NJP News | Volume 3 | Issue 1
Our nation's commitment to equal justice is tested every day in ways big and small. Laws passed to protect our communities, to protect children, seniors, consumers, can mean nothing if people have no access to the courts and to attorneys who can ensure these laws are given effect. In civil cases, which touch almost every aspect of life, there is no right to an attorney. 

If you cannot afford an attorney, complicated court procedures and forms, not being able to speak English, or simply not knowing where to turn can result in terrible harm.  You can lose your home, suffer from unlawful debt collection or garnishment, or be unable to protect your family from family violence.  This is why civil legal aid is so important to communities across the state. 

This is why NJP is here: to secure justice and transform lives.  
Domestic Violence Protections Strengthened!

Strong legislative protections for victims and children suffering domestic violence are not enough when courts across the state are unwilling to provide the full protections available. For example, courts enter short term domestic violence protection orders and direct victims to other courts, despite having the power to enter year-long orders. This greatly increases the danger for victims of domestic violence.  Studies show an increased risk of homicide when victims are forced to engage in repeated and extended court appearances. In addition, courts have refused to protect all the children in the home, even when the mother testifies to her fears after suffering an assault. In one case, a court would not include a 2-year old because he was asleep during an assault and could not testify to being afraid.
NJP's goal is full protection for families and children and we are working statewide to change these dangerous practices. In a  recent   series of significant victories, NJP advocates have greatly strengthened protections for families across the state. Several Courts of Appeal decisions have sent clear instructions to trial courts that families must be fully protected - read a summary of these important cases here .
Medically Fragile Child Receives Care After Being Wrongfully Refused

Since birth, ten-year old Akela* has had to rely on a feeding tube for her nutrition, which requires regular care and monitoring. Late last year, her pediatrician refused to make appointments for her regular care because Akela's mother had not paid a medical bill for Akela's cousin! Akela's mother is a Laotian speaker with limited disability income. She had not been provided with translated documents and did not realize she had made herself responsible for the cousin's bills. Despite the best efforts of Seattle's Children's Hospital social work staff, the pediatrician refused to provide services and sent the bill to collection. NJP's Medical Legal Partnership took Akela's case and quickly forced the pediatrician to schedule necessary appointments. The pediatrician also wrote-off the entire debt, and agreed to provide a Laotian interpreter for all future communications with the family!  

*  Not the real name
Happy Ending to Abusive Collection Efforts

Gary* a Grays Harbor County senior called NJP's CLEAR*Sr line after receiving several threatening notices demanding payment for internet services he had cancelled months before. A CLEAR*Sr advocate contacted the collection agency to request proof of the debt and to ask the agency stop contacting Gary to collect the debt as required by law. But the collection agency contacted Gary again, in clear violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. CLEAR*Sr notified the collection agency that the penalty for the violation was more than the original $220 debt and offered to just settle the case if the account was marked paid. The collection agency refused and again called Gary to collect the debt in violation of law. CLEAR*Sr referred Gary to a private attorney who sued the collection agency in federal court. The collection agency quickly settled the court case by paying Gary $1,000, wiping the debt clean, and also had to pay substantial attorney fees.

*  Not the real name
Washington Legal Aid Community Statement On Race Equity

The Race Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) brought together a cross- section of Washington legal aid and access to justice organizations to  develop a way to help our community address racial inequities embedded in our justice system. REJI has issued a set of commitments to assist the legal aid community, and all individuals and organizations committed to equity and justice, align their values and actions to challenge racially biased policies, practices, and systems that disproportionately impact low-income communities of color.The REJI Commitments document, and additional information about the initiative and useful resources and tools to support this effort are available at the REJI website .
To learn more about our work contact Bryan Baker, Director of Development, like us on Facebook, and visit our website where you can access our annual reports and explore more of NJP. Also, please share NJP News with your friends and colleagues so they can join NJP in helping make equal justice a reality in Washington State.

C├ęsar E. Torres
Executive Director
Northwest Justice Project | 401 2nd Avenue South, Suite 407 | 206.464.1519 | nwjustice.org