Statement on the White House and DOJ Action on Access to Justice

You are here

Release Date: 
Friday, May 21, 2021

NLADA Statement on the White House and DOJ Action on Access to Justice

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) welcomes the recent announcements by the White House and the Department of Justice on access to justice. The Presidential Memorandum on Restoring the Department of Justice’s Access-to-Justice Function and Reinvigorating the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable and accompanying Attorney General Memorandum on Access to Justice recognize the indispensable role of civil legal aid and public defense in upholding the rule of law and the fair administration of justice. They also establish important actions that will greatly enhance the ability of the federal government to improve access to justice for people across the United States.

As NLADA described in its recommendations to the Administration released during the presidential transition, the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR) has been one of the most impactful ways in recent history that the federal government has supported the millions of people in America who experience legal problems each year. LAIR’s work to integrate civil legal aid into the social and supportive services provided by federal agencies generated vital new resources for legal aid. This integration also helped to increase the efficiency of federal programs related to housing, healthcare, employment and many other issues that may not appear legal in nature. Relaunching LAIR and expanding its membership will undoubtedly unlock more opportunities for productive and effective collaboration between civil legal aid and federal programs.

Additionally, the directive that DOJ consider its role in promoting access to justice creates a unique opportunity to develop bold strategies for federal leadership to help make our legal systems more fair and just, and the Attorney General’s commitment to “reinvigorate the Office for Access to Justice” is an important step toward restoring key activities lost by the closure of that office in 2018. ATJ was dedicated to promoting access to legal help for low-income people in our civil and criminal legal systems, and it helped ensure that DOJ policies considered the views of public defenders and civil legal aid providers. It also spearheaded work within DOJ and across the Executive Branch to promote access to justice, including through a robust statement of interest practice; marshalling of resources as exemplified by its launching and staffing LAIR; and developing policy guidance, notably including the “Dear Colleague Letter” on court fines and fees.

“Access to justice is not only one of our nation’s promises but it is among the most effective investments in our communities that government can make” said Jo-Ann Wallace, NLADA’s president & CEO. “Robust federal leadership will galvanize the work of civil legal aid programs and public defenders who provide critically-needed legal help to low-income Americans every day.”

As the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit association dedicated to the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel, NLADA stands ready to support these efforts at the White House and Department of Justice and looks forward to contributing to the stakeholder consultations described in the Attorney General’s memorandum.



The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), founded in 1911, is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. NLADA has pioneered access to justice at the national, state and local levels through the creation of our public defender systems and other important institutions from The Sentencing Project to the Legal Services Corporation. A leader in the development of national standards for civil legal aid and public defense, NLADA also provides advocacy, training and technical assistance for equal justice advocates across the country.