Eric Holder has just announced the appointment of Lisa Foster as the new head of the DOJ Access to Justice Initiative. Ms Foster was until recently a judge in San Diego. Her experience on the bench, with LAFLA and the Center for Law in the Public Interest, and other groups, will stand her in good stead in this critical job.
This is indeed great news for the Initiative, as well as for access as a whole. I particularly want to echo the AG’s comments (how nice it is to be able to write that phrase) about Karen Lash, who has been wonderfully filling the role of “acting” in the last few months, and achieved so much during that time. (I previously wrote about Deborah Leff here.)
The full press release appears below:
ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER ANNOUNCES LISA FOSTER TO SERVE AS DIRECTOR OF THE ACCESS TO JUSTICE INITIATIVE
WASHINGTON—Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Thursday Lisa Foster as the Director of the Access to Justice Initiative (ATJ). Founded in 2010 by Attorney General Holder, ATJ seeks to address the access-to-justicecrisis in the criminal and civil justice system by working within the department, across federal agencies, and with state, local and tribal justice system stakeholders to increase access to counsel and legal assistance and to improve the systems that serve people who are unable to afford lawyers. By supporting the right to counsel in state and local courts, educating the defender community, supporting defender services in tribal courts, strengthening the juvenile justice system, and enhancing federal programs though civil legal aid, ATJ staff work to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status.
“Lisa is a staunch defender of due process, a champion of the rights of all Americans, and a passionate advocate for equal justice under law,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Throughout her impressive career – from her earliest days in public interest law, to her work as a legal aid provider and her distinguished service on the bench – she has consistently demonstrated superior judgment, impeccable integrity, and a steadfast commitment to the high ideals that the Access to Justice Initiative is charged with protecting. I have no doubt that, under Lisa’s leadership, this important initiative will continue to expand its groundbreaking work to build the more effective justice system – and the more just society – that all Americans deserve.”
Prior to joining the department, Foster served for ten years as a California Superior Court Judge in San Diego presiding over criminal, civil and family law departments. Foster began her legal career as a Staff Attorney at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles and later joined the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Following her service at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Foster served as the Executive Director of California Common Cause before becoming an Adjunct Professor at the University of San Diego Law School and later joining the law firm of Phillips & Cohen as Of Counsel. For the past year, Foster was a judicial fellow in the Office of Senator Edward J. Markey where she advised Senator Markey on a variety of issues including judicial nominees, patent legislation, regulatory reform and international law and policy. She received a B.A. in American Studies from Stanford University and J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.
“The Access to Justice Initiative does critical work to increase access to counsel and legal assistance for all,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “We are privileged to have a person like Lisa, who has dedicated her career to supporting a justice system that is fair and accessible to everyone, guiding this important effort. I am confident that, with Lisa’s leadership, the initiative will continue to build on the outstanding work done by Deborah Leff, Karen Lash, and the dedicated team working with them.”
Last month, as part of ATJ’s work with the Civil Rights Division, the department filed a statement of interest with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Albany County, in Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York. In this class action litigation, the plaintiffs allege that, due to systemic failures in four New York counties, indigent criminal defendants have been constructively denied the right to counsel. And in April, ATJ launched the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Toolkit. This online resource located on ATJ’s website is the product of collaboration with the White House Domestic Policy Council and 18 federal agencies dedicated to examining current programs and practices in order to create better outcomes.
To learn more about the Access to Justice Initiative, visit http://www.justice.gov/atj/.