The Experience of Justice
Most people don’t have any clue as to what justice is all about. They try to put it into a conceptual framework and that’s not what it is. Justice is an experience and it’s something you can’t explain but you can say you’ve experienced it. It’s kind of like beauty. It is beauty.–CFJ founder, Jim Sheehan.
The core purpose of the Center for Justice is to try to bring the experience of justice to all corners of the communities we serve. Because our primary mission is to help those who lack resources get access to the justice system, we try to carefully consider every request for assistance. But it’s also part of our mission to make the best use of our limited resources. We do this by trying to identify and focus upon the causes and cases that are more likely to have a precedent-setting or transcending effect toward achieving a more just, accountable, and environmentally sustainable society.
Our assistance falls into two categories: direct representation and our Community Advocacy program. Our Community Advocacy program recognizes that not all people who require assistance need to file a lawsuit to obtain a just and timely resolution of their problem.
When we directly represent people, we usually do so for those who are unfairly denied consumer protection, employment, government benefits, housing, and public accommodation, as well as individuals and organizations seeking to preserve the rights of free expression and government disclosure. As evidenced by our involvement in the Otto Zehm case, we are especially concerned about protecting the civil rights of our citizens against unreasonable searches, seizures, and uses of force. In addition, we represent and assist those trying to protect the environment. We also have a special focus on tracking police and other governmental misconduct, and working for reforms in those areas.
Part of the Center’s evolution has been to sharpen our focus on environmental and land use issues in which all of us have a stake. For several years, our Spokane River project has been the centerpiece of this effort. In 2009 the river project changed when the Center launched the Spokane Riverkeeper program which gives us an active presence on the river itself. Likewise, we have given increased attention to government accountability and transparency, so that all citizens can at least have the access to open meetings and public records to which the law entitles them. Our Open Government Accountability Project is the centerpiece of that effort.