Free Legal Aid with Tacoma Pro Bono

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About This Episode

Tacoma Pro Bono Community Lawyers is a legal aid organization in Tacoma, Washington. In this episode we interview Laurie Davenport and Ash Meer about how they help Tacomans access lawyers and legal advice at no cost. Tacoma Pro Bono provides free legal services, including representation, advice, and education to people without enough money to effectively access the legal system.

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Episode Transcript

  This is Channel 253. Move to Tacoma! On this episode of Move to Tacoma. You make it sound so easy. It was. You’re like, I just hated my commute and I just wanted to help people. It was. It was really easy. So I just applied to law school and got in and got financial aid and then Got my job that I wanted right away.

 

See, that’s why I believe in Tacoma so much. Yeah, that’s right. Cause like, ever since I’ve been here, things just go the way I want them to.  Channel 253 is member supported. I’m producer Doug Mackey, and I hope you will show your support by going to  channel253. com slash membership and join. Thank you.  We’re back. 

 

I’m Marguerite. And I want you to move to Tacoma. Move to Tacoma. Move to Tacoma. Move to Tacoma. You’ll like it. Move to Tacoma. Move to Tacoma. Move to Tacoma.  com  I’m Marguerite. This is Move to Tacoma. And I’m here today with Laurie Davenport and Ash Mir from Tacoma Pro Bono. Welcome, Laurie and Ash.  Great to be here.

 

Yeah, I’m very happy to have you here and to learn more about What Tacoma Pro Bono is, because in my mind, it’s like this group of like scrappy volunteer lawyers funded somehow mysteriously and like helping people who can’t buy lawyers get the justice. That’s, I mean, it’s, I sound like Jennifer Coolidge right now.

 

Like, that’s what I’m imagining when it’s very legally blonde in my mind. Is, is that pretty much what it is? That’s what I thought it was. That’s what it used to be. Okay. All right. Well, we’ll get into it. It’s a story. Before that, uh, Laurie, when did you move to Tacoma? I was born here, so it doesn’t count, right? 

 

No, it counts. No, I’ve actually, I’ve, I’ve moved here twice. Um, I was born here, I grew up in Seattle, um, got married and left and came back, which is a really long story, but we ended up moving back to Tacoma because my husband got a job teaching here as a band director.  And then we left again, and we moved back again, 1999, in order to have  a studio, we had a performance group, we had a non profit, we were teaching music, playing music, we wanted to be able to do it here, because that was kind of everybody’s home, so we moved back.

 

That’s only half of the story. If we have more time, I’ll tell you more. Amazing. Yeah. And where did you, when you moved back the final time, where did, which neighborhood did you pick? The Lincoln District. The Lincoln District! I used to live there. Okay, so what do you like about living in the Lincoln District?

 

Uh, you know, it’s It’s an absolutely awesome place. We live a block away from Lincoln High School, um, right on the corner of 37th and Tacoma Avenue. Everybody who drives around Tacoma is past our house. It’s a historic house. It was built by Claude Gray, who founded the Gray Lumber Company. And we now also have a studio in back. 

 

And so we do acoustic recording, we do lessons, we do art, we do all kinds of things back there. So, Lincoln District is a great place to be because it’s, it’s It’s quiet, but it’s urban. It’s very diverse. We have, um, actually there’s only one thing you have to say, there’s a taco truck at the end of our block. 

 

That’s all you need to know. Elite amenities. That’s what I want. I want a taco truck on my block.  That’s great. Ash, when did you move to Tacoma and why? Uh, we moved here in 2016 and we came from  And at the time I had a lot of, I was working as an art director then and I had a lot of clients in Seattle. Um, and I had been working in New York for about 25 years as an art director.

 

And the thing I, really didn’t like about working in advertising in New York is that people pay you at the end of a job and the jobs go on for a really long time Whereas here I think because most of our clients were technology companies They have this sort of iterative way of doing things so they’d like do a version, pay you, and then they’d come back and change it.

 

And then they pay you for that. So I was like, this is a much better system because I’m getting paid within like a month as opposed to three months. Um, so I came over here, uh, and we looked at houses in Seattle. Um, cause we sold our apartment in, in Brooklyn and. Obviously got like way more money than we deserved.

 

Um, and so we thought, well, we could come here and like buy a house in Seattle. But of course, this was 2016 where you couldn’t buy a house in Seattle. The tide had turned. Oh my God, you couldn’t do anything with the house. I mean, people would put their house on the market on Thursday and it would be sold by Monday.

 

Um, but so then my, uh, real estate agent was like, well, my mom lives in Tacoma. Do you want to go check out Tacoma? And I was like, okay. And so he drove us. down to Tacoma and literally, he was really smart because he didn’t bring, come down I 5, right, which is the uglier way to look at Tacoma. Did he take you through Browns Point?

 

No, we, yeah, that’s right. We came through Browns Point. Oh, realtors. And then we came all along the waterfront. Of course. And we came in through that. We know what we’re doing. That super cool bridge. Right? And I was like, this looks just like a train set, right? When I was a kid, I had a train set, right? And there’s like the town and it goes up the hill and, and then the hill is just like fake paper mache, right?

 

But I was like, Tacoma looks like a train set. I was like, this is where I’m, I’m meant to be. Wow. That’s, that’s a great story. Yeah, I, I, I’m very train oriented. So, uh, how close to the trains did you end up? Which neighborhood did you choose? So we’re in Hilltop.  Um, and the reason I like Tilt Top is because we can hear the ships when they blow their, uh, horns.

 

And we can also hear the trains when they blow their whistles. And I like that.  And you have recently, your neighborhood just got the new light rail. Have you had a chance to use it yet? Is that a thing? Are you doing it?  Every weekend I walk down to the light rail and then I go down to Freight House Square and I stuff myself at Freight House Square. 

 

I love it. I bet they appreciate that. And then I ride the light rail back home. It’s the best. It’s the best. It’s like a 40 minute lunch.  Yeah, it’s, it’s awesome. I love the light rail.  Well, I am very excited to have you both here to tell me what Tacoma Pro Bono is and how, how it helps people in the community.

 

And  Laurie, maybe would you like to start? Like where, how did it come about? When did it start? I’ll give you a little history. Um, essentially, We think it started in 1852 because that’s when we became a county, and that’s when our courts were established, and Attorneys have an obligation to do work to help people who can’t afford an attorney, a certain amount of it, and that obligation started then as officers of the court, so  um, not that we had any funding ever, um, until probably the late 80s, and um, I was not there then.

 

Um, no. Actually, can I, can I ask a question about that? So you are both lawyers. No, I am not a lawyer. You are not a lawyer. No. You’re a lawyer, Ash. Yep. So, okay. When you say, have an obligation, is that, like, part of It’s an ethical obligation. It’s an ethical It’s not like part of your license, you have to do clock hours, you have to do a certain number of pro bono hours.

