The Access to Justice (ATJ) Board works with many equity and justice partners across the state to organize a biennial conference that brings together judges, legal professionals, law students, civil legal aid lawyers, WSBA
leaders, and community members to learn, network and collaborate around equity and justice. This year’s conference,
“Racing to Justice: Community Lawyering to Bend the Arc,” is
being held in Yakima on June 2 - 4.
This will be the 19th ATJ conference. Planning for this year’s
conference is well underway with something for everyone,
whether you practice in the civil or criminal field, or whether
you are a community partner or member of the judiciary. Given
the new political landscape, this year’s conference will not be
business as usual. We will have opportunities to discuss issues
affecting our marginalized communities including immigrants,
LBGTQ, Muslims, and low-income people. We intend for this
THE ACCESS TO JUSTICE CONFERENCE
FROM AN ATJ CONFERENCE PARTICIPANT
When I think about the ATJ Conference, I think of a number of things that have significantly impacted my career and the work I do every day. I went to law school with the dream of being a public
interest attorney. I found out about the ATJ Conference through my internship at the
Center for Justice, and I attended as a 2L. I met great people and discovered a wealth of information.
Relationships I formed during that first conference set the stage for my being part of a panel on
veterans benefits at the ATJ Conference the following year. I believe my experience played a part
in getting my dream job as a Northwest Justice Project attorney.
After I began my legal career, I again had the opportunity to attend the ATJ Conference, where I
listened to a presentation by attorney Scott Crain, who was discussing a new way of delivering legal
aid – Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLP). His presentation rocked my world. I felt an MLP would be a great fit for Spokane
and began working toward that goal. As a result, Spokane now has the Health & Justice Initiative, which works with
fantastic partners like Providence Healthcare and on-site at locations such as the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic and
Eastern State Hospital to address health-harming legal needs, which reduces the cost of care and improves outcomes.
The ATJ Conference has also informed my work by discussing concepts like implicit bias. We all know that racial
disparity exists in the justice system; however, it is often difficult to form the ideas and find the right vocabulary to
discuss this challenging topic. The ATJ Conference provided me with concrete examples in unique ways, such as a
presentation on the shocking statistics of the school to prison pipeline that included accounts from men and women
with firsthand experience of the problem.
There have been countless fun and informal interactions that have allowed me to get to know my colleagues better.
I have enjoyed the fellowship of being in a conference center full of people that share my passion for equal access to
justice — not to mention getting the chance to bend the ear of an expert to help me with my cases. If you attend, maybe
you too can have the experience of meeting someone nice at breakfast and not realizing, until several minutes into the
conversation, that the nice person is a member of the Washington Supreme Court.
BARRY PFUNDT is a staff attorney with the Center for Justice in Spokane. He can be reached at email@example.com.
conference to be a game changer – not only in terms of how it
can impact you as an individual but also as a way for the legal
community to come together to protect and stand for justice.
Go to http://wa-atj.org/ for details and to register. If you
have any questions, contact Diana Singleton, WSBA Access to
Justice Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. NWL
ISHBEL DICKENS is a co-chair of the ATJ Conference planning
committee and a staff attorney with Columbia Legal Services.
She can be reached at email@example.com.
BETH LEONARD is a co-chair of the ATJ Conference planning
committee and an attorney at Catholic Community Services. She
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Ishbel Dickens and Beth Leonard
Coming Together to Stand for Justice