The 2015 study was conducted by
the Office of Civil Legal Aid under the
auspices of the Supreme Court’s special
Civil Legal Needs Update Committee,
an 11-member committee chaired by
Justice Charles Wiggins. The Social and
Economic Sciences Research Center at
Washington State University conducted
the study with rigorous protocols and
systems to produce reliable results.
In summary, the new study tells us
that approximately 70% of low-income
individuals have civil legal problems,
that 82% of those are not served, and
that these folks actually have more issues now than in 2003, with an average
of 9. 3 problems a year. It is clear that not
enough improvement is being made.
The Message of Need for Help
Beyond the statistics, to say that the
study’s findings are sobering is an understatement. The 2015 update tells us
that low-income Washingtonians face
daunting problems at levels and across
a set of problems well beyond the traditional areas of family law, landlord-tenant, and debt collection. These
problems affect every aspect of life.
I encourage you to read the study
(found at www.ocla.wa.gov/reports).
Here are a few of the most significant
• The most common legal problems
have changed since the 2003 study.
Healthcare, consumer/finance, and
employment now represent the
three areas with the highest per-
centage of legal problems.
• Who you are matters when it comes
to whether, what type, and how
many problems you are likely to experience. Race, ethnicity, and other
personal characteristics affect the
number and types of problems, the
degree to which people experience
discrimination or unfair treatment,
and the degree to which legal help
• Victims of domestic violence and
sexual assault are some of the highest number of problems per capita
( 19) of any group.
• Significant percentages of low-income households experience unfair treatment on the basis of their
credit histories, prior involvement
with the juvenile or adult criminal
justice system, and/or their status
as a victim of domestic violence or
• A majority of low-income people do
not understand their problems have
a legal dimension that would benefit from civil legal aid.
• Most low-income people have limited confidence in the state’s civil
The Challenge to Each of Us
The study results present a direct and
immediate challenge to each one of us,
both individually as attorneys and as a
profession. We hold fast to the notion
that civil society must adhere to a set
of commonly accepted rules, processes, and procedures. We are a nation of
Congratulations from your colleagues
and friends at Lukins & Annis!
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