 

That’s not a thing. No. We wish, but no. Okay. So Laurie, okay, keep going with the history. Sorry, I just, dumb question. Okay, so history. So, part of the reason we moved back to Tacoma, and this is interesting probably for a lot of people, um,  Tacoma used to have a law school, which is now in Seattle. Yes, the UPS law school moved to  Seattle University?

 

Yeah, it did. So, when I ended up working in technology, Um, I was working at UW Law School. I worked at Seattle U Law School. And I actually, this is part of the reason we ended up back in Tacoma is because I took a job at Seattle U Law School while it was still in the old UPS road center building. And my job was to help move the whole operation up to Seattle and make sure that all the technology worked and all that stuff.

 

So, but when we got back down here, it was like,  Why are we living in Bothell? We need to move to Tacoma. So, so we did.  I didn’t have a job, because I decided I also didn’t like the commute from Tacoma to Seattle, so like, what am I going to do? So I went into the Bar Association, and they had a job,  and they asked if I could rent a computer, because they needed to make some grant reports so they could get money for their volunteer attorney program. 

 

I said, yeah, I can do that. Um, so I got hired, 20 hours a week, 20 an hour, and I was it.  That, that was the program, it was just as you said, you know, it was a bunch of scrappy volunteer attorneys with almost no funding. And what year was that? 19, uh, 2001. 2001. Yep.  Yep.  Yeah, we moved here in 99, but I was still working up in Seattle for  So, one employee, 20 bucks an hour, half time.

 

How are they funding that?  They were funded through, and we are still funded through, Legal Foundation of Washington, which was, it’s an organization that was established by the Supreme Court.  Funding gets really complicated, but basically, Congress defunded. The main federal legal aid program in the 90s, and everybody had to figure out, well, what do we do now?

 

And, so they started a thing called Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts, um, funding. They took, like, skimming off the top of interest that would be, like, put in for escrow or, um, money that an attorney would hold for a client. That, the little Itty bitty bits of interest that were on top of that were skimmed off to help fund civil legal aid.

 

We call it IOLTA. IOLTA. IOLTA. Yeah. Okay. So that was our initial thought. Sounds like a grandma name.  Yeah. My grandma IOLTA.  Our lawyers seem to love acronyms. Oh, totally. Yeah. Yeah. More than anything. Like the military. So I, I, I can’t imagine that a fraction of a tiny bit of interest on trust accounts is still very much money.

 

Depends on Can you see Superman 3? Yeah. Oh, good point. Good point. It actually is kind of some money. Depends on the state of the economy. Oh, I see. I mean, if real estate is going real well, then we get good funding, and if it’s not, we don’t. Um, so yeah.  So most of your, does most or all of your funding come from that fund?

 

Very little of it now. Uh, just a, just a small part. Okay. We now get funding from Pierce County, City of Tacoma, City of Lakewood. Um, we are funded by the Balmer Foundation. We have our, our own foundation, um. So, all over the place. And so, in my mind, I thought you were going to say something like, Oh, you know, lawyers have fundraiser parties and they raise a little cash.

 

Or, you know, we have, you know, we’re just like a non profit. We have a breakfast fundraiser and regular people come and give us money. Is it something like that? We do that stuff, too. Okay, alright, so it’s a little bit of everything. Yeah, because we are a non profit. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. And we have, uh, the most significant part of our funding right now comes from the state of Washington because Washington was the first state in the nation to institute what we call right to counsel for people who are facing eviction hearings, who could not afford an attorney.

 

When did that happen? Uh, two years ago. Okay. Yeah, two years ago, in 2021. So if you are facing eviction, if you get an eviction notice, you have the right to be represented. Yes, if you qualify, if you’re low income, yes.  All right. So, go ahead. And that’s what I do. And that’s what Ash does. Yeah. Yeah. So we do write to counsel.

 

So,  so when I first moved here,  I was doing art direction and commercials and stuff like that. But the homeless problem was like getting worse and worse and worse. Um, And one of the things about  that commute to Seattle is it’s just so unpleasant and you think, you know, as soon as I started doing that commute, I was like, how can I not have to do this commute anymore?

 

Um, but then also on that commute, right, you’d see just all those homeless camps all along I 5. Um, and that was very eye opening for me. Um, and so I realized that I really wanted to do. Something for like the homeless, um, and at the time in Brooklyn, we, my wife and I had a coffee shop, so, uh, we had gotten involved with the coffee shop here in Hilltop that’s called Red Elm, and they’re very, they’re very involved in the community, and they try to help the community and stuff like that, and, and so she was telling me, the woman who runs Red Elm, um, whose name is Jen, uh, was telling me about Tacoma Pro Bono, and so then I was on, you know, the internet, and I found the, King, no, the Pierce County Bar Association  newsletter that had an interview with you.

 

And I was like, Oh, that’s so cool that there’s this place where these people are, you know, giving their time to try to help, you know, the poor.  And I thought I wanted to do that. Uh, and so then I applied to law school. Um, and I got into law school and I, during COVID, I did law school. And so I  finished. I mean, this, this is where it is sounding a little bit like legally blonde.

 

Like, I just, like, it’s hard. I just got into law. You just like, what do you study? You study for the LSAT and you just like go. Yeah. And you have an undergrad. So that’s all you have. All you need is a four year degree and you can study for it. Yeah. What’s the criteria if someone’s following you? So it’s weird.

 

So I had actually thought about going to law school when I first went to undergrad, and this is a long time ago. I graduated in 1987. So then, uh, when I decided again that I wanted to go to law school in, in 20, uh, I think it was 2017 when I started thinking about it. I went and I did the law school, you know, practice test that you can do online.

 

And I got exactly the same score that I had gotten back in 1987. And I was like, Oh, great. I don’t need to study at all. This is just so easy. So then I, I took the LSAT and I got exactly the same score again.  Wow. Yeah. And then I did Is that normal, Laurie? Not that I know of. I never took it. Results not typical to those listening.

 

Yeah, it was very weird. But anyway, so I had done this thing called, uh, like K U O W did this thing called Ask a Muslim. I don’t know if you remember this. Like Way back when the first, uh, Trump immigration ban, they did this thing called ask a Muslim where they got people who were Muslim and people who had questions for Muslim to like meet together and talk.

 

And so I went to that and that was, uh, who’s the guy from K U O W. I  can’t remember his name. John. Anderson, is that his last name? I can’t remember. Anyways, uh, I went to that and after that he sent me another email and he said we’re going to do another ask a thing and it was ask a judge and so I went to that and I thought that would be fun to like ask judges questions and the judge that I really liked and I spent a lot of time with, it turned out that he was teaching at Seattle University.

 

Um, and he said, well, you know, if you’re really that interested in the law, you should go to law school. And, and Seattle U, you know, likes older students and non traditional students. Um, so then I went over and I visited Seattle U and I showed them my. Pathetic LSAT score and I told them like what I wanted to do and they were like well I think we have a place for you  Yeah, and so I got like enough financial aid to sort of start  And then I just kept going and they kept giving me more financial aid as as it went on which was really lucky  and then I got a I, when I, my first year, I sent them an email and I was like, I really want to like come and like intern or something.

