The Washington State Bar Association, in partnership with law schools at Gonzaga University, Seattle University and University of Washington, will launch its statewide legal assistance program in Eastern Washington at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, July 25, in the Barbieri Courtroom at Gonzaga University School of Law (721 N. Cincinnati St.).
The program will provide assistance to moderate-income households that cannot afford the usual cost of legal assistance. Program leaders will discuss the Moderate Means Program, the people it will serve, the unique partnership with the state’s law schools and its students, and the hope for expanding access to justice statewide. Among those scheduled to attend the event are Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven González; Nancy Isserlis, City of Spokane attorney and a member of the WSBA Board of Governors; Gonzaga Law School Dean Jane Korn; and Spokane attorney Breean Beggs.
“The Moderate Means program is vital for our state. With so many people unable to afford legal assistance, programs like this provide great hope and meaningful access to justice where there was none, while enabling our judges to receive the information they need to make fair and just decisions,” said Justice Steven González. “It’s gratifying that we have so many lawyers and law students committed to serving those without access to affordable legal help through the Moderate Means program. These legal professionals exemplify the promise of justice provided in our constitution.”
Nearly 30 percent of Washington’s population falls into the moderate-income category, which equates to a household income between $46,100 and $92,200 for a family of four. Within this population, 75 percent of households experience a single legal problem each year, with 38 percent experiencing four or more legal problemsannually.
“We’ve seen the need for those unable to fully afford legal help grow significantly since the economic downturn. It’s those in the moderate-income category, which is between 200 and 400 percent of the poverty level, that have found it increasingly difficult,” said Isserlis. “This is a win-win program partnership with Gonzaga and our state’s two other law schools, with law students getting practical experience and practicing attorneys meeting the needs of a growing segment of our population.”
Dean Korn said Gonzaga Law School’s participation in the Moderate Means Program immerses its students in the important, personal legal challenges faced by moderate-income families throughout Washington state.
“Every day, our student volunteers hear the myriad ways that family law, consumer law, and housing law problems impact the lives of Washington residents. By listening to these needs and connecting eligible cases with reduced-fee attorneys to assist them, Gonzaga law students are providing much needed access to justice in our state. We are proud of their service.”
More than 400 attorneys statewide have signed up to offer reduced-fee services for the Moderate Means Program, with 48 Gonzaga Law students also volunteering since its inception. The primary areas of legal need are family, consumer, and housing law.