Merrick Garland restores Office for Access to Justice to provide more legal services for the poor

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The Biden administration announced Friday that it is restoring the Justice Department’s Office for Access to Justice that had been shuttered under former President Trump.

The office is dedicated to expanding access to legal services for the poor by filing right-to-counsel legal briefs and advocating for state-level legal programs for the poor, among other activities.

The office was launched by the Obama administration in 2010 to address what the DOJ said was an “access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system.”

Republicans argued that it was duplicating the work of legal aid services. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions closed it down in 2018.
In announcing the reopening, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said that “because we do not yet have equal access to justice in America, the task before us is urgent.”

President Biden asked Mr. Garland in May to consider reopening the office and to review other ways to restore the department’s “access-to-justice” function. He said the coronavirus pandemic had “further exposed and exacerbated” inequities in the justice system, particularly for low-income people and people of color.

Mr. Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget seeks $6 million in funding for the office.

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