminal cases are provided a lawyer, four out of five low-income people living in Washington are unable to get legal help for civil proceedings, no matter how important the issue; and
WHEREAS, in civil proceedings like landlord-tenant disputes, protection for survivors of domestic violence, child support, home foreclosures, and bankruptcies, the number of people without legal assistance has soared; and
WHEREAS, civil legal aid programs in Washington are overextended and deluged with requests, even as the funding for these programs is declining; and
WHEREAS, the Alliance for Equal Justice, in partnership with the state Supreme Court, the Access to Justice Board, the Washington State Bar Association’s Pro Bono and Legal Aid Committee, the corporate counsel community and many others, is working to expand the provision of volunteer legal aid; and
WHEREAS, all attorneys licensed in Washington State are encouraged to provide at least 30 hours of free legal services annually to those unable to acquire legal counsel; and
WHEREAS, in 2010, over 5,000 attorneys volunteered their time, contributing over 75,000 hours of free legal assistance to over 20,000 low-income individuals and families; and
WHEREAS, during October 23-29, bar associations, the justice system, government and corporate entities, and communities across the county recognize pro bono legal work and the positive impact it has on people struggling to survive poverty;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, hereby proclaim October 23-29, 2011, as
CELEBRATION OF PRO BONO WEEK
in King County to honor those who provide volunteer legal service and encourage all attorneys to assist in realizing our Constitution’s commitment to equal justice under the law.
DATED this twenty-fourth day of October, 2011.