Who We Serve
Some current and recent CLS Clients include:
· Foster children – CLS, along with a Bellingham law firm and the National Center for Youth Law, represents children who have been moved through three or more state foster care placements. In 2004, the children’s attorneys and the State crafted a settlement that will improve mental health treatment and many other conditions of life for foster kids for years to come. The settlement includes establishment of a five-member expert panel to oversee implementation. Since the settlement, CLS and our co-counsel have been representing the children in efforts to realize the promise of the settlement, through work with the panel and state officials, representation of children before the state legislature to obtain funding for implementation, and efforts to enforce the settlement in court. Click here for the text of the settlement. Click here for additional informatin about the case at braamkids.org.
· Child care workers – Agents of the state and federal governments - acting on incorrect information that child care workers were charging for children they did not care for – entered many Latina child care workers’ homes when children were present and impounded original records on the spot even though the workers should have been given time to produce the records. The State then claimed the records showed many charges for children not cared for, but through work by CLS and others the State finally withdrew claims of fraud. The workers, some represented by CLS and some by a Seattle law firm, sought compensation through a civil rights suit in federal court. CLS also represents all state-paid child care workers in seeking changes to the State’s investigative system.
· Low wage workers seeking payment – Lawyers are not available to represent the vast majority of those low-wage workers who are not paid or paid properly. On behalf of clients, CLS worked with other groups on legislation the Washington Legislature enacted in 2006, granting the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) authority to decide what wages are due and collect the wages for the worker, and to impose civil penalties on employers who willfully fail to pay wages due. The law allows either the employer or the worker to appeal to an administrative law judge if they disagree with L&I’s decision. Workers are not required to use the administrative system, and may opt to pursue wage claims in court instead. CLS also drafted community education materials about the new procedures. For more information about this program, click here.
· Low-wage workers on health issues - Until the 2005 heat-related death of a farm worker in the Yakima area, Washington had not adopted rules protecting outdoor workers from heat illness. CLS represented clients in two requests that the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) adopt rules to protect outdoor workers from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and similar illnesses. In response to the latest request, L&I in June 2007 adopted an emergency rule requiring at least a quart of drinking water per hour for workers at risk; procedures for responding to heat illness, including access to cooling areas and appropriate medical attention; and training for workers and supervisors on preventing heat illness. CLS continues to work for a permanent rule to protect the approximately 185,000 farm workers and low-wage workers performing construction and other outdoor labor.
· Seniors and people with disabilities – CLS, along with the Northwest Justice Project, helped to restore full coverage for in-home care for home-bound seniors and people with disabilities. A state agency issued a rule requiring that payments for in-home care for the thousands of people whose caregiver lives with them be reduced compared to payments for people whose caregiver comes from outside the home. The Washington Supreme Court held that this rule violated federal requirements. Click here for the Supreme Court’s opinion.
· Low-income People In Need of Guardianship Services - Guardianship services are frequently unavailable to thousands of poor people who need them. The lack of guardianship services can result in loss of income and essential services, avoidable institutionalization, and denials of due process. CLS represents clients and has been working with the Elder Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association and others interested in this issue. During the 2007 legislative session, the Legislature enacted a law providing for the first time for an Office of Public Guardianship administered through the Administrative Office of the Courts, and an initial appropriation for $1.48 million. Current work focuses on implementation of the legislation. Click here for more information.
· Food Stamp Recipients - Following a successful class action lawsuit involving the Washington State Combined Application Program (WASHCAP), CLS is now working with DSHS to increase food benefits going to about 40,000 people participating in this food stamp demonstration project. All of the WASHCAP participants receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments as their main source of income. As part of its 2007 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) plan, the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development agreed to provide energy assistance benefits through DSHS directly to all WASHCAP participants, which allowed these low-income households to receive more food benefits. This will increase food benefits for WASHCAP households by millions of dollars.
· Owners of manufactured housing – CLS represents many people who own the manufactured homes in which they live, but must rent the land the home sits on. They are protected by the Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act, but can’t afford lawyers to help them enforce the Act when there are violations. In 2007, CLS represented clients and worked with manufactured homeowners groups and other interested groups to persuade the Washington Legislature to establish an efficient low-cost administrative enforcement procedure overseen by the Office of the Attorney General. Under this system, the Attorney General will take complaints from manufactured/mobile home tenants or landlords, investigate, and attempt to negotiate an agreement. If there is no agreement, the Attorney General may issue a citation if there has been a violation. The violator must either request a hearing or take corrective action, and is subject to fines if no corrective action is taken. Click here for more information.
· Farm workers harmed by abuses in H-2A Guestworker Program – CLS, along with a Spokane law firm, represents workers harmed by a company that brought guestworkers into the Yakima Valley under the federal H-2A program. State and federal agencies found that the company violated numerous laws and rules of the federal program, including withholding state income tax when Washington has no state income tax; failure to comply with the basic requirements of state laws designed to protect workers; failure to make a good faith effort to hire local workers before bringing in outside workers; and other violations. The workers filed a federal civil rights suit and in late 2007 the federal court ruled in favor of the workers on many claims, followed by a jury verdict holding the company liable for over $300,000 in damages for discrimination and violation of labor laws.
· Prisoners in unacceptable conditions – The CLS Institutions Project represents people held in state prisons who are subjected to inhumane conditions, including mentally ill prisoners not receiving treatment, prisoners who are disabled who are not provided with adequate facilities, and prisoners subjected to sexual abuse by prison employees without adequate protection or investigation procedures. Click here for more information about the Institutions Project.
· People with developmental disabilites – CLS, along with Disability Rights Washington (DRW), represents several thousand people who are developmentally disabled who sued the State of Washington over the provision of Medicaid services that the State is obligated to provide this population. In late 2006, a settlement was negotiated that requires assessments of service needs, clear plans for service, rights to move to a higher level of service if needs require it, due process protections against unwarranted changes in or denial of services, and other protections. CLS and DRW are working over the next several years on implementation of the settlement. Click here for the text of the settlement.
· People subject to predatory lending practices – CLS is representing clients working to persuade Washington legislators to make the payday loan industry treat consumers more fairly. Currently, Washington allows payday loans with fees at the rate of $15 per $100, which on an average payday loan of $500 with a two-week term equals an Annual Percentage Rate of 390%. Some states have outlawed payday lending; others regulate payday lenders much more tightly than Washington, for example by: lowering the interest rate or Annual Percentage Rate; establishing a reasonable minimum loan term; and prohibiting roll-overs (inducing a consumer to take out a new loan to pay off the previous loan, resulting in escalating debt that often can’t be paid). Washington’s laws currently provide none of these protections.
· Victims of deficient public defense system – CLS, along with two private law firms and the ACLU, represents clients in implementing a settlement of their suit to improve public defense services. The county’s public defense system had resulted in unreasonably high caseloads, lack of investigation, and multiple judicial findings of ineffective assistance of counsel. Under the settlement, the county has agreed to limit caseloads, provided adequate supervision, and meet other national standards for adequate public defense. For the text of the settlement, click here.
Additional information - Click here to read issues of The CLS Connection, CLS’s twice-yearly newsletter, which tells the stories of other clients CLS has represented.