NJP News | Volume 2| Issue 1
Greetings - Whether vindicating the rights of veterans and their families; ensuring care for medically fragile children; or helping to make the courts more accessible for unrepresented persons, NJP's legal aid advocates bring immediate and long lasting benefits to the lives of our neighbors and our communities every day.
Navy Veteran's Widow Spared Crushing Medical Debt!

Jim's dying wish that the VA fulfill its responsibility to pay for the private medical care he received for his service-connected cancer finally came true! Nearly five years after the Navy Veteran's death, the VA has agreed to pay more than $850,000 in medical bills, relieving his widow from the obligation to continue to making monthly payments.

NJP's Veterans Project Attorney Samantha Adams successfully represented Janice in her long-drawn out challenge of the VA's refusal to pay for the privately-provided health care on the basis that the services were not pre-authorized. In fact, Jim had notified the VA when he began treatment and kept the VA informed of his ongoing treatment. The VA also did not offer Jim any medical care. During the course of his treatment, the VA itself determined the mesothelioma was 100% service-connected. Ms. Adams successfully argued to the VA that the regulations clearly provide the VA with the authority to make payments or reimburse private health care providers for Jim's care.
Medically Fragile Children Win Major Federal Court Victory!

Medically fragile children across Washington will be able to receive private duty nursing care in their own homes and avoid care in high-cost institutions, group homes or hospitals, which is less beneficial to their health. In a lawsuit filed in September 2015 on behalf of five children, NJP argued that dozens of disabled children with complex health care needs languished in institutions because the Medicaid reimbursement rates set by the state Health Care Authority were so low it was impossible for the children's families to hire nurses to provide care and allow them to live safely at home. 

In early January, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart ordered the HCA to "take all actions within their power" to ensure five medically fragile children receive private duty nursing care in their own homes. See: Federal judge: State must get 'vent kids's' home, Seattle P.I. (1/8/16) and read the Court's ruling .
Supreme Court Hears Client Testimonials - Legal Aid Transforms Lives

On February 10, 2016 legal aid clients Tanikka Watford, Norm Carlson, Pamela Williams, and Tarra Simmons took part in a panel presentation to the full Washington Supreme Court. They each shared their personal story about the powerful impact legal aid services had in transforming their lives. Each recounted how access to legal representation made it possible to overcome tragic circumstances in their lives, allowing them to improve their lives and move forward by: overcoming a history of crippling domestic abuse and starting a new business; ensuring the safety of a thriving grandchild; having the opportunity to continue working in a caring profession, and even going on to attend law school. The presentation was transmitted live by TVW and you can watch it here (client testimony begins at about minute 41).

The panel was part of the presentation to the Supreme Court of the 2015 Civil Legal Needs Study Update, which graphically documents the extent and severity of civil legal problems facing low-income Washingtonians. Seattle University School of Law Professor John McKay facilitated the presentation by the Office of Civil Legal Aid, the clients' panel, and representatives of the Alliance for Equal Justice, including the Northwest Justice Project. 

Supreme Court Makes "Plain Language" Family Law Forms Mandatory

In a historic change, the Washington Supreme Court has adopted user-friendly "plain language" Family Law court forms that become mandatory statewide on May 1, 2016. Use of the plain language forms will make it much easier for individuals who are unable to afford an attorney to have access to the courts in family court cases.

Converting hundreds of family law court forms, and orchestrating their adoption was a highly complex project initiated by the Access to Justice Board's Pro Se Project that required hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours of effort by attorneys, court personnel and judges. Special thanks to Laurie Garber, NJP-Vancouver, who served as full-time staff for the multi-year project, and whose dedication and determination was the key to bringing this remarkable effort to a successful conclusion.  The new plain-language forms are available now on the Supreme Court's web site.
A.G. Requests Legislation To Create Statewide Relicensing Program

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has requested legislation to create a new statewide program to allow Washington drivers to set up consolidated, affordable payment plans to pay traffic-based fines and monetary obligations. According to the Washington Department of Licensing 380,000 drivers have suspended licenses, mostly as a result of traffic fines. It is especially difficult for a low-income individual to restore a suspended license due to hefty penalties, surcharges, interest and collection costs. In turn, people with suspended licenses have difficulty securing employment (making them less able to pay their fines), are unable to secure auto insurance, and face the risk of arrest when going to necessary medical appointments.

The proposed program would reduce the number of Washingtonians with suspended driver's licenses, lower court costs, and increase local revenue. For the past several years NJP has been focused on addressing barriers to employment, and specifically the problem of suspended drivers' licenses. NJP took on hundreds of individual cases, worked with municipal and district courts to improve license restoration locally, and collaborated with a broad range of stakeholders to highlight the extent and severity of the problem. Read the Attorney General's Press Release and listen to coverage from Northwest Public Radio.
To learn more about our work contact Bryan Baker, Director of Development, like us on Facebook, and visit our website where you can access our annual reports and explore more of NJP. Also, please share NJP News with your friends and colleagues so they can join NJP in helping make equal justice a reality in Washington State.
CÚsar E. Torres
Executive Director
Northwest Justice Project | 401 2nd Avenue South, Suite 407 | 206.464.1519 | nwjustice.org