 

I did not get anything back from them, like no mail, no email, like nothing. So I thought, oh, Tacoma pro Bono doesn’t really exist. It’s just a, you know, it’s, it’s just a nothing, just not enough people there.  Right. And so then now, you know, behind the scenes. Right. So then I did a. summer internship with, uh, an attorney at Connolly Law, which is over there in, uh, Old City.

 

And he, his wife was, at the time, the CEO of Tacoma Pro Bono. So I said to him, I really wanted to try to get into Tacoma Pro Bono, can I meet your wife? Um, and so there was some networking thing and I met Carly, uh, Carly Roberts. Um, and she was like, yeah, you know, we would totally love to have you. And so I started volunteering there.

 

And then, um, when I finished school and I passed the bar, I was like, can I stay here? Um, and at the time it was, uh, Carly and Ashley. And so they were like, uh, sure. Yeah, we figured it out. So they just hired me. So I just like went right from like being a volunteer to like being a staff person to being an attorney there.

 

And it was just like so perfect. You make it sound so easy. You’re like, I just hated my commute. And I just wanted to help people. So I just applied to law school and got in and got financial aid. Got my job that I wanted right away. See, that’s why I believe in Tacoma so much. Oh, that’s right. Cause like any, ever since I’ve been here, things just go the way I want them to.

 

Like I just try it and it works. And Ash is pretty great. I mean, he just, he just does stuff. He moves straight ahead. And I, I talked to, I do a lot of outreach in Pierce County and I talk to his clients quite often. They love him. Wow. I’m very lucky.  Well, we’re going to take a break. Okay. We’ll be right back with lots more questions.

 

All right, cool.  Hi, this is Eric Hanberg of channel 253. And I want to thank you for listening to this podcast and all of the podcasts that we have in the network. Yeah, this is producer Doug echoing that. Thanks. And also saying that if you would like to support us with a membership, please go to channel two, five, three.

 

com slash membership and join it’s 4 a month or 40 a year. And it pretty much is the sole reason that we can come to you now with podcasts. We are listener supported. You can help keep the microphones running 4 a month, 40 a year, channel two, five, three. com slash membership. If you want to check it out.

 

And again, if you’re a member. Thank you. Move to Tacoma. And we’re back with more Tacoma Pro Bono. When last we heard, Ash had just gotten a job at Tacoma Pro Bono. Laurie, do you remember when Ash showed up? Yes,  I do. Everybody kept saying to me, uh, you gotta meet Ash. He’s so cool.  And I didn’t for a while because at the time when you started, I, things were growing really, really, really fast.

 

And we went from, you know, half of me back in 2001 to now 42 of us. What? Yeah. Okay. So what is the breakdown? Okay. By the way, what year did you start working there? Where, where are we in time? I started in 2021. Mm-Hmm. December of 2021. Okay. As a volunteer. So what is the, you said there’s like 40 people? 42.

 

  1. What is the, how many people work there? How many people are volunteering? Oh, that doesn’t include the volunteers. Oh my, 42 people work there. These are staff people. Yeah. And 22, I think of those are attorneys and we’re looking for more attorneys. So if anybody is listening to this podcast and would like a job in civil legal aid, We would like to hear from you.

 

And is that like full on attorneys, paralegals, just attorneys, like what do you need? Everything. Everything. Yes. Yeah. Receptionists? Yeah. Social media people? Oh, yeah. We need that, too. Everything. Yeah. Wow. Okay. And you have a website? Oh, yes. Yeah.  We had a great social media person and then he left. Yeah. He was awesome. 

 

Um, but yes, uh, I think,  you know, the attorneys are, you know, Um, obviously why people go to Tacoma Pro Bono, but the attorneys are just like, maybe like an eighth of what we actually do. Like most, yeah, because most of the things we do are giving people information, right? About situations they’re in. Um, and that doesn’t necessarily always require an attorney.

 

Sometimes a paralegal can do it, or they can come for one of the clinics. We have these really amazing clinics in different areas of law. Um, I’ve actually, I keep meeting people who go to our legal financial obligation clinic because one of the things that happens to people, right, is they have some sort of small legal problem, but it has some sort of financial,  excuse me.

 

Some sort of financial obligation that they have to pay or something, and they may not have the money at the time, and it just sort of goes and grows and grows and, you know, then it gets to a point where they can’t make any sort of real legal choices in their life because there’s this, you know, amount of money hanging over them that’s unresolved.

 

And so, uh, we have a clinic where they can come in and they can learn how to, you know, get those obligations removed from their record. Um, and for a lot of people that, like, really changes a lot. Wow.  Like starting a business, getting a business license in Washington State, like you can’t do that with a legal financial obligation.

 

No, really, really small interventions like that can make a huge difference to people. Can a list of those? Like what are the clinics that you offer? So,  What did you call that one? Financial? Oh, I don’t even know all of them. Legal financial obligations. There’s family law. So if you’re thinking about getting a divorce and you want to know.

 

Child support, that kind of thing. And these are free? Yes, everything we do is free. And they’re really good.  And then there’s, uh, the getting an order for limited dissemination, right? If you have an eviction on your record, you can get this order that sort of, it doesn’t completely hide the record, but it makes it so that another landlord can’t deny your tenancy based on the previous eviction.

 

And so that’s a pretty, pretty big deal. Yeah. Um. We have the ones for, uh, domestic violence issues. Yes, we have a whole part of our program. It’s called the Family Safety Project that works with Crystal Judson Family Justice Center to, um, help people who are really in, like, critical survivor. status to take care of legal issues that allows them to get, like, uh, temporary orders so they can have access to bank accounts and vehicles and the kind of thing that you just desperately need in order to escape an abusive situation.

 

So we do that, um, and the, our clinics, they are, um, these are the, this is the area of our program where we use volunteers and they’re, they’re wonderful because these are people who They practice in these areas, like our bankruptcy clinic is awesome, we have a guardianship clinic that is, is wonderful because it’s run by people who do the, they do this for a living, they do it every day and they really want to help people who can’t afford them. 

 

What’s a guardianship clinic? Guardianship is, I mean, say you had someone in your family who couldn’t take care of themselves, uh, needed to be, needed to have a guardian to take care of all the different aspects of their life that they can’t handle. And it’s very complicated because, you know, the state is involved and there’s a lot of record keeping and people, uh, really need help to do that, so. 

 

Wow. A lot of critical areas of life that involve The law and lawyers that are really not accessible to people who can’t afford it. So I would have assumed okay. Yeah, you guys would do protection orders you do Eviction prevention even getting the eviction off that all makes sense, you know, maybe some like basic financial stuff but the idea that you do business formation like Bankruptcy, can you say more about that like that?

 

I mean, not that I’m filing for bankruptcy anytime soon, but like, I would love to know, what are these, what are these, like, these seem like regular, like, I’m not in crisis, like, personal crisis, but like, maybe I’m in financial crisis and you have, what are these things that you offer?  We, um, I think we look at it in a couple of different ways.

