The Evergreen Branch Library will start a new legal aid clinic on Thursday. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Evergreen Branch Library will start a new legal aid clinic on Thursday. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Legal clinic coming to Everett library for low-income patrons

A librarian said “there are just not a ton of resources” for poor people facing civil legal issues. The new clinic hopes to close the gap.

EVERETT — Are you getting evicted? Do you need help with a divorce or a custody case? Is a debt collector after you?

Starting Thursday, low-income Snohomish County residents can get free legal help at the library.

Under a new partnership between the Everett Public Library and non-profit Snohomish County Legal Services, two attorneys will set up at the Evergreen branch on the second Thursday of each month from 4 to 6 p.m. Residents can get 30-minute consultations on civil legal matters. The lawyers won’t represent the users of the program, but give some advice.

The goal is to educate and empower people, said Jane Pak, executive director of Snohomish County Legal Services.

“People really underestimate the barriers, but then even the lack of information or misinformation out there,” said Pak, one of the clinic’s attorneys.

The guidance isn’t for criminal cases. Unlike criminal defendants, people engaged in civil cases may not be able to get a lawyer. And without any help, people can lose their homes or jobs, said Abigail Cooley, the library’s director.

“We know that having access to legal resources is absolutely critical for people who are fighting unlawful evictions, maintaining custody of their children or addressing other types of challenges that might involve their personal security and their general well-being,” she said.

As a general rule, residents need to have an income under 200% of the federal poverty level to qualify for the help. That would be $27,180 for a single person; $36,620 for a family of two; and $55,520 for a family of four. But there could be exceptions to that parameter, Pak said.

Research shows poorer people rarely get legal aid in their civil cases. For example, a study released this year found Americans on a low income “received no or inadequate legal help for a staggering 92% of all the civil legal problems that impacted them substantially.” Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters of low-income households experienced a civil legal problem in the past year, according to the report from the non-profit Legal Services Corporation.

The report notes libraries can serve as a hub for information and services.

“There are just not a ton of resources,” said Naomi Clegg, adult services librarian in Everett. “There’s not a lot of options, and the options that are there are limited, or they’re expensive, or they are not advertised. They’re hard to find. So this is definitely one, admittedly small, way of addressing that gap.”

Users can get help understanding a parenting plan in a custody case, learn if they qualify for other services and work on complex paperwork with someone who understands the process. With printers and computers at the ready, a library can be the ideal location for such a clinic, Pak said.

SCLS’s other clinics tend to be more focused on a single issue — like the walk-up clinic on housing for local tenants at the Snohomish County Courthouse. Or one for family law. This one at the library, on the other hand, is to help with any civil legal needs. It’s similar to one SCLS runs at Everett Recovery Cafe.

The clinic is starting off as a three-month pilot, but library leaders hope it can become permanent after that.

Consultations will take place in a private meeting room at the library at 9512 Evergreen Way. Those interested can reserve appointments online at epls.org/signmeup. But the first session this week has already been booked. Walk-ins are also accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Clegg now has a wait list for the program.

Pak said she hopes to add attorneys to increase capacity.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A family of four escaped a fire in their home's garage without injuries Saturday night in Brier. (South County Fire)
Brier family escapes harm after fire in garage

The two-story house in the 22800 block of Brier Road had an estimated $150,000 in damages, per South County Fire.

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney in a video decries an erosion of public safety and increase in brazen criminal behavior. (Screenshot)
Snohomish County sheriff, chorus of local leaders decry policing reforms

Criminals are getting more brazen, they said. In a video, they called for easing vehicle pursuit rules and stiffening drug laws.

Attorney Michael Andrews, left, and Kyle Brown listen to the judge's address Wednesday afternoon at the Snohomish County Superior Courthouse in Everett, Washington on September 21, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Marysville ex-youth minister gets community service for sexual assault

Kyle Brown, of Marysville, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault with a sexual motivation last month. In 2019, he was charged with molestation.

On Aug. 30, Everett police posted this photo to Facebook seeking tips about an alleged fatal hit-and-run. (Everett Police Department)
Woman arrested in hit-and-run death of Everett pedestrian

Patricia Oman, 80, was walking on Broadway when she was hit. She died four days later. The alleged driver was held on $100,000 bail.

A worker maneuvers a front-end loader around a gigantic pile of garbage Friday, April 29, 2022, at the Airport Road Recycling and Transfer Station in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
As trash piles shrink, Snohomish County cancels Sunday closures

Transfer stations and drop boxes will be open for regular hours. But a ban on dropping off yard debris is still in effect.

Amber Weaver, who has worked at the Lakewood Crossing Starbucks for 5 years, with her daughter Melody, outside of her workplace on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Complaint accuses Starbucks of anti-union threats in Marysville

Meanwhile, a mother of two said Thursday that Starbucks refused to accommodate her schedule when she returned from maternity leave.

An aerial view of the proposed site for the Faith Family Village Project pallet homes for families on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Pallet shelter village for 8 families gets permit in Everett

Faith Family Village will house and provide services for 90 days, through city and federal funding.

Crews from Washington State Department of Transportation continue to clear debris from U.S. 2 earlier this week. (Inciweb)
U.S. 2 to reopen Monday as Bolt Creek wildfire calms

The move comes two weeks after the fire north of Skykomish prompted the highway to close.

(Snohomish County)
County executive lays out blueprint for $85M in federal relief

Dave Somers wants to use one-time pandemic aid on housing, child care and behavioral health in Snohomish County.

Most Read