Whatcom Civil Rights Project
About | Training | Volunteer | Organizations | Resources | Complaints | Links
Founded in the fall of 2001 on the initiative of local attorney Breean Beggs, the Whatcom Civil Rights Project (WCRP) is a joint endeavor of LAW Advocates, the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, and Fairhaven College, Western Washington University. Working in conjunction with a network of local attorneys, WCRP provides legal assistance and advocacy to victims of discrimination and civil rights abuse in Whatcom County.
- Trained students must take FAIR 378e to conduct intake interviews for the Whatcom Civil Rights Project in conjunction with volunteers from the Whatcom Human Rights Taskforce. After the intake interview, the students prepare a memo for the Attorney Review Panel that contains a concise summary of relevant facts and identifies possible legal claims. As the project develops, students will continue working with the attorney on a case through the entire litigation process.
- To be trained for the student role, Western Washington University students must take Fairhaven 377 Whatcom Civil Rights Project Class (usually offered once a year in winter quarter). After taking the class (or concurrently with taking the class), students may staff actual interview shifts by signing up for Fairhaven Class 378 Whatcom Civil Rights Practicum.
Whatcom Human Rights Taskforce volunteers assist in the intake interviews. They serve as advocates for the victims of alleged civil rights violations and help to provide the victims with non-legal resources. To serve as a volunteer, one must attend a one-time two-hour training (usually offered each quarter).
Organizations of the WHRTF
Consider ALL possible sources of law to see if a civil rights violation has occurred:
- Federal and state constitutionsFederal and state statutes
- Municipal charters and ordinances (city and county)
- Regulations by federal, state or municipal agencies
- Case law (federal and state)
- Employer policies (consider union and contractual rights)
Internet Legal Research-Places to Start
Look up the Web sites of federal, state, municipal and private agencies that enforce civil rights laws. These Web sites often have the laws explained in terms that are easy to understand, describe exactly how to file a complaint (and how long you have to file it), and list links to other useful Web sites.
Use a library and ASK A LIBRARIAN to help you.
- Whatcom County Law Library
- WWU Library
Other Resources for Civil Rights Complaints
- Washington State Human Rights Commission Enforces the Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60). The Commission works to prevent and eliminate discrimination by investigating human rights complaints and providing education and training opportunities throughout the state.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Any individual who believes he or she has been discriminated against in employment may file an administrative charge with the EEOC.
1801 L Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20507
Federal Office Phone: (202) 663-4900
Seattle District Office Phone: (206)-220-6883
- The Administrative Office Of The Courts (Washington)
1206 Quince Street SE P.O. Box 41170 Olympia, WA 98504-1170
(Website includes many forms and instructions on how to fill them out)
Phone: (360) 753-3365
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington works in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country.
705 Second Avenue, Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98104
Administrative Telephone: (206) 624-2184
Complaint and Referral Line: (206) 624-2180
- Northwest Women's Law Center
Advances women's legal rights throughout the Northwest through litigation, legislative advocacy, and their self help program, which provides legal information and referral services and materials to help women help themselves with legal problems.
3161 Elliott Av., Ste. 101 Seattle, WA 98121
- Whatcom County District Court
311 Grand Avenue, Suite 401, Bellingham, WA 98225
Phone: (360) 676-6770
- Whatcom County Public Defenders
County Courthouse, Suite 304 Bellingham, Washington 98225
- Northwest Justice Project
Not-for-profit statewide organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income people.
1814 Cornwall Avenue Bellingham, WA 98225
- Lummi Victims of Crime Program
Provides 24-hour assistance to tribal members who are victims of crime.
Phone: (360) 384-2285.
Questions to Ask Yourself to Assess the Strength of Your Complaint:
- Who committed the discrimination? (Government, business, private individual?)
- How do you know that the discrimination was based on your protected characteristic (such as race or gender) or legally protected conduct (such as free speech) rather than the person just not liking you?
- Where was the discrimination committed? (country, state, county and city?)
- When was the discrimination committed?
- What proof do you have that the discrimination occurred? (witnesses? documents?)
- What harm was done to you? (lost a job, emotional distress, etc.?)
- Which specific law (constitution, statute, regulation, etc.) forbids this type of discriminatory behavior?
- What remedies does this law allow? (can you sue for money, an injunction, etc.?)
- What is the statute of limitations for this law? (how long do you have to make a complaint or file a lawsuit?)
- Is there an agency that enforces this specific law?
General Information About Making a Civil Rights Complaint
The Whatcom Civil Rights Project (WCRP) is a joint endeavor of LAW Advocates, the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, and Fairhaven College, Western Washington University. Working in conjunction with a network of local attorneys, WCRP provides legal assistance and advocacy to victims of discrimination in Whatcom County (and sometimes neighboring counties). By actively pursuing legal avenues to combat hate and intolerance, WCRP brings justice to those who have been victimized and acts as a deterrent to further acts of discrimination.
We conduct intake interviews with victims of civil rights violation to see if it is the kind of case that the WCRP will take. Civil rights violations may include discrimination based on a legally protected characteristic such as race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status and/or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or legally protected conduct (such as free speech).
In general we do not handle cases involving criminal prosecutions, traffic violations, divorce or child custody, landlord-tenant disputes, or wills.
We are run entirely by volunteers, so please set your expectations accordingly. WCRP Students and Volunteers conduct intake interviews and then present the case at an Attorney Review Panel to see if WCRP can take the case (depending on when the next panel is held, this may take a month or longer). Please note that until you and an attorney have signed a retainer agreement, the WCRP does NOT represent you (and you are advised to keep looking for an attorney). Although there are numerous legitimate and important cases, we can only represent a limited number of them.
Intake Process for Whatcom Civil Rights Project:
- Call the CIVIL RIGHTS HOTLINE to schedule an intake interview:
- Attend intake interview and bring relevant documents. Interviews are generally scheduled sometime in the evening of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Intake interviews are held at Fairhaven College on the south end of the Western Washington University campus. Parking in the lot in front of Fairhaven College (lot 12A) is free after 5 p.m.
- Keep in contact with the volunteer (and provide any additional information requested).
- Within a month or so, your case will be discussed at an Attorney Review Panel. You will be notified as to the outcome (whether or not the WCRP will take your case).
- If your case is accepted by the project, you will be referred to a specific attorney who will represent you.
- Opportunity Council Community Resource Center
A local Community Action Agency serving homeless and low-income families, children, seniors and people with disabilities.
314 E. Holly St. Bellingham, WA 98225
Phone: (360) 734-5121 ext. 370
- LAW Advocates (LAWS)
Provides civil legal assistance and access to justice for Whatcom County residents who are unable to afford them, including family law assistance for victims of domestic violence.
Phone: (360) 671-6079
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Provides legal representation and community education to low-income refugees and immigrants in Washington State.
Phone (206) 587-4009