 

We, we have a, uh, Defensive part of our operation and an offensive part and the offensive part is just like football, of course, since it’s football time of year.  I don’t know a lot about sports ball, Laurie.  The offensive stuff is like, um, okay. Are you moving the ball forward or are you stopping the ball?

 

What are the problems? Are we preventing legal problems and also repairing legal problems? Well, we’re, we’re kind of trying to help things. Using the lot of positively to help things get better. And what’s an example of that? Um, well, bankruptcy is a good one because  everybody tends to have financial issues, but if you’re low income that it can just be insurmountable and it can actually be fairly small.

 

Um, so you’re not necessarily going to go to a bankruptcy attorney, but bankruptcy might be able to help. So if you come into our clinic, you can actually talk to an attorney who’s expert in that. Um, we have a wonderful paralegal who helps people do forms and that kind of thing. So, um, it’s, it’s the kind of thing that,  If people don’t get help with it, they live with it, and it just  makes it impossible to get very far in your life.

 

Yeah. Which is, it’s kind of, it’s the cycle of poverty. You know, you just never get out of it. Things don’t get better. The inequality that we have in our systems just stays that way, and we, so that’s what the offense is all about. All those kinds of things that may not seem like crises, but are really important for people. 

 

And so, if a person, I mean, I just think about something like, I might, if I have to file for bankruptcy, I might feel really ashamed about that. I might not be talking about that with my friends. I might be trying not to think about it at all myself. Like, they can just, what, call you up, go online, fill out a form?

 

How does that happen? Oh, very important. Um, phone is not the best way to get ahold of us. Okay, pro tip, don’t call them. No. You got, we do have walk in hours, which is, um, Where are you located? We are located in, um, but we have a couple of locations. We’re on the corner of 6th Avenue and Tacoma Avenue South.

 

That’s where our Housing Justice Project is located. That’s where ASH works. And then just down the block from that, 621 Tacoma Avenue South, we have our, in an office tower. where people would go to like to apply for the other parts of our program that aren’t housing related. So walk in hours 1 to 3 p. m.

 

Monday through Thursday. And we have an online application that’s available 24 7, fill it out online, someone will call you back, ask a few more questions and figure out where to put you in our program.  And if, if I were to walk in with a problem. Um, but let’s say I just got a notice to pay or vacate kind of thing on my, isn’t that what it’s called?

 

Sorry. I’m in real estate, but I don’t do property management.  So, okay, so I get the notice and I’m like, oh crap, like it’s real, it’s happening. I go into your walk in, what happens? And then what’s the process that sort of unfolds from there? Do I meet with an attorney that day? Do I get an appointment? How does it work?

 

Usually you get an appointment. Usually there’s an intake person who’ll take your record and all the. Um, critical information and then they’ll check with the paralegals to see which attorney has capacity and then they’ll assign you to an attorney and then that attorney will call you back and get all the sort of legal details that relate to your specific issue.

 

And then, you know, what usually happens after that is then we do, we, the attorneys will do research about those legal issues and about your, um, Well, your opposing party, if it’s a, if it’s an eviction case, and then we, you know, find out what we can do in terms of a defense and we’ll work with you, um, to develop a defense that we can present when, when you have to go to court.

 

And I believe it’s called a show cause hearing when you go to court. So that’s when you actually have to be in front of a commissioner at. at the Pierce County Superior Court. How does that usually go on a time scale? So I come in, I, they do the intake, they give me an appointment. Does the appointment take six weeks?

 

Does it take two days? A week, I think. We generally get to people within a week. And then you probably like file something. Right. And then how long does that take until you’re before a judge getting some kind of  Are you before a judge? Is it happening on the internet now? I don’t even know. It’s kind of both right now.

 

Yeah, it’s not a judge, it’s a commissioner. Okay. So a commissioner is usually an attorney who’s been appointed to, uh, play this role as a judge, um, in the unlawful detainer, which is what we call eviction here in Washington State, on that docket. And, um, When the hearing is, is dependent on your landlord, right?

 

So, the person who files the case, right, is called the plaintiff, and that’s usually the landlord, and they’re trying to get you out. So when they set the schedule for the hearing is when the hearing is going to be. And sometimes it’s in two days, sometimes it’s in three weeks, sometimes I have one that just came up where they filed the notice in January 2023, and now in January 2024 is the hearing.

 

Wow. Wow. So, they can be. You know, there can be a long time between, between the two. But what we try to do is we try to put your case together at least very soon after we talk to you. And then what we’ll do is if there’s a hearing scheduled very soon and it’s not enough time for, you know, us to get our case together, then what we can do is we can go and appear and, you know, ask the court for a continuance, which means gives you a little more time, a little more time.

 

Yeah. So, uh, I started in real estate in 2005, which means I cut my teeth during the dark times of the crash. I saw a lot of short sales, a lot of foreclosures, a lot of really terrible, terrible things. And if a person is a homeowner, And, you know, maybe they’ve been laid off and they’re hitting that point where they’re having trouble making their mortgage.

 

Like, is there a clinic or any legal advice for home ownership and retaining your, your, your home? We don’t really have that. We do have what we do have. Um, I mean, we don’t have direct services for homeowners in terms of, um, are you at the point of losing your home? We can’t really help with that. However, we have a whole area of our housing justice project that is, we call them housing navigators.

 

Um, they have put together a huge amount of resources for people, everybody, homeowners, um, tenants, people who are on the verge of becoming homeless, um, people who need all kinds of things. So, um, at that point, those resources would kick in and people would, um,  you know, have access to other, other, um, Parts of the community that can help them out.

 

So, so if I’m in there are, there are programs, um,  A lot of different programs that can help homeowners. We’re just, we are focused on tenants because of the recent changes in the law. Right. Okay. So one last question about that. And then I want to talk about the new law. So if, if you have some resources, if I’m a homeowner, I’m about to miss my first mortgage payment.

 

And I’m like, Oh my God, what, what do I even do here? I don’t want to Google it. Cause who knows what TikToker I’m going to see explaining things. However, they’re going to explain it. Like, I want to go to the source and you have some, like, I don’t, I’m not going to  I’m going to email you and you’re going to like send me a link to something or is there something, is there a library on the website I would search?

 

Like how do I access the information? We have all that information is on our website. Oh, okay. Okay. So you put like everything out there. Yeah. And I want to put, put in a plug for a really amazing website too. It’s, it’s not ours. It’s run by Northwest Justice Project and it’s called Washington Law Help. 

 

Washington has really great information on a huge variety of topics. It’s worth just going. And it’s all Washington specific. Washington specific, um, low income kind of issues specific. And they’re constantly updating it. Okay. Alright, we’ll add that to the show notes as well. Yeah. Definitely.  So yes, there has been a new law passed in Tacoma, like the most progressive tenant protections in the state, as I understand it,  probably paving the way for statewide reforms.

