Civil Rights Law Section

Civil Rights Section LogoApproved by the WSBA Board of Governors in December 2008, the Civil Rights Law Section invites you to become a member. Section membership is open to any active member of the WSBA, as well as specially admitted members such as emeritus, military, or foreign house counsel. Inactive attorneys, law students, and non-attorneys are encouraged to join as non-voting members.

The Civil Rights Law Section sponsors CLEs on civil-rights law and provides a forum for activities with civil-rights organizations throughout the state. The Section focuses on the practice and policy of civil-rights law, which includes the rights of racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual-orientation minorities, immigrants, those with a mental or physical disability, the impoverished, and the homeless; freedom of speech; freedom from state-promulgated religion; and privacy rights.

The Section developed out of the WSBA Civil Rights Committee, which had been a standing committee since the Bar was formed in 1933.

Hello, this is Daniel Gallagher. I am the current Secretary of the Executive Committee for your Civil Rights Law Section. In that role I am responsible for keeping the minutes for our monthly meetings and updating the website. 

Thank you for choosing to be a member of our section. The section is growing and it is a very exciting time to be a member. It's fair to say that our civil rights are being challenged as local and national security concerns confront community members. From the federal Patriot Act to use of force by police, especially against minorities from New York to Seattle, Miami to L.A. Sadly, racism is not a thing of the past, but when it comes in the form of authority — under the color of law — it can have lethal effect. We can recognize the important role policing plays in our society and we honor those who perform their duties with dignity and respect for the public as they investigate why people are injured or even die in police custody. This is just one of the timely issues that will be addressed at our September CLE. I hope you can attend.   

Executive Committee Meeting

On April 29, 2016, the Executive Committee of the Civil Rights Law Section met and engaged in further discussion about a CLE to take place in September. Likely CLE subject matter includes: discrimination in schools, which is reflected by disproportionate discipline or sanctions as a result of race or disability; excessive, race-motivated force by police; discrimination against Muslims, immigrants and refugees; civil rights and communities of color; the ADA at 25 years; the application of religious belief exceptions to anti-discrimination laws. Please drop us a line if you have comments or suggestions about the 2016 CLE topics. The Executive Committee encourages all section members to jump in the pool, the water is great!  

The LGBT section seeks speakers for a June 27 program. Shanthi Raghu of the WSBA Continuing Legal Education Department attended the Executive Committee meeting and asked for support from a real estate lawyer and someone with experience in LGBT adoptions for their program panel.  Please let us know if you, or someone you know, fits the bill and is interested in contributing. 


The Executive Committee voted on recipients for the 2016 Civil Leader Award, the Distinguished Leader Award, and the Civic Leader Award. The committee believes it is important to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of community members who make a positive impact on the preservation and extension of our civil rights. We expect to announce the award winners at our September CLE. 

Outreach-Networking Event for New Lawyers

The Civil Rights Law Section will host a networking event for new lawyers on June 23. The Executive Committee believes it can be a great benefit to young or new lawyers to meet more experienced folks (not 'old') to hobnob and discuss the ups and downs of practicing law, particularly regarding how young lawyers can impact civil rights in their professional pursuits. Beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres will be available. The likely venue is Blue Acre Seafood, 6–8:30 p.m. Please mark your calendars now; you will receive an email with details once confirmed. Although lawyers with decades of experience are most welcome, those with five to 10 years of experience are highly desired for their recent experience coming out of law school.

Thank you!

The issues we deal with in the Civil Rights Law Section are important, timely, often painful, and usually pretty hard. We honor all of our WSBA brothers and sisters who have worked in any capacity affecting the civil rights of their community and clients. My guess is that means pretty much each and every one of you.  Thanks again to our current members, and please feel encouraged to join us for our September CLE even if you're not yet a member. I guarantee you will not be bored.  


