Equal Justice Victory, WA Contemplative Lawyers & Debtors’ Prison Film

Northwest Justice Project Announces Equal Justice Victory

NJP LogoJuly 23, 2014–By César E. Torres

In a major victory for Limited English Proficient (LEP) communities and access to justice for Workers Compensation claimants, DOJ/DOL have found that L&I policies, practices, and procedures are inconsistent with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and implementing regulations and L&I grant obligations.  DOJ/DOL issued a 33 page decision in response to a complaint filed by NJP on behalf of 8 limited English proficient workers claiming denial of language access by the Department of Labor and Industries – Insurance Services Division.

 

The DOJ/DOL investigation found violations including, the failure (a) to take specific steps to develop, assess, and monitor its Language Assistance Program; (b) to adequately identify the language needs of claimants; (c) to assess the competency and quality of its interpretation services; (d) to ensure that all claimants are provided vital documents and information in a timely manner in a language they can understand, and (e) provide adequate notice of LEP claimants of available language assistance services. Specifically, DOJ/DOL decided that L&I needs to translate vital documents into languages other than Spanish, including Russian, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and “a few” of the other more frequently encountered languages.  The list of vital documents required to be translated is extensive. 

 

This is a huge victory for all LEP workers in Washington and a major step to obtaining better and more just access to this important worker benefit system, particularly after the Kustera cases, in which the Washington Supreme Court rejected an array of language protections for LEP claimants in the L&I hearing process.  L&I has agreed to work toward developing an adequate language access program with appropriate monitoring and negotiations are underway. 

 

Congratulations to NJP attorneys Kelly Owen, Senior Attorney-Bellingham, Leticia Camacho, NJP-King County, and Patrick Pleas, NJP-Wenatchee, who filed and litigated the extensively documented complaint three years ago, with assistance from Kristi Cruz, NJP-CLEAR. 

 

Working in Downtown Seattle this Summer? Don’t Miss the WA Contemplative Lawyers Group!

Mindfulness Present Moment logoA growing number of legal professionals across the nation are applying mindfulness-based skills and training to lawyering. Read more about us here.

Monday Mid-Day Guided Meditation for Legal Professionals

Mondays (except holidays) from 12:00 pm – 12:50 pm at the WSBA offices (1325 Fourth Ave; 11th floor) in downtown Seattle. Please arrive at 11:50 am as we start the sit promptly at 12 pm. No experience required. No charge. Just an opportunity to practice mindful meditation together at the beginning of the work week.

Learn more here.

 

New Film Decries The Return Of Debtors Prisons

Saki Knafo, Huffington Post

Over the past decade, towns and counties across the United States have been locking up a growing number of people for failing to pay their debts. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Brennan Center for Justice documented the practice in 2010, and Human Rights Watch released the results of its own investigation earlier this year.

Critics have decried the return of the debtors prison, the reviled institution of Charles Dickens’ day. Now, a short documentary, “To Prison for Poverty,” sheds light on a particularly contentious aspect of the story.

In Alabama, Georgia, and other Southern states, many local governments have signed contracts with “private probation” companies — for-profit firms that specialize in collecting fees and fines from people who owe the courts money for low-level infractions, usually traffic-related. Halli Wood, an unemployed 17-year-old from the small town of Columbiana, Alabama, told Brave New Films she was placed on probation with one of the largest of these companies, Judicial Correction Services, or JCS, after she couldn’t come up with the money to pay off a seat belt ticket.

Read the full article and watch part 2 of the film here.