DOJ Shuts Down Legal Aid Office
A Justice Department office created to make legal aid accessible to all citizens quietly went dark this week.
The Office for Access to Justice, an Obama-era construct, was established in 2010 under then Attorney General Eric Holder to increase and improve legal resources for indigent litigants in civil, criminal and tribal courts. More acutely stated, the office’s stated mission was to “deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot officially close the office without notifying Congress, but he can move resources elsewhere. The office now sits empty on the third floor of the Department of Justice building.
Attempting to draw attention to what he deemed a national crisis of substandard legal aid for the poor, Holder saw the office’s creation as a spoke in the larger civil rights and criminal justice reform wheel.
The office gained notoriety when Harvard Law professor Laurence H. Tribe became a senior counselor, a position created by the Obama administration.
“Sessions’ shutting down the Access to Justice Initiative sadly speaks for itself,” said Vanita Gupta, the chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the former head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama.
“Access to Justice was a recognition that the Justice Department’s job was not just to prosecute cases, but to ensure justice in the system overall,” Gupta said.
By Brionne Griffin
Posted in General News