Recognizing the efforts of volunteer attorneys to increase access to justice
The Metropolitan King County Council today proclaimed the week of October 25–31 as “Celebration of Pro Bono Week” in honor of those who volunteer their time pro bono to provide legal services to individuals and families in need.
“As an attorney in private practice I worked on a number of pro bono cases, including cases on behalf of domestic violence survivors,” said proclamation co-sponsor Councilmember Rod Dembowski. “This firsthand experience gave me a deep appreciation for the tireless work done by pro bono attorneys on behalf of our most vulnerable. Our justice system is better for everyone, as a result of their efforts and dedication.”
“Pro Bono week recognizes the meaningful work of serving the underserved,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, co-sponsor of the proclamation. “As a past member of the Washington State Bar Association Pro Bono and Legal Aid Committee, I am proud that the Council supports a celebration of increased access to justice.”
In 2014, over 68,000 hours of volunteer legal help was provided to over 28,000 individuals and families. According to a pre-recession civil legal needs study commissioned by the Washington Supreme Court, three out of four low-income Washingtonians face a civil legal problem every year, but more than eighty percent of them face those problems without any legal help or representation.
Law schools throughout the state have developed a strong culture of service through pro bono programs that help provide their students gain real world experience. Private firms offer support to legal aid organizations through partnerships that encourage pro bono – which the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) and the King County Bar Association promote.
“This week is an opportunity to recognize the King County-based organizations and hundreds of attorneys who volunteer their free time to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community have equal access to justice,” said Michael Pellicciotti, Chair, Equal Justice Coalition. “No one should be denied access to basic rights simply because they don't have an attorney. The King County Council has been a great partner in ensuring access to justice exists for our community.”
King County has stepped up to support legal services in recent years due to declining federal support and stagnant state funding. The County’s role has enabled legal aid organizations to leverage support through unique partnerships.
WHEREAS, our justice system is founded on the fundamental principles of equity and fairness for all, and pro bono services grant individuals access to legal representation regardless of their means; and
WHEREAS, nearly three in four Washington residents face urgent civil legal issues each year, including issues related to health care, consumer and financial services, domestic violence, divorce, child custody, foreclosure, eviction, and abuse, but less than 25 percent receive legal assistance; and
WHEREAS, access to legal assistance can improve economic security and personal safety, protect civil liberties, and lead to a more just society; and
WHEREAS, legal services agencies, pro bono service programs, law-schools, the American Bar Association, Washington State Bar Association, King County Bar, local county bar associations, and private firms throughout the state have enlisted the services of volunteer attorneys to address the legal needs of low-income people; and
WHEREAS, all attorneys licensed in Washington State are encouraged to provide at least 30 hours of free legal services annually to those unable to acquire legal counsel; and
WHEREAS, in 2014, Washington attorneys provided over 68,000 hours of volunteer legal help to over 28,000 individuals and families, with about a third of these hours being provided by law school students at the University of Washington and Seattle University while pursuing their degree;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, hereby proclaim the week of October 25-31, 2015, as
|PRO BONO WEEK
in King County to honor and thank the attorneys who volunteer their time and expertise to provide legal services to those in need.
DATED this twenty-sixth day of October, 2015.