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United States

Expand Access to Justice to Promote Federal Programs (US0087)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Justice, E-Government, Justice, Open Justice, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Equal access to justice helps lift individuals and families out of poverty, or helps to keep them securely in the middle class, and bolsters the public’s faith in the justice system. The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, which currently includes 20 Federal offices and is co-led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Justice, works to raise awareness about the profound impact that legal aid programs can have in advancing efforts to promote access to health and housing, education and employment, family stability, and public safety. These agencies work diligently to determine which programs that help the vulnerable and underserved could be more effective and efficient, and produce better outcomes for the public when legal services are among the supportive services provided. On September 24, 2015, President Obama issued a memorandum intended to institutionalize this Roundtable, expand the participating agencies, and include consideration of equal access to justice for low-income people in both the civil and criminal justice systems. The Roundtable will seek input from civil society, and will annually report on the progress of this work.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 35. Expand Access to Justice

Commitment Text:

Expand Access to Justice to Promote Federal Programs

Equal access to justice helps lift individuals and families out of poverty, or helps to keep them securely in the middle class, and bolsters the public’s faith in the justice system. The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, which currently includes 20 Federal offices and is co-led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Justice, works to raise awareness about the profound impact that legal aid programs can have in advancing efforts to promote access to health and housing, education and employment, family stability, and public safety. These agencies work diligently to determine which programs that help the vulnerable and underserved could be more effective and efficient, and produce better outcomes for the public when legal services are among the supportive services provided. On September 24, 2015, President Obama issued a memorandum intended to institutionalize this Roundtable, expand the participating agencies, and include consideration of equal access to justice for low-income people in both the civil and criminal justice systems. The Roundtable will seek input from civil society, and will annually report on the progress of this work.

Responsible Institutions: White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC), Department of Justice (DOJ)

Supporting Institutions: 21 Federal partners that make up the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR)

Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to institutionalize the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable [512] and expand the number of participating agencies. It further aimed for the roundtable to seek civil society input and report annually on its progress.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

At the midterm, the government had made substantial progress on this commitment. In February 2016, the roundtable held its initial meeting and engaged with civil society via a series of presentations; 22 agencies participated in the roundtable as of March 2016. [513] An initial annual report remained outstanding at the close of the midterm reporting period.

End of term: Complete

Progress on this commitment is complete at the end of term. On 30 November 2016, the roundtable (via the Department of Justice) released its inaugural annual report titled “Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs.” [514] The report describes how legal aid can be used to advance a variety of federal priorities, such as keeping children in school and families at work. Appendix B of the report briefly describes the roundtable’s history of engagement with civil society. From June 2016 through the close of the end-of-term reporting period, this included a Civil Society Consultation on Access to Justice Indicators and Data Collection event organized in September 2016 in conjunction with Columbia University, Fordham University, and the Open Society Foundation. [515] The report notes that the event was attended by dozens of organizations. A list of event presentations [516] obtained separately corroborates this statement, indicating that various universities and civil society organizations working on legal aid (e.g. the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, National Employment Law Project, Center for Court Innovation, etc.) attended the workshop. Collectively, these activities represent a substantial advancement in progress relative to the midterm, resulting in the completion of this commitment.

Did It Open Government?

Civic Participation: Marginal

This commitment marginally opened government with respect to civic participation by giving civil society a new opportunity to engage with the roundtable on issues pertinent to legal aid on several separate occasions. However, as the roundtable’s engagement with civil society over the course of the reporting period constituted a series of one-off engagements as opposed to the development of a more institutionalized consultation mechanism, [517] the commitment cannot be said to have opened government more substantially.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. The roundtable should nevertheless continue to engage meaningfully with civil society and ideally institutionalize a mechanism to facilitate more routine engagement with civil society stakeholders going forward.

[512] WhiteHouse Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable. “Homepage.” https://www.justice.gov/lair. Consulted 26 June 2017.

[513] Department of Justice, “Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz Convene Inaugural White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable.” 3 March 2016. https://bit.ly/2vVew18. See also Open Government Partnership. “United States of America Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015–2017.” p.37. September 2016. https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf. Consulted 2 October 2017.

[514] White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable. “Annual Report: Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs.” November 2016 . https://www.justice.gov/atj/page/file/913981/download. Consulted 22 September 2017. For discussion of the report, see Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs. “White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Issues First Annual Report to the President.” 30 November 2016. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/white-house-legal-aid-interagency-roundtable-issues-first-annual-report-president. Consulted 22 September 2017.

[515] Ibid. Appendix B.

[516] Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute and the National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School. “Recommended Access to Justice Indicators for Implementation of Goal 16 of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in the United States Developed for the ‘Civil Society Consultation with White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable on Goal 16 Access to Justice Indicators and Data.’” 15 September 2016.  http://ncforaj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/NCAJ-CHRI-9-15-16-Recommended-AtJ-National-Indicators-12-1-16-final.pdf. Consulted 22 September 2016.

[517] At the time of writing, the roundtable’s website does not provide any indication of ongoing engagements involving civil society stakeholders, informing the assessment here. See White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable. “Homepage.” https://www.justice.gov/lair. Consulted 29 September 2017.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership