President Joe Biden will direct the Department of Justice to restore key functions of the Access to Justice Office and reestablish the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, reports AP news. The plan is aimed at ensuring low-income Americans, and minorities have better access to quality legal representation and restores help for legal services that dwindled under the previous administration. The memo comes nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, which sparked protests and demands to address structural racism and police accountability.
The Biden memo directs the attorney general to submit a plan to expand work on access to justice within 120 days, but doesn’t explicitly reopen the office. It represents an addition to the $1.5 billion executive. The White House said Biden was also directing a roundtable to look at the impact that COVID-19 had on access to justice, and wrote the pandemic “has further exposed and exacerbated inequities in our justice system” as legal services were curtailed. These problems “have touched the lives of many persons in this country, particularly low-income people and people of color.” The announcement follows the launching of civil rights investigations of police in Louisville, Ky., and Minneapolis.