Federal Agency Action
February 1, 2018
On February 1, 2018, numerous media outlets reported that an office of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) – the Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) – was reassigning its personnel and that other services were being rolled back significantly. According to its website, the office was established in March 2010 to “address the access to justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system.” Additionally, the ATJ sought to “advance new statutory, policy and practice changes that support development of quality indigent defense and civil legal aid delivery systems at the state and federal level.” LEARN MORE
This news concerning Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department is just another example of the Trump administration’s approach to civil rights initiatives. Previously, the Trump Administration scaled back civil rights units, reduced funding to those sections and folded some units into other offices and units with the goal of de-emphasizing the priorities and effectiveness of those offices. The result is that programs dedicated to advancing civil rights and investigating abuses in that arena no longer had the resources or guidance to aggressively investigate and monitor incidents and complaints. According to the 2017 Justice Gap Report by the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation, eighty-six percent (86%) of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help. The ATJ was a valuable unit because it also advanced statutory and policy recommendations that could have been used at the federal or state level to address the problem of access to justice for low-income Americans. By re-organizing the unit and de-emphasizing its work, the Trump Administration is showing that not only do they not care about the access to justice issue but they did not even want to hear recommendations or have discussions about something Americans definitely want to be addressed. LEARN MORE
- Office for Access to Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice – webpage on previous accomplishments of the unit.
- Legal Services Corporation – non – profit group addressing the civil legal needs of low-income Americans.
This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.