Monday, June 18, 2007

ATJ Conference Report

Michele Storms, the Executive Director of the UW's William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholarship Program, offers this report from the Washington State Access to Justice Conference held earlier this month:

Valuing Leadership: Ensuring Justice for All was the theme of this year's 12th annual Washington State Access to Justice Conference, held June 1-3 in Wenatchee.

A joint effort of the Access to Justice Board and the WSBA Bar Leaders Division, the conferences began as a way for the legal community to come together to support the delivery of civil legal aid in this state. Through the recommendations for the conference each year, new initiatives have been developed to enable advocates to deliver better services to low income people in their serious legal cases. An example is the work community leaders have accomplished to develop a "state plan" for delivery of legal services. The most recent state plan focuses much-needed attention on the underserved needs of the low income individuals residing in the rural communities across the state.

The conference keynote speaker this year was John McKay who spoke honestly about his experiences as the US Attorney for the Western District of Washington. He spoke of the meaning of the rule of law and why we must all strive as lawyers to ensure that justice trumps politics.

The conference has always been attended by lawyers, judges, mediators, court staff, social workers and more. But this year a noteworthy aspect of the conference was the strong participation of law students. There were 22 law students present this year; their presence was jointly funded by the three law school deans in this state and by the Legal Foundation of Washington. Brenda Tausch (UW JD '07) stated, "My experience at the ATJ not only provided me with meaningful information about exciting new legal initiatives, but also indispensable contacts with leaders in the field and with fellow law students who will form the next generation of leaders."

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