 

I think some of that will happen. Yeah. Yeah. So what’s, what, what has changed?  What has changed? So,  the interesting thing about the, the measure is that a lot of the,  a lot of the accusations that its opponents made were not actually in the measure, right? So Such as? Such as that a landlord would not be able to evict a tenant that’s being disruptive or destroying the property or, you know, is a criminal or something like that.

 

None of those things have changed. Right, none of those things have actually changed. It’s really only  Tenants who have a non payment of rent issue, right? So it’s not people who have a complier vacate because they’ve been doing some damage to the apartment or a waste and nuisance or, or even like I had one, uh, call from the,  the group that was against the measure that I got like a robo call.

 

And they’re like, did you know that even a domestic violence perpetrator, you know, would be able to stay in the property, you know, and continue his. Whatever. Um, and I was like, that’s not really true, but then it was just a, it turned out it was a recording and I was talking to a recording, so I felt sort of like an idiot, but in any case, bamboozled, right?

 

So all it really protects is it protects families, right? It’s very family focused. So it’s people who,  you know, for one reason or another have gotten behind in rent, right? So you lost your job.  Lost your job,  you know, have a sudden expense, a sudden medical expense. I mean, these are, this is what I’m telling you are, are, are usual cases.

 

Yeah, what are the usual things you see? So, usually People who come to us, they come to us because some, they had some hiccup in their life, right? And usually it’s a one time thing, right? They lost their job. They, their car broke down. Someone close to them died. Some, for some reason, they had an expense that was unexpected.

 

And they’re living so close, you know, to their, the amount they earned that, that one, Expense puts them behind and what happens with a lot of people is that then you’re behind one month And then even though you pay the next month’s rent, you know, the previous month’s rent starts to accrue  interest and late fees and  and people sort of get to this situation where  we have another law in Washington, which To be honest, I don’t know why this is a law where once the landlord has given you a notice to pay your vacate, they don’t have to accept your rent anymore after that.

 

Yeah. Right. So what happens is someone might be behind one month and all of a sudden, you know, their landlord isn’t accepting their rent, even though they have the money. And by the time they. They come to us because, you know, the landlords may take a really long time to file the case. They may be six or seven months.

 

And so suddenly the amount of money they owe isn’t, you know, 1, 200 one month rent. It’s, you know, 8, 000 or 10, 000. And then the interest keeps going up and up. So a pro tip, if possible, is if you miss a month. And you’re in that process and it’s just helping you set aside the money somewhere every. Yeah.

 

Okay. I would have never thought of that. That’s such a good point. And I, I do tell my clients that to try and set aside as much of the money as they can, but then. The situation is that, you know, because these are people who are often living very close to the bone,  having that extra money is extra money, right?

 

Yeah. Yeah. So they apply it to something else. Yeah. Some other expense or cost that they have. And that ends up, uh, Using up the money that they would have spent. It just seems like it would snowball really quickly. It does. It does snowball very quickly. So what’s great about this new measure is that it protects families from being evicted either during the winter, right, during very cold months, or during the school year if they have school age children, or they’re in school themselves, right?

 

Which kind of makes sense, right? Because  if you think about it, and and we can see this in our cases that the majority of people who are getting evicted  for nonpayment of rent end up homeless for some period, maybe not forever, but they end up either sleeping in their car or moving into a friend’s house or something like that, but in some way being unhoused after they get evicted.

 

Well, and I don’t understand how it’s not Everyone, because once you have an eviction, where are you going to go? I mean, it’s hard enough to find rental housing as it is. I mean, it surprises me that there are people finding anything. It becomes very difficult. Yeah. It is really difficult right now.  And what’s especially difficult is that now in Tacoma, and you must know this, there’s more and more people, small mom and pop landlords who are  Giving the property management over to property management companies.

 

Yeah, it’s a piece of advice that we generally give to small landlords because it’s hard to, I’m sorry, they call them, what are they calling them, housing providers?  Right, you know, it’s, you say, like, the paperwork is complicated. If you buy a duplex, you should probably get some help with that. Yeah, definitely.

 

And so, but those companies are probably a lot more assertive. Yeah. They’re much quicker to evict. And they’re much less able to work with the tenant, right? Because when you have a mom and pop, right, they’re, they’re there and they can talk to you and they can deal with you. Whereas when it’s a property management company, it’s an employee, right?

 

And it’s a policy. Right. And they just have to follow policy. They’re not, they don’t, they’re not in a position to really negotiate with you and you can’t really get through to the owner because there’s this, you know, firewall between you and the owner, which is the property management company. Yep. Um. So the, the reason that the, the measure is important is it keeps us from sort of adding to the homeless population, right, during the cold time in winter.

 

Um, and as we know, that ends up costing the city in services and, and other expenses, um, having people homeless. And then the, also the thing with school children, right, is that, you know, studies have shown that children who,  move during the school year suffer quite a lot, right? And they, they get behind in their, in their, uh, classes and, um, and it takes them quite a long time to recover from that.

 

So I think just from a.  Sort of city perspective, keeping those sort of people housed is, is really to the benefit of the city, right? Well, and then the hope is, of course, whether it’s a property management company or an individual, you know,  rental owner, um, they’re going to work with the person rather than deal with five, six months of bs.

 

Like that’s, is that the dream? Is that the goal? Yes. So what, what we do, what we try to do is with our clients, even if they have, you know, a reprieve from getting evicted because of the, the, Uh, measure, we try to get them to talk to their landlord, right? And say, okay, well, you know, what is a good move out date?

 

Why is it a good move out date? I mean, if there are children in school, you do try to keep the children in the property so that they can finish the school year. And you try to try to get an agreement. And this is just. given us that little bit more, uh, juice in that negotiation, right? That we can say, you know, well, you can’t actually evict this family during the school year because, because of this measure.

 

But I mean, I, I also do cases outside of Pierce County and you can see the difference, right? And how hard it is for, for families with children, um, that don’t have this kind of protection during, during the school year. Um, Because the kids, you know, it’s very hard for you to take your homework and, you know, do it while you’re living in the car, or do it without a Wi Fi, you know, um, and so I think that that’s actually a really good measure.

 

And the thing that’s, that I think a lot of people don’t understand about it, is the, the financial, Part of it, right? Doesn’t change, right? If, if you don’t pay rent, you still owe that rent, right? Even if they’re, even if the measure is keeping you in the property, you’re still accruing rent for that time and the landlord can still come after you for that money. 

 

So.  I know it’s still very early. The law has only been in place for one month, right? But do you think it is likely that landlords will work with people? If someone’s in that situation where they have a medical crisis or, you know, whatever, and they miss a month’s rent, and now they’re on the eviction, they’re in the process, um, but they have school age children, do you think it’s likely that if they can come up with the rent and make it right that,  that folks will work with them?

