Justice Without Barriers Committee

Mission

Ensure a fully inclusive justice system by identifying and removing impediments to accessing and using the justice system, including physical, language, and communication barriers, and other barriers resulting from ineffectual and unworkable rules, complex procedures, disparate treatment, and any other obstacles that may serve as impediments to achieving equal and meaningful access to justice.

Current Goals and Initiatives

The Committee oversees the work of four sub-committees:

  • Pro Se Project: Members of this joint ATJ Board/Administrative Office of the Court initiative are working to complete the translation of the mandatory family law forms into plan language format.  Please review the ATJ Board’s annual report for a complete description of the project.
  • Electronic Access: This American Bar Association awarded the ATJ Board a 2013 Access to Justice Commission Expansion Grant to develop best practices to electronic access to court records.
  • Courthouse Facilitator Expansion: This subcommittee is charged with ensuring that the courthouse facilitator program is effective; and to consider its expansion to substantive areas beyond family law.
  • Administrative Justice: The charge is to identify, recognize and remove barriers to access to justice within the administrative systems with the goal of assuring a fair process and fair result for all.

History and Accomplishments

In 1996, the ATJ Board established two related committees: the Systems Impediments Committee, which was charged with identifying and removing impediments for people whose status makes it difficult or impossible to meaningfully access the justice system; and the Status Impediments Committee, charged with identifying judicial, legislative, and administrative systems impediments to access and recommending and implementing changes to those systems. In 2000, the ATJ Board consolidated these two committees into one standing committee, the Impediments to Access to Justice Committee. In recent years, the Impediments Committee has substantially focused its efforts on addressing barriers to the justice system for people with disabilities, which has resulted in three significant initiatives:

  • Ensuring Equal Access for People with Disabilities: A Guide for Washington Courts. This publication, and its accompanying brochure, are a resource for judicial officers and court staff to address the barriers posed by their own courthouses and court practices. They have been distributed to every judge, court administrator and administrative law judge in the state. The Committee has developed a PowerPoint presentation and has made numerous presentations about the Guide. 
  • GR 33: Adopted by the Supreme Court in 2007, the rule creates a process by which individual litigants can confidentially notify the court if they have disabilities. 
  • The Committee was instrumental in legislation that created an Access Coordinator position at the Administrative Office of the Courts. 

In May 2009, the ATJ Board established a priority to address barriers facing pro se individuals in the justice system. Given the similarity of focus between this Committee and the ATJ Board’s Pro Se Committee, the two committees have merged into the Justice Without Barriers Committee. The merged committee will continue with current initiatives; it also is overseeing the ATJ Board’s new Pro Se Project, a joint initiative with the Office of Administrative Hearings and the Administrative Office of the Courts, and which has been supported with funds from the Supreme Court.


Committee Co-Chairs

Hon. Greg Sypolt, Spokane County Superior Court
Josefina Ramirez, Northwest Justice Project

Staff Liaison
Joan Fairbanks
206-727-8282

About the Access to Justice Board