OLYMPIA – Starting next month, certain landlords and tenants will be eligible to receive free legal help when they have disputes before Thurston County Superior Court. Thanks to pro-bono assistance from the Thurston and Mason County Volunteer Legal Clinic, low income eligible parties may now have representation from an attorney when they appear on the Unlawful Detainer Calendar.
Under the new program, an announcement regarding the legal assistance will be made when the court convenes at 10 AM each Friday. A staff person from the Legal Clinic will help decide who is eligible for representation and those clients can then meet with counsel. Scott Douglas with the Clinic says a lot of people have come together to make the service available. "We've seen a great response from the legal community in support of the Housing Justice project. The judges and court personnel at Superior Court have been very helpful and supportive of our efforts, and we have had more than three dozen volunteer attorneys and legal professionals sign up to provide legal assistance to low-income clients with housing law issues."
Douglas says legal assistance can really be important for people who cannot afford an attorney and have housing-related issues before the Court. "The involvement of a volunteer attorney in cases like this can make the difference between whether a client becomes homeless or not, and can really help clients protect their future ability to find rental housing, as well as their credit history."
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham says the program has the potential to reduce the time spent in court by both landlords and tenants providing a benefit to both parties and the court itself. "This project would not have been possible without the support of the private bar and the many lawyers who are willing to donate their time and expertise. It's gratifying to see how many people in this community support access to justice for all members of the community."
The free legal assistance will be offered for the first time on the Unlawful Detainer Calendar the morning of Friday, October 5th.