 

Or do you think they’re not going to?  Do we know yet? Does it seem that people are  playing ball? I’ve had good responses. I mean, I’m, I’m now doing more out of county than, than Tacoma. So I can say that.  I don’t have as much experience with it as some of my colleagues, but I do know that the ones that I’ve had this issue with, they have, I mean, now that they know that they can’t, you know, evict before April, they are willing to talk, right?

 

And they are willing to give people more time to get themselves together and get the money. Um, And that includes the big property management companies? Oh, sure. Because they know that they can’t, they can’t move them, so they might as well negotiate. It’s an incentive. I think, um, one of the things that’s happening that I would also like to get out there is when a tenant receives a 14 day pay or vacate day pay or vacate, um, a majority of people who don’t know what that really means, um, Well, vacate means leave.

 

They think they will have to leave in 14 days. They believe that. Right. And they do leave. And once they leave, they have no, no rights that we can enforce. So it, it’s really important, you know, as people begin to understand that, Oh, I’ve, I’ve got this, I owe this, but I don’t have to leave. In 14 days. I don’t have to leave in 30 days.

 

Um, that really helps. It really does sound like you have to get the heck out. That piece of information. Yeah.  So, I get the 14 day pair vacate, I have school age children in the house, it’s November, I should email Tacoma Pro Bono, oh no, no, I should drop in in person on 6th Ave if I can. What if I can’t get there?

 

Is it possible to email? Is there an online form if you cannot? The online intake form is what you want. You want online intake, so I would fill that out and I’d be like. It’s a big red button right on our. Yeah. And so I would fill that out and then you would make my appointment. Do I have to come in in person to have that appointment with an attorney or is it possible to have that on zoom?

 

So if I’m working or whatever, is it all hours? Is it within certain hours?  I mean, obviously not the AM, but yeah, most of us work from eight 30 to four 30. Okay. And so during that time we make calls. I don’t know any of the attorneys who wouldn’t call someone outside of those times if that was the only time they were available.

 

No. And the other thing we do is we have a pretty hefty schedule of outreach events, which is also available on our website as a calendar.  We go all over the county. Some of those are in the evening. Um, some of those are in places where there isn’t really any transportation to get to our place. So we go, we go to you.

 

So like East Pierce County kind of, yep. All right. Yep. We go. In fact, I’m going to Orting tomorrow. Oh, good old Orting.  So what is the future of Tacoma Pro Bono? What is the next thing? I mean, obviously you’re going to be finding your way with this new law, but what’s next? Well, what  we’re hoping to do is Get our, our family safety project, which helps people with critical family law stuff.

 

Right now, just the most critical, um, domestic violence survivors. But, we’d like to expand that. I mean, the need in the area of family law is, is just really huge. And  A family law case is, we’ve just been talking about eviction cases, um, they’re, they’re pretty short. They don’t last very long. Family law case can go on for a year and a half, two years.

 

Nobody can afford that. Even people who think they have enough money to hire a lawyer, um, eats it up pretty quickly. It’s a, a system that’s, that’s very difficult. And if you’re in a violent situation or a situation where there’s, uh, kids are being harmed, there’s a custody issue and you have to.  It’s, um,  it’s something where you really need an attorney.

 

We would so much like to be able to expand that. We’re, we’re working with the county right now to try to do that. We’re, um,  to really expand what we do. So maybe a family safety project that’s just as big as our housing justice project would be great. That’s the dream. That’s, yeah. Oh, and the exciting thing in our area is we used to only appear for, uh, show cause hearings, right?

 

When someone had received a notice to pay or vacate, whereas now we can meet with clients before They get to that point, which is great because by the time they get to the pay or vacate, often there’s, there’s nothing really you can do for them other than, you know, stop the immediate eviction, get them some more time, but you could help them make like an agreement with their landlord before they’re late.

 

Yeah. And that’s really great. And then the other thing we can also do now is we can bring cases against landlords who, you know, violate their, their responsibilities.  For example, for example, okay, so for example, I have a client who their landlord tried to evict them,  was unsuccessful and eviction for nonpayment or no, tried to evict them for a waste or nuisance, which means like destroying the property.

 

Um, but it was for a fire that was caused by electrical wiring, which wasn’t the tenants. responsibility. It was responsibility of the landlord. Um, and so once the fire department came and did an inspection and said, you know, it’s because of the wiring, the landlord tried to evict the tenant. Um, the tenant, you know, wasn’t successfully evicted because they didn’t, you know, it wasn’t their fault.

 

Um, and so the landlord then locked the property. Um, and started taking the tenants stuff, um, little by little. And, uh, and so we are actually going to bring a wrongful eviction case, right? Because locking someone out is a wrongful eviction. And then what, what is the recourse? Like what happens for that tenant?

 

Like, do they get to move back into this place where this person’s trying to throw them out? Do they get a settlement, like what happens? Yeah, I don’t think in this case, the tenant wants to move back in. I think the relationship is sort of broken now. Yeah. Um, but they are entitled to recover some damages, right?

 

The cost of the, the property that was taken or destroyed. Um, the, at least the return of the rent for the period, you know, that she was. you know, forced to be locked out. Um, and then also she can get, you know, the cost of attorney’s fees and court costs and stuff like that. So it can be significant. I think in this case,  having the landlord realize that he can’t treat his tenants that way is, is probably the more important thing here because this landlord does have other tenants also in the property.

 

Um,  And also just having this, this particular tenant feel like she’s getting some justice. I think that’s important for people to feel that there, you know, that there is some sort of fairness in the system.  What do you think is a misconception among tenants as like something their landlord is supposed to be doing for them that, that you’re like, we can’t actually get them to do that.

 

Like, sorry, is there anything like that? There’s a lot of things like that. For example? So, we have, right, this one chapter of Washington state law that deals with landlord tenant things, which is called the Residential Landlord Tenant Act. And in Washington state law, I think it’s chapter 5918, right? So in that are all the things about landlord tenant law. 

 

Some of our clients who are a little bit sort of, uh, self motivated will go and research that and they’ll see all the things that their landlord is not allowed to do.  But one of the things about the law is that just having a rule is meaningless unless there’s what’s called a cause of action, right?

 

Which means, is there something in the law that permits you to go after that person for violating that thing, right? So the Residential Landlord Tenant Act, those aren’t crimes, right? So the, you can’t call the police on your landlord, right? And, and there’s the, the landlord isn’t going to go to jail for harassing you or something like that.

 

But there’s an obligation that the landlord has to treat you. you know, properly. So unfortunately, a lot of those things you can’t bring up in unlawful detainer court in eviction court, because the court is really only considering whether you have the right to stay in the property, but it does make a kind of a good defense, right?

 

If your landlord has been Bad to you and has been treating you badly. It it’s a defense against  Certain types of behavior or certain types of non compliance. It’s not really a good defense against non payment  Because there’s nothing in the law that says, you know, if your landlord is abusing you you don’t have to pay rent  But it is something that you can, you know, bring up with landlords and say, you know, you are violating this part of the statute, even if there is, there is no money.

