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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Legal"

White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Issues First Annual Report to the President

The Justice Department today issued the first annual report of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR) to President Obama.  The report, entitled “Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs,” documents the significant steps that the 22 federal agency members of WH-LAIR have taken to integrate civil legal aid into programs designed to serve low-income and vulnerable people.  The Attorney General and the Director of   the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) co-chair WH-LAIR.
“Ensuring equal access to justice is an essential part of our work to empower the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “Many vital efforts — from preventing human trafficking to improving access to health benefits – depend on citizens’ ability to receive meaningful legal aid.  The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable was established to help close the justice gap and provide legal assistance to Americans in need.  It is a privilege to send this report to President Obama.  It describes the progress we have made, and it lays out a vision for this critical work in the years to come.” 
“The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable has become indispensable in helping the federal government establish partnerships with legal aid providers that push federal programming forward and ensure that essential services reach the communities that need them most,” said Cecilia Muñoz, White House DPC Director and WH-LAIR Co-Chair.
Civil legal aid is free legal assistance to low-income and underserved people with often life-altering legal problems, including  domestic violence, child support, foreclosure, eviction, unemployment and debt, among other issues.  Legal aid also helps people access basic necessities such as health care, housing, government benefits, employment and educational services.  Civil legal aid is particularly vital because unlike criminal cases where there is typically a constitutional right to counsel, there is no right to a lawyer in most civil cases, leaving many low- and moderate-income Americans without any legal assistance.  
Recognizing the power of legal aid to both increase the availability of meaningful access to justice and improve outcomes in many federal programs, WH-LAIR agencies have been working together since 2012 to integrate legal aid into their programs, policies and initiatives.  Staffed by the DOJ Office for Access to Justice (ATJ), WH-LAIR has engaged federal grantees, legal aid providers and federal agency staff to raise awareness about how legal aid advances federal priorities.  As set out in the report, accomplishments include dozens of federal grants that have now been clarified to ensure that legal aid can be included in the range of services provided to people in areas like health care, domestic violence, homelessness and prisoner reentry; new training and technical assistance to grantees and legal aid providers; and research about the impact of civil legal aid.  WH-LAIR also created the WH-LAIR website and Toolkit, online resources that provide information about civil legal aid and how it helps advance a broad array of federal objectives as well as available federal funding opportunities and other resources.
In the 2015 Presidential Memorandum that formally established the interagency collaboration as a White House initiative, President Obama said, “equal access to justice…advances the missions of an array of federal programs, particularly those designed to lift Americans out of poverty or to keep them securely in the middle class.”  The memorandum called on WH-LAIR to report annually on its successes.
The report addresses key federal priorities where civil legal aid improves program outcomes: accessing health services and improving health, expanding access to housing and preventing homelessness, strengthening families and keeping children in school, keeping Americans working and getting jobs, enhancing public safety and helping crime victims, and combatting fraud and protecting consumers.  It also describes agencies’ efforts to partner with legal aid organizations to meet the needs of special populations, including veterans and servicemembers, tribes and tribal members, people with disabilities, people with criminal records, immigrants and disaster survivors.  The report includes research and data on the efficacy of legal aid and provides numerous examples of how WH-LAIR agencies’ work has touched millions of Americans.
The report can be found at www.justice.gov/lair/annualreport.
Source: Justice News

White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Issues First Annual Report to the President

