The current issue of Washington Lawyer, the DC bar journal, contains a great article on the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable.
The article, under the title Ensuring Justice for All: The White House Plan, finally gives some public recognition to the importance and potential of this initiative. As the article puts it:
A White House announcement on September 24, 2015, may signal a change in the federal government’s involvement in access to justice efforts. On that day President Obama formally established the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR), which brings together 21 federal agencies to work on expanding access to legal services for the most vulnerable and undeserved people in our communities.
President Obama signed the memorandum on the eve of the United Nations’ adoption of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, one of which involves making justice accessible to all. “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,” the memorandum states.
The article goes on to quote Jim Sandman of LSC, Lisa Foster of DOJ, and myself.
The importance of LAIR is underlined by what it has done already:
- Clarifying more than two dozen grants involving reentry, access to health care, citizenship, homeless veterans, and other federal priorities to allow legal services that further program goals;
- Hosting more than two dozen Webinars and other presentations to federal grantees, the civil legal aid community, and federal agency staff about how legal aid advances federal priorities;
- Offering new training and technical assistance opportunities; and
- Conducting new research about civil legal aid.
As we all know, its this kind of institutionalization that maximizes the change that things will keep moving during a presidential transition, which can be a time of stasis even when there is no change of party. Keeping things going is even more likely when career civil servants in the agencies become involved, not just the political appointees. This seems to be the case here.
Please help by doing what you can to get this article distributed and republished in other places. Maybe it will also help spur thinking about the relationship of the many agencies that are planning their work with LAIR to the State ATJ Commissions. See discussion here.