Washington State has a long history of civil legal aid programs providing all forms of legal representation for all low-income people. For over thirty years, low-income people in Washington have had access to all of the legal forums to which the clients of other lawyers have access. Beginning In the mid-1990’s, these values of justice for all and justice for low-income people in all forums were made explicit through the formation of the Access To Justice Board and the ATJ Board’s statement of important values in the Hallmarks of an Effective Statewide Civil Legal Services System. The ATJ Board has also provided a roadmap for provision of services in the State Plan For The Delivery Of Civil Legal Aid to Low Income People (the “State Plan”).
CLS was formed in 1996 through a merger of Evergreen Legal Services, Puget Sound Legal Assistance Foundation, and Spokane Legal Services Center as part of the State Plan process. Since CLS’s founding, a primary mission has been to express those parts of the Hallmarks that state that all groups of low-income people shall have access to civil legal services and that all legal options shall be available for low-income people. For the CLS Mission Statement, see About CLS. For information about our work and examples of past and current CLS cases, see Our Work.
CLS is part of the Alliance for Equal Justice, an alliance of all providers of civil legal services to low-income people operating under the principles of the Hallmarks and the State Plan. As provided in the current State Plan, CLS's main roles in the Alliance “are to make sure that all forms of representation are available to clients, including class actions; that clients are able to meaningfully participate in proceedings affecting their legal rights in local, state and federal legislative and administrative regulatory bodies; and that no population or group of low income people is denied access to the civil justice system.”