Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinic

In 2005, the Pro Bono Committee of the Federal Bar Association of the Western District of Washington approached the King County Bar Association’s Neighborhood Legal Clinic Program with a proposal to pilot a federal legal clinic focused on an underserved population in our District – federal pro se litigants. In March 2006, under the direction of Tracy M. Morris, and the help of six dedicated volunteer attorneys, the Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinic was launched.The origins of the clinic date back to 2003, when an FBA-WDWA taskforce studied the availability of legal services for low-income civil litigants in federal court in this District. The taskforce identified several gaps in legal services and determined how best to address them. One such gap was the lack of a designated resource to assist pro se litigants with federal legal questions. The taskforce proposed that the FBA-WDWA establish a periodic federal legal clinic to assist this population with their unmet legal needs.

According to the taskforce’s findings, the majority of pro se cases filed each year are civil rights related, with particularly high numbers of employment and prisoner rights cases. While the District employed several pro se law clerks to handle pro se prisoner filings, and provided a comprehensive pro se handbook to assist such litigants, the District lacked a designated resource to directly assist individuals with their federal legal questions. The KCBA, along with local government agencies, handled some of the non-prisoner caseload, but the service gap remained.

With the support of then-FBA-WDWA President Valerie L. Hughes, and in partnership with the KCBA, the clinic was created to channel much of this overflow to one location where competent and free federal legal guidance could be provided. Over 600 clients later, the clinic is fulfilling its mission. For almost ten years, the Clinic has provided legal advice to clients with employment discrimination, disability, housing, prison misconduct, and excessive force claims.

Navigating the federal courts can be daunting for even the most sophisticated legal practitioner, and for the many pro se litigants in our District who seek access to our courts, the system can seem impenetrable. By providing limited legal representation together with self-help materials, the Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinic is able to make a difference in the lives of an underserved population.

The Clinics are now located in the United States District Courts in both Seattle and Tacoma. The Seattle Clinic is open the first four Thursdays of each month and the Tacoma Clinic is open the first Thursday of each month.

Contact Information:
For additional information about the Seattle Clinic, or to schedule an appointment, please call: 206.267.7070. Phone lines are open Tuesday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.

For additional information about the Tacoma Clinic, or to schedule an appointment in Tacoma, please call: 253.572.5134. Phone lines are open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 1:15 pm to 4:00 pm.

Clinic Purpose: The Federal Civil Rights Legal Clinics offer free, limited legal advice and referrals to King and Pierce County residents. The Clinic focuses on Washington State residents who are contemplating filing or have already filed legal actions in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington and who are encountering challenges accessing our legal system. The Clinic is accessible regardless of a one’s disability or fluency in English. The Clinic works in partnership with the King County Bar Association’s Neighborhood Legal Clinic Program as well as Tacoma’s Volunteer Legal Services to provide access to the courts.


Northwest Justice Project CLEAR Hotline

If you are low-income, you can call the the Northwest Justice Project’s toll-free hotline, CLEAR (Coordinated Legal Education, Advice and Referral), Monday-Friday from 9:15 am to 12:15 pm at 1-888-201-1014 to see if you qualify for legal advice or assistance. 

In addition, seniors age 60 or over may call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of income. Assets limits may apply. Seniors in King County may call 2-1-1.

If you are eligible for their services, your call will be forwarded to an attorney or paralegal for an in-depth interview to assess your legal problem, and be provided advice and immediate assistance if possible. In addition, NJP will determine if you need additional legal help and try to arrange further assistance. Help may be provided by phone and electronically, or you may be referred to a local NJP field office or other legal services program for more help.

NJP CLEAR attorneys will often help a caller by preparing court papers, negotiating on your behalf, and otherwise advocating for you. Read more about Calling CLEAR.