 

So I think the hardest part about the law is that it seems like there’s a lot of things that are wrong, but you don’t actually get anything for it. Right. And tenants feel like, well, the only power I have is to not pay my rent. Right, which is the is really not a good idea. Yeah. Because that’s the one thing that will be, you’ll be sure to get evicted.

 

So I have two two questions about this. Um, so the first is something that happened to me when I was in my twenties. I was renting an apartment downtown and I had this landlord that would like come into my apartment.  Like when I wasn’t there  and I had a really cheap rent and I thought it was weird. I still, it’s so funny.

 

I haven’t thought about this in years. It’s kind of a strange thing to talk about publicly, but like I thought it was, it didn’t happen. As far as I know, it only happened like two or three times. Um, and he would even say like, oh, I went in and I did this, but there was no notice. There was, I’m in the real estate business.

 

Like I knew there was a process that was supposed to be followed that wasn’t being followed. And it made me really uncomfortable. But I also knew like. I don’t want to raise a mess with this because I’ve got my cheap rent. Like, what if I, what if he’s retaliates? And, and so I never did. And that situation could have been so much worse.

 

It could have been so much more dangerous. And from what you just said, I’m like, Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have done anything. I probably should have just moved out. Except now, in Tacoma, you can’t get a studio for 475 a month, which was what I was paying then. That same studio, I noticed the other day, is 1, 600 a month.

 

And, um, so  What is a person supposed to do in that situation? Do they, I mean, do they even call you? I mean, are you saying, yeah, you can call us, but we can’t do anything. That’s actually a, an interesting example because there is a cause of action for that. Really? If your landlord doesn’t give you notice and they’re supposed to give you, I think, 48 hours notice, Um, then you can complain.

 

And if you complain and the landlord continues to do it, you can Sue for a hundred dollars for each time they do it after that and attorney’s fees. So you can go to small claims court and you can, you know, sue your landlord for, you know, a couple hundred bucks. And now your landlord hates you. And now your landlord hates you.

 

Yeah. So it’s not, it’s not great. It’s not great. We need more laws. Oh my gosh, we need another tenant law. Let’s go.  You know, what’s hard is that you, when you read the, the laws, you realize that they are written for a situation that no longer exists, right? They’re written for a situation in which it was a much more equal thing between the landlord and the tenant where what’s happened and  I can’t even explain why it happened because there’s so many factors.

 

But the fact is that the landlords now have a much Bigger advantage over the tenants in a lot of ways and, and largely because the tenants are now tenants because they can’t afford to be property owners, right? They’re no longer tenants by choice. I mean, obviously, they might not be even be able to afford to rent another place, right?

 

There might not be anything available. That’s, 1600 a month, like good luck finding. You know, so I mean, and we have a lot of tenants who are on fixed incomes, right? They’re getting social security or they’re getting disability or something like that. And they have no way to increase their income, right?

 

Their income is what it is. And there just simply isn’t property available at that, at that price. So how can we have this incredible power imbalance and not have exploitation happening?  I mean, we must have, I mean, I, of course, I’m in the real estate business, so I get all of the realtor industry like stuff about how, Oh my God, these tenants, they have so much power now.

 

I know this is not true. Like, you know, from what you’re saying, like if I was in the situation in my twenties, if that was a dangerous situation and I couldn’t afford to rent anywhere else. And so I had to stay. Like, no recourse. At, at best, I’m going to get a couple hundred bucks after taking time off work to go down and, you know, go to small claims court, which is not going to be worth it.

 

Right? Like, there’s really,  it’s a dangerous situation. Right? Like, yeah.  Yes. And it is, it’s keeping, uh,  people in an abusive situation, even though  they would like to leave, but where would they go? Right. Um, Domestic violence, for instance, is one of the major causes of homelessness.  And that’s part of the issue, is just availability of  housing alternatives. 

 

Well, okay, so you have said, you know, you’re hopeful that, you know, the next step will be more resources for people in domestic violence situations. How would that come about? Would that be federal funding? State funding? Would it be, uh, individual donors? Like, how is that going to happen for you? I think all of the above because, um, we do get, um, we’re very grateful for the funding that we get from Pierce County, uh, that we get from the state, that we get from, you know, Other cities, City of Lakewood, City of Tacoma.

 

It’s great. Um, but that funding comes with, um, each of those funders has  All kinds of different reporting requirements, um, different goals, different everything. It’s a lot of record keeping, it’s a lot of reporting, it’s a lot of invoicing. Um, so we love to balance that with donations from private foundations.

 

Those can be very, very powerful.  Just individual donations that people make via the donate button on our website. Um, it’s, we, we need all of it. We need a balance because most of the, most of the government funding we get has a very, very low level of overhead. Yeah. Which is It means that we can’t have the administrative capability that we sometimes need, like, to answer emails from prospective volunteer law students who would be awesome employees.

 

Oh, man. Yes. Awkward. You know, so, um, so we, we need a great balance. So, anybody who wants to Support us, um, contact us. So yeah, how do you, how do you fundraise? Do you have a, do you have an annual breakfast? Do you have, how, how, how do you, I mean, I assume there’s a button on the website. That’s usually pretty standard.

 

There’s a website button, there’s also, uh, we have once a year, it’s called Pro Bono Night. We have it at the Tacoma Art Museum. It’s really fun. I was just gonna, when is it? That sounds like a good one. Yeah, you have to come. I can’t remember the date this year, but yeah, it’s in October. All right, October.

 

Pro bono night. That’s right. And what happens at pro bono night? Um, people give speeches. Yeah. We always have a and we eat a lot of really yummy food. Yeah. Food’s great. Um, the food’s great and you get, get to talk to like the most interesting people. Like we had Toa Nobles. Oh, of course. Yeah. Come and talk.

 

We’ve had her on the podcast. Yeah. So cool. She’s awesome. Um, and then last year we had, uh, Carol, Carol Mitchell, Mitchell from, uh, Institute of Black Justice. Um, and like judges come and, uh. Deans of the law schools come and it’s just really an interesting crowd of people. Our Attorney General came one year.

 

That’s right, the Attorney General came one year. So we have big time speakers and  the speeches are short. Yeah, exactly. Gotta love that. The best part about it is the speeches are very short and there’s a lot of time to just like Good food and short speeches. That sounds like a great night. Yeah, it’s great.

 

So, okay, if people want to support, they can hit the donut button on the website, they can go to Pro Bono Night in October, they can, you know, um, if they work within a government department, they can advocate for more funding, if they have, are dispersing funds from their family foundation, they can send a little, uh, love your way.

 

Any other ways? And if they’re attorneys, they can volunteer for our clinics where they get to help people with their  specific issues, yeah. And, and, and what is that process like you have like a little orientation and then set them loose?  It depends.  Why are you laughing? It’s just, this is a very funny image. 

 

They’re supposed to know what to do, right? You’re like, we shouldn’t need an orientation.  So I’ve been to a clinic, but I’ve not actually organized one. And when I went to the clinic, the way it worked is there’s a person who organizes, right, who isn’t the attorney, and she’ll take your information. And then once they get the basics of your legal problem, they’ll bring that into the attorney.