Honoring a Legacy

The WSBA Civil Rights Law Section Honors the Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The mission of the Civil Rights Law Section is to educate and advocate for civil liberties and equal rights in the context of the legal issues of Washington state residents. Included in the statement are highlights of how the section is advocating their mission in 2015-2016.

Read the full mission statement released by the WSBA Civil Rights Executive Committee.

2013 Awards

The WSBA Civil Rights Law Section's Civil Rights awards were presented at the Section's annual event on Sept. 13, 2013. Nominations were received, and the following individual and group were voted as recipients of this year's awards.

Distinguished Service Award: 
Hon. Charles V. Johnson (retired)

Left to right: Corbett Gordon, Section Executive Committee; Judge Charles V. Johnson, Distinguished Service Award recipient; Lembhard Howell, Keynote Speaker; Alec Stephens, Section Executive Committee Trustee 


Civic Leader Award 
Washington United for Marriage  






Civil Rights Law Section Weighs In on Draft Resolution Regarding Arizona Immigration Bill 

At the June 2010 WSBA Board of Governors meeting, the Board's Diversity Committee proposed a resolution, at the Board's request, in response to immigration legislation passed in Arizona (SB 1070). The resolution was then referred to the Civil Rights Law Section for review and recommendations. The Section solicited feedback from other WSBA sections and at the BOG meeting on Sept. 23, 2010. Section Chair Tracy Flood of the Civil Rights Law Section presented the Board recommendations regarding the draft legislation.

Diversity Committee — draft resolution on Arizona SB 1070 

Civil Rights Law Section recommendations to the Board 

The Civil Rights Law Section Executive Committee had its 2015 annual meeting on January 23. The committee members are excited that the section is growing and look forward to making the section an effective voice for civil rights advocacy both within the Bar and in the community in 2016. Stay tuned for updates on upcoming CLE and other events, including a section happy hour where we hope to recruit new members as well as meet up with existing members. 

The 2015 CLE covered the Voting Rights Act and was a great success. The CLE was streamed online and we had good participation online and at the event itself. Plans for a 2016 CLE are in the works. If you have any suggestions for topics, please drop us a line. At this point the EC is considering an all-day CLE in September with possible topics to include the ADA in its 25th year; guns; police misconduct; race relations and discipline at school; violence. As you can see, the Executive Committee is focusing on current societal issues that implicate civil rights concerns and legal questions relevant to membership.

The Section also supported a Washington State Voting Rights Act, which passed the House and Senate Rules Committee, but did not make it to the floor in the 2015 session. The Section actively promotes legislation that enhances civil rights as approved by the Board of Governors. 

Section members should be receiving the Newsletter via email for more current section information. If you were a member last year but haven’t received a copy, please let us know.

On July 30, 2010, the Civil Rights Law Section held its first annual meeting in conjunction with the CLE program "Urgent Issues in Civil Rights: Human Trafficking, Immigration and Police Accountability" at Seattle University School of Law.

The Section elected officers to serve in 2010–2011. In addition to Sharon Payant, current chair-elect, who will serve as chair, other newly elected officers include Patricia Paul, chair-elect; Wilberforce Agyekum, secretary; and Michelle Raiford, treasurer.

Chair Tracy S. Flood and Chair-elect Sharon Payant presented awards to the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington (LBAW) and M. Lorena Gonzalez.  

LBAW received the Civic Leader Award for their service and commitment to civil rights. Lorena received the Distinguished Service Award for her dedication to and leadership in civil rights law. Lorena also served as a panelist for the police accountability portion of the CLE, "Policing the Police." Every seat was filled for the event.

The association's purpose and mission is to represent the concerns and goals of Latino attorneys and to actively participate with the legal community in Washington state. M. Lorena Gonzalez of Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender is dedicated to representing people in employment matters, wage and hour class actions, police misconduct, and sexual assault cases.

Contact Us

woman with a headsetFor general questions, please email your inquiries to To get involved with the Section and for more information, please contact the Section Chair, Alec Stephens.

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