Another sad but expected one.
As Karen Lash of the DOJ Access to Justice Office announced, with her usual grace and optimism, in an email earlier today:
Today is my last day with the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Access to Justice. It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve as a Deputy Director and to lead the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable. Each of you has played a critical role in the myriad accomplishments — whether creating and using new resources for civil legal aid that further federal priorities, to statements of interest in access-to-justice litigation, and to support for strategies that enhance the public defense function.
I’ll miss the work and all of you.
Karen, in over six years with the Office, has touched every aspect of its work. However, her greatest legacy is probably the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR), which is already having, and will surely continue to have, a huge impact on access to justice through the sensitivity that it has already engendered throughout many of the Federal agencies to the need to integrate that access perspective into agency functioning.
Indeed, that legacy is particularly appropriate, since from very early on Karen was working to focus the ATJ Office on just that integration. Her efforts to ensure a research commitment have been massive, and are now deeply embedded, and not just in the Federal government.
As I have previously noted, LAIR is a perfect model for replication in the states, that are now so far behind the Federal government in taking advantage of the leveraging potential from such relationships.
I would like to add a personal note. When I told Karen about four years ago at an NLADA meeting about my medical diagnosis, we had a very nice supportive conversation. A day or two later, she reached out to me (completely unnecessarily) wanting to apologize for not having, as she felt, risen to the occasion, and we then talked deeper and further. This was so typical of her. She always sets the very highest standards for herself, and when she feels she has not met them, goes back and does what needs to be done to meet those standards.
In terms of the future, I understand that Karen will be doing some consulting projects and working on ways to apply all she’s learned about how the executive branch of government functions and the myriad ways access to justice is essential to good government. That would be truly wonderful. So, what seems today like a sad day may later be remembered as a launch day.
But in any event, it is still a day to again thank you, Karen, for the warmth, intelligence, focus, strategic perspective and energy you have brought to our community.