 

And then you are in a line and when it’s your turn, you go into the attorney and they You know, review your legal problem and, and tell you solutions or point you to different resources where you can access more information. Got it. And people can come back to those, um, those clinics over and over again.

 

It isn’t just necessarily a one time advice, but,  um, but from the attorney’s point of view, it’s great because they can Talk to people, they can evaluate their case, they can give them resources, they can give them actual help, you know, like maybe write a letter or something like that. But they don’t have to take the case.

 

They can just go back to their office and not worry about it, so. Just give advice and move it along. And so that’s, you know, a lot of attorneys really enjoy that because, you know, you can, you can be an attorney but you don’t have to do all the bookkeeping. Yeah. Take all the responsibility and,  so it’s, it’s, it’s good.

 

Do it. Yeah.  Well, is there anything I haven’t asked you two about that you want to make sure people know about Tacoma Pro Bono?  Whether they are people who can help keep you in business and growing, or people who might need your services.  Um, I will say that even though in our Right to Counsel program we’re mostly working with, with tenants, that we do have landlords, um, who come to our clinics, because we have clinics for landlords so that they understand the process a bit better.

 

Because I feel like the problem is the same on both sides, which is that there’s a lot of laws. that protect landlords and laws that protect tenants, but nobody knows about them, right? And there’s no easy way to get that information. And if you like my tenants, if you go online and you know, read the laws, they’re written to be quite difficult to understand, right?

 

They’re not written to be easy. So just being able to have a place where you can go and have the law explained to you in like real. Uh, words is, is really, I think, very useful. And then we also have in house these, um, social workers, which, yeah, what are they called? Resource navigators. Resource navigators.

 

And what’s interesting is so many of our clients, right? They don’t Just have an eviction. They have, you know, four or five different problems happening simultaneously. They might have a DV issue. They might have an employment issue, and what’s great is that our resource navigators, like once you come in,  sorry, once you come in as one of our right to counsel clients, you can be connected with the resource navigator, and she can also connect you to other services.

 

Um, And so I think it’s a, it’s a good sort of place to connect different services, um, which is really good. And we also can direct people into, uh, rental assistance, right? Through the Pierce County rental assistance, we can direct people to some of the funding organizations like MDC or, um, Catholic community services or associated ministries.

 

We’re, we’re connected to all of those. And so it’s,  I think it’s a good place if you feel like you’re being taken advantage of in whatever situation you are, be it, be it tenancy, be it, you know, a relationship, be it, uh, a financial relationship.  Yeah, I think  it’s all about people understanding their rights, and we’re not here to bash landlords or go after them. 

 

We’re here to make sure everybody understands their rights and responsibilities, and that, you know, that’s, that’s power. That gives you the power to talk to people and work things out, and  So we’re not,  uh, nobody’s being taken advantage of. Yeah, we don’t think the landlords are the bad guys. Landlords are We just think the property management company.

 

I was gonna say, you know, this is me editorializing a little bit, but I got a lot of pushback, cause I would talk about, like, I was for this, you know. Passing and my colleagues would be like, you know,  and my thing was, you know, what about the small landlords? And I was like, if the small landlords had aligned themselves with the tenants to begin with, if they had had a little bit of, sorry for sounding like a communist or something, but like class solidarity, like we have so much more in common as a person who owns three or four duplexes.

 

You have so much more in common with that person you’re renting to than you do with, you know, a company, you know. New York, some private equity firm that owns 100 buildings or something, right? Like we don’t, we have, we should, we could have sorted this out amongst ourselves if we had aligned. And I, I wish that had, I hope that happens in the future.

 

I’m very heartened to learn that like you do have stuff for landlords and you are bringing them into the fold. You know, people who are like regular people, right? Because if only we had more regular people renting to their neighbors instead of.  You know, big investment firms, you know,  yeah, we have, we have much bigger problems when we’re dealing with property management companies, just because of the distance between us and the actual person who can make a decision, right?

 

So we’re not, we’re, we’re dealing with their lawyer, the lawyer is hired by the property manager, not by the owner or the CEO or anything like that. And so they, they have very little power to, you know, change situations or to make agreements or even to negotiate. They have to just do what’s required. Um, so we much prefer to work with, with mom and pop landlords because then you can actually negotiate and you can actually get an agreement that works for both parties. 

 

Well, thank you so much for coming. This has been so So valuable. I, I hope that people learn a lot from, I learned so much today and I’m going to put all the links you talked about in the show notes. I would, I would love to come to Pro Bono Night. It sounds awesome.  I’ll make sure you get invited. Yeah, please invite me.

 

I want to come. Um, but yeah, thank you for everything that you’re doing. for Tacoma. Thank you for having us. Yeah. Thank you for having us.  If you like this podcast, check out move to Tacoma dot com move to Tacoma dot com is a neighborhood guide, blog and podcast to help people in Tacoma, Pierce County and beyond find their place in the city of destiny.

 

More information at move to Tacoma dot 

 

move to Tacoma is part of the Channel 253 podcast network. Check out our other shows. Grit and Grain, Nerd Farmer, Interchangeable White Ladies, Crossing Division, Citizen Tacoma, What Say You, We Art Tacoma, Flounder’s Bee Team, and Taco Man. This is Channel 253. 

 

Show Notes

What is Tacoma Pro Bono?

Tacoma Pro Bono Community Lawyers is a legal aid organization in Tacoma, Washington. In this episode of the Move to Tacoma Podcast Marguerite interviews Laurie Davenport and Ash Meer. We cover the formation and the growth of Tacoma Pro Bono. How it expanded from a small team to 42 staff members, including 22 attorneys. The focus of Tacoma Pro Bono is on providing free legal services to Tacomans in need, primarily in civil matters. In addition to free legal representation they offer clinics in areas such as family law, bankruptcy, guardianship, and domestic violence.

How does free legal aid work in Tacoma and Pierce County?

Marguerite asks Laurie and Ash about the process of seeking assistance from Tacoma Pro Bono. They explain how it works, emphasizing the accessibility of services through walk-in hours and online applications. The conversation covers everything from intake to legal representation in court hearings. The organization's proactive approach to addressing legal issues is highlighted, aiming to prevent crises and empower individuals with legal knowledge and support. Further discussion revolves around the challenges faced by homeowners, with resources available primarily focusing on tenants due to recent legal changes. However, resources and referrals for homeowners are still provided through Tacoma Pro Bono's housing justice project and external platforms like Washington Law Help. Lastly, the conversation touches on Tacoma's progressive tenant protections. The passage of Tacoma's progressive Initiative 1 Tenant Protections laws  might have the impact of influencing statewide reforms. Overall, the podcast covers the vital role of Tacoma Pro Bono in providing accessible legal aid, empowering individuals in Tacoma facing legal challenges, and advocating for systemic change in the legal landscape.