The Federal Government Legal Aid Inter-agency Roundtable met for its inaugural meeting on February 29. The Roundtable is under the White House Domestic Policy Council and DOJ.
As Co-Chair Attorney General Loretta Lynch put it:
“The consequences of limited access to justice reverberate far beyond the courtroom. It hampers our ability to do critical work: to prevent domestic violence and human trafficking; to combat homelessness and predatory lending; to help those in need secure health care and other vital government benefits; to keep kids in school; and to help those with criminal records gain a second chance to succeed.”
That 21 agencies came together to discuss the Federal role in access to justice is nothing short of miraculous. In its own way, this is just as momentous as the State Chiefs 100% Resolution. Taken together, they two are the foundations of a revolution.
This is what a photo of a revolution looks like in America (photo from DOJ website).
A bit of a sense of what this might mean can be gleaned from the Talking Points of the presentation given at the meeting by Rebecca Sandefur, which is attached here.
Among the points made to the over 20 agencies, and endorsed at the very highest level, were the frequency of legal problems, the extent to which they are often not recognized as such, their tendency to cascade into even worse problems, and the value of legal aid intervention, broadly defined.
As agencies think about the implications for their own work of this important government wide focus, it surely makes sense for state and Federal access players to think about the intersections of their planning. After all, every step taken by the Feds should make state ATJ planning easier, and every state ATJ plan should be a resource for Federal agency planning. Similarly, as each Federal agency moves forward, that agency’s work should inform that of all the others. Indeed, planners and advocates might want to look at the list of member agencies, and consider how to move toward communication. Similarly, Federal agencies might look at the list of state level activity and think what might be a resource or an indicator of need or potential. Of course, the broader information streams, such as here and here, also offer more such information.