President Biden seeks to expand access to legal advice and courts for vulnerable citizens
President Joe Biden has ordered the United States Attorney General to submit a plan within four months to expand the Justice Department’s work on access to justice.
The president also announced that he and Vice President Kamala Harris would re-establish the White House Interagency Legal Aid Roundtable to prioritize civilian legal aid and expand access to federal programs.
The guidelines are part of the administration’s efforts to expand access to legal representation and the courts.
“As President Biden knows from his experience as a public defender, quick and affordable access to the legal system can make all the difference in a person’s life – including keeping a person out of poverty, keeping a person at home, helping an unaccompanied child seeks asylum, helps someone fight a consumer scam or ensures that an individual accused of a crime can mount a strong defense and benefit from a fair trial, ”White House officials commented in a fact sheet.
“But low-income people have struggled for a long time to gain quality access to the legal system. These challenges have only increased during the public health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ”the administration noted.
“At the same time, civil legal aid providers and public defenders were under-resourced, understaffed and unable to reach some of the people who most needed their services.
During the previous administration, the Justice Ministry’s work on access to justice, officially launched as an initiative in 2010, was effectively closed.
According to a memorandum, to restore the Justice Department’s leadership in this area, President Biden orders Attorney General Merritt Garland to submit a report to the president within 120 days that outlines the department’s plan to expand his access to justice.
The President ordered the Department of Justice to begin this work immediately.
The administration also said it is re-engaging in the mission of the White House Interagency Roundtable on Legal Aid, originally established in 2015 to educate federal agencies on how civilian legal aid could increase employment, family stability, housing security, consumer protection and public safety.
According to the backgrounder, the White House interagency roundtable on legal aid will be co-chaired by the attorney general and the president’s legal adviser or their representatives.
It will bring together federal agencies to identify ways to address some of the most pressing legal services challenges we face today, including those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The federal government has a critical role to play in expanding access to the country’s legal system and supporting the work of civil legal aid providers and public defenders,” administration officials noted.
“President Biden’s executive action today will reinvigorate the role of the federal government in promoting access to justice and help ensure that the administration’s recovery policies and efforts can reach as many people as possible.” . “
The presidential memorandum is the latest move by the Biden-Harris administration to protect vulnerable Americans, reform the justice system and advance racial fairness, the White House said.
On the first day of his tenure, they noted that the president issued an executive order establishing a government-wide initiative to put equity at the heart of each agency’s priorities and management plan.
“His discretionary budget request called for $ 1.5 billion in funding for grants to strengthen national and local criminal justice systems, including investing in public defenders. Improving access to a lawyer in civil and criminal proceedings builds on each of these efforts, ”the White House concluded.