White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Issues Report

Today, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and White House Counsel Ed Siskel co-chaired a convening of the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR) where they announced the issuance of the 2023 LAIR Report, entitled Access to Justice in Federal Administrative Proceedings: Nonlawyer Assistance and Other Strategies. The Justice Department’s Office for Access to Justice facilitated the convening, which also featured remarks from Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, as well as the publication of the report, in accordance with the office’s directive to staff and direct the work of LAIR at the direction of the co-chairs.

“There cannot be equal justice without equal access to justice,” said Attorney General Garland. “But the complexity of administrative processes can interfere with access to government programs and services. The Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable’s 2023 Report identifies important strategies for addressing these barriers to promote just outcomes for the people and communities that federal agencies serve.”

The report highlights agency accomplishments and commitments in furtherance of LAIR’s mission to “increase the availability of meaningful access to justice for individuals and families, regardless of wealth or status.” It describes challenges individuals face in federal administrative proceedings to access government benefits or services, remedy rights violations or resolve disputes. The report also sets forth strategic solutions and highlights the work of LAIR’s 28 federal agency members to address these barriers.

“Community-focused alternative legal assistance models are an important way to augment the reach of legal aid providers,” said Associate Attorney General Gupta during the convening. “LAIR’s work reveals that many federal agencies have long utilized this type of innovative assistance — facilitating both attorney and non-attorney help to expand access to a wide range of federal government programs and resources.”

To help address these challenges, LAIR identifies two overarching strategies through the report:

  1. Continue to develop and implement simplification strategies in administrative proceedings, building on LAIR’s 2022 work on people-centered simplification of government forms, processes, and language to increase access to government programs and reduce the need for legal help.
  2. Increase representation and assistance by lawyers and nonlawyers for people in administrative proceedings.

The report provides examples of LAIR agency activities supporting nonlawyer assistance and offers ways that agencies can make assistance available to more people by addressing accreditation, providing clear guidance on the allowability of nonlawyers, conducting targeted outreach, providing training resources, and funding nonlawyer programs alongside legal service programs. The report also shares LAIR agencies’ work supporting global efforts to advance access to justice in administrative proceedings.

“The Office for Access to Justice is committed to engaging with and learning from communities that are seeking access to government programs and services, as well as working with the legal aid and community service providers as trusted intermediaries,” said Office for Access to Justice Director Rachel Rossi. “Through LAIR’s work, we can better understand where barriers exist and identify persistent or recurring problems that affect impacted, underserved, and historically marginalized communities.”

At the convening, in addition to Attorney General Garland and Associate Attorney General Gupta, remarks were provided by the Second Gentleman of the United States, Douglas Emhoff. The roundtable, moderated by Director Rossi, also featured several LAIR agency principals and high-level officials from the Departments of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Labor, State, and Veterans’ Affairs as well as the Administrative Conference of the United States, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of Management and Budget, United States Digital Service, AmeriCorps, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Science Foundation, and United States Agency for International Development.

During the convening, agency principals and high-level officials discussed their activities and recent accomplishments to address access to justice challenges experienced by the people they serve and reaffirmed their commitment to collaborative efforts to mobilize resources and develop access to justice solutions.

LAIR is co-chaired by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and White House Counsel Ed Siskel. It convenes 28 federal agencies and offices to improve coordination among federal programs and increase availability of meaningful access to justice for individuals and families, regardless of wealth and status. Through interagency collaboration and stakeholder engagement, LAIR develops policy recommendations that improve access to justice in federal, state, local, Tribal, and international jurisdictions; advances relevant evidence-based research, data collection, and analysis of civil legal and indigent defense; and promulgates best practices. Additionally, LAIR assists with implementation of Goal 16 of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and provide access to justice for all. The Office for Access to Justice houses the Executive Director of LAIR, Allie Yang-Green, and staffs and directs LAIR’s work.


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