History of the Access to Justice Board

The Access to Justice Board resulted from years of effort by members of Washington’s legal community.

Reports in the mid-1980s by two Washington State Bar Association pro bono task forces and the WSBA's Legal Aid Committee documented the massive growing needs. The WSBA's 1989–1990 Long-Range Planning Committee, chaired by William H. Gates Sr., in turn identified access to justice as the number-one issue facing the WSBA and sounded the alarm that the system as we know it would break down unless the legal needs of all people are addressed. Successive WSBA presidents Joe Delay and Steve DeForest carried that message to the WSBA Board of Governors, which established the WSBA's 1992–1993 Access to Justice Task Force, chaired by then-WSBA Governor Tom Chambers. The Task Force spent a year developing proposed solutions to the lack of continuity, coordination, and organization in the delivery of existing services and ultimately recommended the creation of the Washington State Access to Justice Board (ATJ Board), an autonomous body operating under the auspices of the WSBA, in accordance with authority granted by the Washington Supreme Court.

The Washington Supreme Court established the ATJ Board in 1994 by court order for a two-year evaluation period. The Court reauthorized the ATJ Board in November 1996 for an additional five years. On Nov. 3, 2000, the Supreme Court reauthorized the ATJ Board, making it permanent. The Court adopted amended Orders on April 20, 2010 and March 8, 2012.