Discover more about upcoming and past events that Columbia Legal Serivces (CLS) has helped host as a way to inform and engage the public, including dynamic panel discussions, awards ceremonies, film screenings, and more!

February 13, 2015:

There's over 30,000 homeless students in Washington and around 15% of them are unaccompanied, or not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. Without a home, family support or other resources, and opportunities for work and housing, many homeless children and youth experience circumstances in which they are isolated, fearful, undernourished, and even in danger of losing their lives.

To find out how we can work together to help tackle this very urgent issue affecting so many young people, Columbia Legal Services hosted the The Advocate's Lunchbox: Unpacking Children & Youth Homelessness in Washington State, the second installment of this ongoing series. This free, public, panel discussion was held at Seattle University School of Law and streamed live online, plus we offered CLE credit for the first time.

A special thanks to our participants:
Moderator: Lucy Helm – Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Starbucks

Katara Jordan – Staff Attorney, Children & Youth Project, Columbia Legal Services
Brandy Sincyr – Homeless Youth Advocate
Alison Eisinger – Director, Coalition on Homelessness (Seattle/King County)

October 24, 2014:
Columbia Legal Services and the ACLU of Washington hosted a special evening with Jose Antonio Vargas as part of the Social Justice Film Festival. Vargas changed the national narrative around immigration when he made public his powerful personal story as an undocumented LGBT immigrant and, ever since, has supportedEvent Picture DREAMers in taking bold action that challenges inaction on Capitol Hill around immigration reform and public perceptions of undocumented immigrants. 

The evening featured screenings of Documented, a documentary directed by and starring Vargas, The Vigil, a film about a small group of undocumented mothers who set out to stop America’s groundbreaking anti-immigration law, SB1070, from going into effect in Arizona, plus two shorts.

The night also featured a panel discussion with Vargas, Gina from The Vigil, and local leaders and advocates for social justice and immigrant rights, including Aurora Martin, Jorge Barón, and Pramila Jayapal. Find out more here. (Photo credit: Colette-Yasi Naraghi for Social Justice Film Festival.)

October 22, 2014:

Columbia Legal Services hosted our 3rd Annual Pro Bono Celebration Honoring Partners for Justice at The Hub in Seattle's Pioneer Square where we honored five of our amazing pro bono partners who fight with relentless passion for some of the most vulnerable among us in Washington State.Valerie

We recognized Valarie Bodeau, a client who shared her story of past mistakes and present courage in order to inspire future change in the justice system. We celebrated the legacy created by our very own John Midgley, who will soon be retiring at the end of this year after 39 years of law and public service. Along with this tribute video, we surprised John with a flash mob sing-along!

Our 2014 Pro Bono Honorees:

Lenell Nussbaum & Suzanne Lee Elliott
In recognition of work on cases related to Juvenile Life Without Parole.

Carey & Lillevik
For their consistent support representing amici in appeals to establish a right to counsel for all children in foster care.

Garvey Schubert Barer
For their many pro bono partnerships and longstanding commitment to justice for all.

Kathy Barnard of Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt LLP
For her tireless work in representing Familias Unidas and their labor organizing efforts at Sakuma Farms.

Find out more information about the event here or view pictures here.

July 17, 2014:

Columbia Legal Services Presents The Advocate's Lunchbox: Unpacking LFOs & the Crime of Poverty

Debtors' prisons are alive and well in Washington State, where people are locked up simply because they cannot pay court-ordered fines and fees related to their criminal convictions, known as Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs). For many people living in poverty, these debts block them from successfully moving on with their lives. 

As the first in a new series of free, public discussions called The Advocate's Lunchbox, CLS invited experts and advocates to discuss LFOs and their repercussions at a lunch time event at Farestart in Seattle. We webcast the event which you can view below:

Participants joined us from all over the country through the live webcast, as well as engaging with us on Twitter:


Washington State Supreme Court Justice, Mary Yu


Nick Allen
CLS Institutions Project Attorney

Nick began at CLS as an Equal Justice Works fellow, with a two-year project focused on addressing the legal barriers to legal financial obligations (LFOs) - the fees, fines and restitution imposed by the court as part of a criminal sentence.  As a staff attorney, he continues to work on LFOs as well as other issues, including juvenile life without parole in Washington State.   
Dr. Alexes Harris
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Washington

Dr. Harris received her degrees from the University of Washington (BA in sociology 1997), and the University of California, Los Angeles (MA 1999, PhD 2002).  A primary aim of her work is to produce research that is theoretically informed and empirically rich, and that is of value in local, state, and national policy arenas.  Dr. Harris has authored and co-authored several peer-reviewed research articles in the top general and specialty journals, including the American Journal of Sociological, American Sociological Review, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography and Law and Society Review.  She is currently revising her book manuscript that investigates the system of monetary sanctions imposed on people convicted of felonies across the United States.

Vanessa Hernandez
Attorney, ACLU of Washington

Vanessa manages the Second Chances Project at ACLU-WA and provides legal services and advocacy for people with criminal history.  Her practice focuses on  discrimination in employment and housing, fair credit reporting and background checks, and legal financial obligations.  Ms. Hernandez is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, and prior to joining the ACLU she served as a law clerk to the honorable Betty Binns Fletcher with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  


October 23, 2013:

Watch the slideshow from our 2nd Annual Pro Bono Recognition event.