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About Getting Help

As one of more than 50 local affiliates around the country, the ACLU of Washington handles civil liberties and civil rights matters that happen in the state of Washington. We do not provide assistance outside of Washington. To find the ACLU affiliate in your state, go to the national ACLU website.

As you can see from our website, the ACLU-WA works on a wide range of issues involving equal treatment for all, fair treatment by government, privacy, and personal freedoms, such as speech, religion, and reproductive choice. These broad categories include discrimination based on race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability, police misconduct, personal privacy, the rights of students and young people, and other civil liberties.

What We Do
What We Don’t Do
What Does It Cost?
How Does the ACLU Choose Cases?
Why the ACLU Turns Down the Cases Which Fall Within Our Guidelines
Can the ACLU Advise Me About My Case?
Important Note About Deadlines

What We Do

  • We offer information in response to specific inquiries or concerns.
  • We coach people on how to assert their own rights and sometimes advocate on their behalf.
  • When we can't help, we refer people to other organizations that may be able to.
  • We undertake selected impact lawsuits that will defend or extend fundamental civil liberties and civil rights and will affect a large number of people. However, the number of cases that we take is relatively small.

What We Don't Do

The ACLU of Washington does not handle matters that happen outside the State of Washington. Although there are exceptions, the ACLU does not generally assist in these types of cases:

  • Criminal Defense or Post-Conviction Appeals
  • Divorce or Custody Cases
  • Property Disputes
  • Tax Problems
  • Landlord Tenant Disputes
  • Building Code Issues
  • Complaints about Lawyers or Judges

The ACLU is not a general legal aid provider, such as the public defender's office or a legal services office that is specifically funded to aid low income people. There are a number of legal service resources in Washington State, and you can find information at the Washington State Bar Association website.

What Does It Cost?

ACLU assistance, including even litigation, is provided free of charge.

How Does the ACLU Choose Cases?

The ACLU generally files cases that affect the civil liberties or civil rights of large numbers of people. The basic questions we ask when reviewing a potential case are: (1) Is this a significant civil liberties or civil rights issue? (2) What effect will this case have on people in addition to our client? (3) Do we have the necessary resources to take this case?

Why the ACLU Turns Down Cases Which Fall Within Our Guidelines

There are many incidents of unfairness and injustice that the ACLU is simply unable to handle. We receive thousands of requests for help each year at this office alone. Therefore, we cannot accept many of the cases that fall within the guidelines discussed above. If your complaint is not pursued by our office, it does not mean it is without merit.

Can the ACLU Advise Me About My Case?

If we do not accept your case, the ACLU is unable to give you advice about your case, answer questions, or provide other types of assistance – for example, reviewing papers or conducting legal research to assist you. This policy allows us to direct the necessary resources to those cases we do accept.

If you are presently represented by an attorney, Washington court rules prohibit us from talking about your case with you without the permission of your attorney. If you believe there are issues that merit ACLU attention, you should discuss them with your attorney and have the attorney contact us to either (1) discuss the case directly with the ACLU, or (2) give the ACLU permission to discuss the case with you.

Important Note About Deadlines

All legal claims have time deadlines. The deadlines may be different depending on who violated your rights and which rights were violated. For some kinds of violations, you may need to file a claim with a government agency before you can sue, and these agencies have their own time deadlines. If you do not comply with the applicable statute of limitations, you may be legally barred from pursuing your claim in court. Contacting the ACLU to describe your problem does not mean that the ACLU represents you, and will not stop the statute of limitations from running. The ACLU cannot give you advice about the deadlines that apply to your case. To protect your rights, please consult an attorney promptly to find out what deadline may apply to your case.

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