A newly-issued Presidential Memorandum on access to justice and the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable hits the high notes in the playbook of legal futurists -- coordination across traditional boundaries, user-friendly technology, sustainability, and data-driven decision-making. No wonder Richard Zorza, a thought-leader on Access to Justice issues, says the memorandum is a "big deal." Full memorandum below the line.
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Establishment of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to increase the availability of meaningful access to justice for individuals and families and thereby improve the outcomes of an array of Federal programs, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. This Nation was founded in part on the promise of justice for all. Equal access to justice helps individuals and families receive health services, housing, education, and employment; enhances family stability and public safety; and secures the public's faith in the American justice system. Equal access to justice also advances the missions of an array of Federal programs, particularly those designed to lift Americans out of poverty or to keep them securely in the middle class. But gaps in the availability of legal aid -- including legal representation, advice, community education, and self-help and technology tools -- for America's poor and middle class threaten to undermine the promise of justice for all and constitute a crisis worthy of action by the Federal Government.
The majority of Americans who come to court do so without legal aid. They may be left by their economic circumstances to face life-altering events -- such as losing a home or custody of children, or escaping domestic violence or elder abuse -- on their own. More than 50 million Americans qualify for federally funded civil legal aid, but over half of those who seek assistance are turned away from legal aid organizations, which lack the funds and staff to meet the demand.
When people come into contact with or leave the criminal justice system, they are likely to face a range of legal issues. A victim of abuse may need a protective order, or a formerly incarcerated individual may need a driver's license reinstated in order to get a job. Access to legal aid can help put people on a path to self-sufficiency, lead to better outcomes in the civil and criminal justice systems, and enhance the safety and strength of our communities. Increased legal resources in a community can also help courts process cases more effectively and more efficiently, saving time and money.
Federal programs that are designed to help the most vulnerable and underserved among us may more readily achieve their goals if they include legal aid among the range of services they provide.
By encouraging Federal departments and agencies to collaborate, share best practices, and consider the impact of legal services on the success of their programs, the Federal Government can enhance access to justice in our communities.
Sec. 2. Establishment. There is established the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR).
Sec. 3. Membership. (a) The Attorney General and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, or their designees, shall serve as the Co-Chairs of LAIR, which shall also include a representative from each of the following executive departments, agencies, and offices:
(i) the Department of State;
(ii) the Department of the Treasury;
(iii) the Department of Justice;
(iv) the Department of the Interior;
(v) the Department of Agriculture;
(vi) the Department of Labor;
(vii) the Department of Health and Human Services;
(viii) the Department of Housing and
(ix) the Department of Education;
(x) the Department of Veterans Affairs;
(xi) the Department of Homeland Security;
(xii) the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
(xiii) the Corporation for National and Community
(xiv) the Office of Management and Budget;
(xv) the United States Agency for International Development;
(xvi) the Administrative Conference of the
(xvii) the National Science Foundation; and
(xviii) such other executive departments, agencies, and offices as the Co-Chairs may, from time to time, designate.
(b) The Co-Chairs shall invite the participation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, Legal Services Corporation, and Social Security Administration, to the extent consistent with their respective statutory authorities and legal obligations.
Sec. 4. Mission and Function. (a) The LAIR shall work across executive departments, agencies, and offices to:
(i) improve coordination among Federal programs that help the vulnerable and underserved, so that those programs are more efficient and produce better outcomes by including, where appropriate, legal services among the range of supportive services provided;
(ii) increase the availability of meaningful access to justice for individuals and families, regardless of wealth or status;
(iii) develop policy recommendations that improve access to justice in Federal, State, local, tribal, and international jurisdictions;
(iv) assist the United States with implementation of Goal 16 of the United Nation's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and
(v) advance relevant evidence-based research, data collection, and analysis of civil legal aid and indigent defense, and promulgate best practices to support the activities detailed in section 4(a)(i)-(iv).
(b) The LAIR shall report annually to the President on its success in achieving its mission, consistent with the United Nation's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report shall include data from participating members on the deployment of Federal resources that foster LAIR's mission.
Sec. 5. Administration. (a) The LAIR shall hold meetings at least three times a year and engage with Federal, State, local, tribal, and international officials, technical advisors, and nongovernmental organizations, among others, as necessary to carry out its mission.
(b) The Director of the Office for Access to Justice in the Department of Justice, or his or her designee, shall serve as Executive Director of LAIR and shall, as directed by the Co-Chairs, convene regular meetings of LAIR and supervise its work. The Office for Access to Justice staff shall serve as the staff of LAIR.
(c) The Department of Justice shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, provide administrative services, funds, facilities, staff, equipment, and other support services as may be necessary for LAIR to carry out its mission.
(d) The LAIR members are encouraged to provide support, including by detailing personnel, to LAIR.
(e) Members of LAIR shall serve without any additional compensation for their work.
Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.