Claudia writes: (Sorry for the Richard Zorza delay here in publishing.)
The Access to Justice Board of WA State just adopted a new State plan for the Delivery of Legal Services for the 2018 to 2020 working period. It is is an impressive and timely plan that describes priorities to “expand access to our civil justice system and identify and eliminate barriers that perpetuate poverty and deny justice”. http://www.wsba.org/~/media/Files/Legal%20Community/Committees_Boards_Panels/ATJ%20Board/Home%20Page%20News/ATJ%20State%20Plan%20Final.ashx
This plan was developed taking empirical data and findings into account. http://ocla.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CivilLegalNeedsStudy_October2015_V21_Final10_14_15.pdf .
The goals for these next few years center around Goal #1: Race Equity.
This goal calls for all organizations providing civil legal services to create a shared awareness and understanding of what is needed to achieve race equity. As far as I know–this is the first time ever in the past 10 years-that a state planning documents puts race equity at the center of all of its goals. Removing disparate outcomes and aligning organizations’ race and equity justice goals will not be easy–but it an issue that cries out for attention, whose time has come, and that if done across systems will greatly reduce the disparities by race and ethnicity of negative outcomes and increase opportunities to achieve justice for all.
The other goals that reinforce goal #1 and each other are:
Goal# 2 Legal Awareness and Education
Goal #3 Access for Underserved communities
Goal #4–Holistic Client Centered Services
Goal #5–Systemic Advocacy
The most exciting part of this plan is that it is centered and anchored in conversations around race and equal opportunity–and brings back into our conversations race equity. Failure to focus our efforts on race equity and to have conversations about how race is determinative of most outcomes has led to drastic consequences for our society, our communities,and our system of justice.
Each goal has discussion, with specific strategies and implementation steps that each and every group can use to align their work and resources to achieve these goals.
Other groups doing state planning should take a look at the document–and consider if there are similar priorities in your state–based on needs and population and see if they could achieve consensus in tackling systematic race and equity issues as a priority for the next 3-5 years.
This Plan should inspire other states, Access to Justice Commissions, and legal services planners and planning groups, to have these needed conversations, look at the data in their states, and make commitments to understand and then tackle race based inequities in the our civil justice and legal system.
Congratulations to the Alliance for Justice of WA state, the Washington State Bar, OCLA and everyone who worked to complete a well thought out, innovative, and responsive state plan!
Thank you to all who worked for months on this and now give us this plan and these priorities. The end result is on target and inspiring.