Sandy Williams Justice Center celebrates one year anniversary

Teresa Brooks The Black Lens

On Saturday, April 20, the Sandy Williams Justice Center’s free legal clinic celebrated another year of success, marking a milestone in its ongoing mission to provide vital legal assistance to marginalized communities. The event was made even more special by the presence of esteemed guest speakers, including Washington state Supreme Court Justice Mary I. Yu, Spokane Superior Court judges Breean Beggs and Dean Chuang and city Public Defender Francis Adewale.

At the Sandy Williams Justice Center, individuals from all walks of life, particularly black and brown people, find a welcoming space to seek guidance and support. The clinic operates on a walk-in basis, offering a lifeline to those navigating complex legal issues without the resources to afford representation. Here, they are greeted by compassionate University of Gonzaga Law students and paired with volunteer lawyers who offer invaluable advice and guidance.

While the clinic cannot provide legal representation, it serves as a hub of empowerment and advocacy, leveraging resources to meet the diverse needs of its clients. From housing disputes to immigration matters, the clinic stands as a bastion of support, empowering individuals to assert their rights and pursue justice.

The legacy of the Black Panther Party’s legal clinics lives on through the work of dedicated individuals like Sandy Williams and the countless volunteers who dedicate their time and expertise to serving marginalized communities. Together, they uphold the principles of justice, equity, and solidarity, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their race or background, have access to the legal support they need to thrive.

In the heart of the civil rights movement, amidst the tumultuous atmosphere of the late 1960s, Seattle became a beacon of hope and activism with the establishment of legal clinics aimed at serving marginalized communities. Spearheaded by the Black Panther Party, the second such initiative in the nation, these legal clinics emerged as a vital resource for those seeking justice and equality.

Led by Aaron and Elmer Dixon, the legal clinic operated from 1968 until 1978, leaving an indelible mark on Seattle’s history. The chapter’s programs were groundbreaking, addressing a wide range of issues affecting black and brown communities, from housing discrimination to police brutality. Among these initiatives, the establishment of the Carolyn Downs Medical Clinic stands as a testament to their enduring legacy, providing essential healthcare services to underserved populations to this day.

Sandy Williams recognized the urgent need for legal assistance within the black community in Spokane. Inspired by the successes of the Seattle clinic, Williams founded the Sandy Williams Justice Center, a beacon of hope for those facing legal challenges in Spokane.

In the ongoing struggle for equality, legal clinics like the Sandy Williams Justice Center continue to be indispensable assets, providing a lifeline to those who need it most and championing the cause of justice for all. With the help of the community, allies and experts, legal clinics like the Sandy Williams Justice Center can thrive.

In attendance at the Anniversary celebration were several esteemed members of our Judiciary and Bar in Washington.

State Supreme Court Justice Mary I. Yu’s support is a testament to the center’s ongoing commitment to excellence and its dedication to serving the needs of underserved communities. Appointed by Governor Jay Inslee on May 1, 2014, Justice Yu made history as the first Asian American and the first member of the LGBTQ+ community to serve on the Washington State Supreme Court. Her appointment marked a significant milestone in the ongoing pursuit of diversity and inclusion within the judiciary, reflecting a commitment to ensuring that all voices are heard and represented in the halls of justice. Her words of wisdom and insight served as a source of inspiration for all those in attendance, reaffirming the importance of the legal profession in advancing the cause of justice and equality for all.

Judge Beggs assumed office on July 1, 2023, continuing his over 30 year commitment as an attorney to public service and advocacy. In addition to his work on the bench, Judge Beggs is actively involved in community advocacy initiatives aimed at empowering individuals and addressing systemic inequalities. Through programs like Community Advocacy and Street Law, Judge Beggs along with dedicated volunteers has provided essential legal assistance to low-income individuals and families across Spokane.

Newly appointed Spokane County Superior Court Judge Dean Chuang, helped to underscore the judiciary’s commitment to fostering collaboration between legal professionals and community advocates in the pursuit of justice and equality. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Chuang’s commitment to public service with legal outreach projects and his tenure as a contract public defender in Kennewick.

Well-known City Public Defender Francis Adewale’s support for the clinic is notable and his personal journey to Spokane a testament to his resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to justice. Hailing from Nigeria, Francis earned his law degree in Lagos in 1990. Eight years later, he made the courageous decision to flee Nigeria and seek refuge in the United States, ultimately settling in Washington D.C. after receiving a U.S. Visa through a lottery program. With his legal experience in Nigeria, Francis seized the opportunity to practice law in Washington State, successfully passing the bar exam on his first attempt. Adewale made the life-changing decision to move his family to Spokane, where he quickly made a name for himself as a dedicated and compassionate advocate for his clients.

As the Sandy Williams Justice Center continues its mission of providing free legal assistance to those in need, we are remind that together is how we build a more just and equitable society, including where everyone has access to the legal resources they need to advocate for their rights and interests.

The Sandy Williams Legal Clinic anniversary provided an opportunity for the community to come together and honor a shared vision of justice and empowerment. Together, we can honor Sandy’s memory and work towards a more just and equitable future for all.

Sandy Williams’ Justice Center

If you have any questions about our next legal clinic or would like to get involved, please contact The Carl Maxey Center or the Justice Center by emailing at or visit at 3114 E. Fifth Ave.