President Joe Biden is working to improve access and quality of legal services for minorities and low-income Americans.
The president signed a memorandum directing the Department of Justice to restore the Access to Justice Office and the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable.
“The federal government has a critical role to play in expanding access to the nation’s legal system and supporting the work of civil legal aid providers and public defenders. President Biden’s executive action today will reinvigorate the federal government’s role in advancing access to justice, and help ensure that the Administration’s policies and recovery efforts can reach as many individuals as possible,” said the White House in a statement.
The Access to Justice office was created in 2010 by Attorney General Eric Holder. The office was closed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018. The Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable was created in 2012 and launched as an initiative in 2015.
President Biden is directing Attorney General Garland to submit a report to the President within 120 days that outlines the Department’s plan to expand its access to justice work. Garland has indicated that he will start work on this immediately.“
Trust in the rule of law – the foundation of American democracy – depends upon the public’s faith that government seeks equal justice for all. That is the Justice Department’s core duty, and the mission upon which it was built. But without equal access to justice, the promise of equal justice under law rings hollow,” wrote Attorney General Garland in a memo to departmental leadership.
In addition to leading this strategic review within the Justice Department, Attorney General Garland will also help to lead access to justice initiatives across government as co-chair of the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, which the President reconvened today. That initiative will bring together more than two dozen federal departments and agencies to address the most pressing legal services challenges that low-income communities, communities of color, and many others across our country face today.
The president wrote that the pandemic “has further exposed and exacerbated inequities in our justice system.”
The memorandum is a step toward reforming the criminal justice system and establishing racial equity. On the president’s first day in office, he signed an initiative to prioritize equity in government operations. He proposed a $1.5 billion budget to improve state and local criminal justice systems, including public defenders.