Clallam-Jefferson County Pro Bono Lawyers Programs
We provide three programs to serve low-income residents with civil legal needs: Legal Representation by Volunteer LawyersOur staff recruits lawyers who are willing to donate their time. We have compiled a panel or "bank" of attorneys who are willing to volunteer, listing their specialty and their availability. We ask that all potential clients complete a phone intake with the CLEAR line. Operated by Northwest Justice Project this program stands for C
dvice and R
eferral. CLEAR determines eligibility (low-income and case type) and creates a detailed intake for each client, which is emailed to us. Typically, we receive about 650 CLEAR referrals. 83% of these referrals involve family law matters, but we also have collection cases, cases involving warranties, cases with employment issues, guardianship cases, cases involving employment issues, and clients who need wills.
Community Office and Outreach Services
- Direct representation – Volunteer Lawyer’s (VL's) represent clients in all aspects of their cases, such as eviction, adoption or guardianship. We match clients with available lawyers and usually in this situation clients meet directly with lawyers in their own offices.
- Bundled Services – VL's offer in court support or support in a single area of a case.
- Brief Assistance - VL’s make phone calls, review court forms or write letters for clients.
- Consultation and Advice- VL's provide 30 minute appointments with clients at legal clinics in our community office. We try to average 20 appointments a week. Each year, VL's provides about 900 appointments for clients.
We have an office in Port Angeles, which is conveniently located for our clients. Individuals are welcome to drop by, call the CLEAR line, make appointments, pick up paperwork or use our free office resources. Approximately1,500 walk-in visits and phone calls are handled by staff and non-attorney volunteers each year.
Courthouse Facilitator Program
- Advice clinics are held at our office, with 20 available appointments each week where clients meet with clinic volunteer lawyers in our office. typically, 8 VL's provide about 900 legal clinic appointments, which adds up to more than 500 hours of volunteer service.
- Free legal forms with hands-on assistance filling them out. Filing and service assistance is also provided. Non-attorney advocates donate about 900 volunteer hours assisting clients in filling out and copying their paperwork for court.
- Emergency help. Potential clients can walk in with emergency matters and get immediate help for such things as protection orders and writs to return children.
- Client Intake. Assistance with calling CLEAR our state-wide intake phone line.
- Referral to other support programs ie, housing, mental health, drug evaluations.
- Participate in community information fairs such as Veteran Standdowns and the "Homeless Connect Expo."
- Distribution in the community of legal information pamphlets.
- Resources and presentations for parenting classes and other educational forums.
- Member of the state Access to Justice planning team for the Clallam and Jefferson County region.
We fund and operate the Clallam Superior Court facilitator services. We employ a well trained and experienced courthouse facilitator who assists about 500 people yearly, many who make up to 3-4 return visits.
- On site assistance for family law litigants. The facilitator's office is down the hall from the family courtroom.
- Selection and assistance with completion of court forms and the of calculation of child support.
- Information about court procedures filing and service.
- Attendance at hearings to assist the court with unrepresented clients.
- Referral to Pro Bono Lawyers and Northwest Justice Project.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Clients have come to us wanting to legally change their criminal histories. As personal data "mining" and information systems have become more sophisticated, the working poor with criminal histories have been caught without options. Individuals who have old felony records now find that employers and landlords can easily run background checks that identify their criminal histories and then deny employment or housing.
These clients are most often the heads of household with children. Often they have completed recent job training, such as truck driving, health care training or flagging. They are devastated to find that their old mistakes such as drug, assault or theft convictions can now keep them from supporting their families.
Washington State law allows, in some circumstances, offenders to "vacate and seal" their convictions. This is a complicated and time consuming process; too complicated for our clients to complete without an attorney and too expensive for them to afford their own private attorney.
We have a handbook for clients and legal advocates for vacating and sealing criminal records. At that same time, we developed a procedure for our clients to use to complete this process. Pro Bono Lawyers have been able to assist 2 women and 7 men in vacating and sealing their felony convicts. “I feel like a real person, again,” said one man with tears in his eyes. “I’m just as good as anybody else,” said a man who was then able to get a living wage job as a truck driver. I can finally take care of my family,” a single native mom with three children said.
While waiting in court with clients as they complete their last step in the
process, the wait can be up to 2 hours, as we see a parade of men and women led into court in orange jumpsuits and shackles to see the judge. Finally, our client’s name will be called and sometimes they will stand before the same judge that sentenced them 10 years ago. I am always impressed with the emotion of this action, when a superior court judge has the pleasure of restoring a “felon” into a valued member of society.
A Current Need
PBL’s challenge is providing permanent, long-term assistance for our Executive Director so she can focus on PBL’s leadership functions and provide the planning for PBL’s long-term goals. Paralleling this challenge is the challenge of sustaining our administrative assistant position after our proposed grant funding ends. A PBL board member is responsible for a solution. An opportunity exists to partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula (BGCOP) which operates a large Club in Sequim, including its Administrative Offices, and a smaller Club in Port Angeles. In the past, all of BGCOP’s largest fund-raising activities have been held in Sequim. These have included its annual Auction and Dinner, and its annual Golf Tournament. BGCOP fund-raiser accounts for 31% of their yearly operating budget. This year, the BGCOP opened a new Tween and Teen Center in Port Angeles, which requires renovation and equipment for the growing tween/teen Port Angeles population which attend their Port Angeles unit. BGCOP is seeking additional local (Port Angeles) financial support to sustain the Tween/Teen Center. The Pro Bono Lawyers office is located in downtown Port Angeles, which makes it “centrally located” to partner and assist with a large fund-raising event in Port Angeles. Pro Bono Lawyers could contribute the “army of volunteers” required to successfully hold a large event. The goal of the fund-raising event is to become a yearly combined source of revenue for both of the non-profit organizations. A larger group of attendees could also occur – those who support the low-income children of the BGCOP, and those who support the low-income families in need of the Pro Bono Lawyers, thus increasing the potential amount event revenue. This win-win partnership is underway. It is anticipated that such a large combined fund-raising event would sustain PBL’s yearly expenses for a paid, half-time administrative assistant.