The Justice Department today issued the first annual report of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR) to President Obama.  The report, entitled “Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs,” documents the significant steps that the 22 federal agency members of WH-LAIR have taken to integrate civil legal aid into programs designed to serve low-income and vulnerable people.  The Attorney General and the Director of   the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) co-chair WH-LAIR.
“Ensuring equal access to justice is an essential part of our work to empower the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “Many vital efforts — from preventing human trafficking to improving access to health benefits – depend on citizens’ ability to receive meaningful legal aid.  The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable was established to help close the justice gap and provide legal assistance to Americans in need.  It is a privilege to send this report to President Obama.  It describes the progress we have made, and it lays out a vision for this critical work in the years to come.” 
“The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable has become indispensable in helping the federal government establish partnerships with legal aid providers that push federal programming forward and ensure that essential services reach the communities that need them most,” said Cecilia Muñoz, White House DPC Director and WH-LAIR Co-Chair.
Civil legal aid is free legal assistance to low-income and underserved people with often life-altering legal problems, including  domestic violence, child support, foreclosure, eviction, unemployment and debt, among other issues.  Legal aid also helps people access basic necessities such as health care, housing, government benefits, employment and educational services.  Civil legal aid is particularly vital because unlike criminal cases where there is typically a constitutional right to counsel, there is no right to a lawyer in most civil cases, leaving many low- and moderate-income Americans without any legal assistance.  
Recognizing the power of legal aid to both increase the availability of meaningful access to justice and improve outcomes in many federal programs, WH-LAIR agencies have been working together since 2012 to integrate legal aid into their programs, policies and initiatives.  Staffed by the DOJ Office for Access to Justice (ATJ), WH-LAIR has engaged federal grantees, legal aid providers and federal agency staff to raise awareness about how legal aid advances federal priorities.  As set out in the report, accomplishments include dozens of federal grants that have now been clarified to ensure that legal aid can be included in the range of services provided to people in areas like health care, domestic violence, homelessness and prisoner reentry; new training and technical assistance to grantees and legal aid providers; and research about the impact of civil legal aid.  WH-LAIR also created the WH-LAIR website and Toolkit, online resources that provide information about civil legal aid and how it helps advance a broad array of federal objectives as well as available federal funding opportunities and other resources.
In the 2015 Presidential Memorandum that formally established the interagency collaboration as a White House initiative, President Obama said, “equal access to justice…advances the missions of an array of federal programs, particularly those designed to lift Americans out of poverty or to keep them securely in the middle class.”  The memorandum called on WH-LAIR to report annually on its successes.
The report addresses key federal priorities where civil legal aid improves program outcomes: accessing health services and improving health, expanding access to housing and preventing homelessness, strengthening families and keeping children in school, keeping Americans working and getting jobs, enhancing public safety and helping crime victims, and combatting fraud and protecting consumers.  It also describes agencies’ efforts to partner with legal aid organizations to meet the needs of special populations, including veterans and servicemembers, tribes and tribal members, people with disabilities, people with criminal records, immigrants and disaster survivors.  The report includes research and data on the efficacy of legal aid and provides numerous examples of how WH-LAIR agencies’ work has touched millions of Americans.
The report can be found at www.justice.gov/lair/annualreport.
Source: Justice News

Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer Delivers Remarks at Second International Conference on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems

Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Jennifer [Smith of the International Legal Foundation] for your kind words. 
I want to thank Minister of Justice [German] Garavano, Vice-Minister of Justice [Santiago] Otamendi and Chief Federal Public Defender General Stella Maris Martinez of the Government of the Republic of Argentina, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Nations Development Programme and the International Legal Foundation, for coordinating this important gathering so that we may, together, explore how to strengthen and improve access to criminal legal aid globally.
And equally important, I want to thank all of you – the gathered Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Attorneys General, Supreme Court Justices and criminal legal aid providers and experts – for participating in this conference.  All of the leaders in this room – and so many others across the globe – are indispensable partners in our efforts to fulfill the promise of access to criminal legal aid.  Your work is moving us closer to the ideals of equality, opportunity and justice under law.
The United States participated with enthusiasm at the historic first international convening on criminal legal aid, held in Johannesburg, and it is a privilege to join you in Buenos Aires at the second biannual conference.
Today, with our Presidential election just concluded, I address you not only as an official of the United States Department of Justice, but also as a representative of American democracy.  Since George Washington first relinquished his office to incoming President John Adams in 1797, a peaceful transition of power has symbolized the stability of the United States government.  On January 20, for the 44th time, a President will transfer his authority and responsibilities to his democratically elected successor.  With that transition may come changes in policies and priorities.  That is normal and in the natural course.  But what will not change – what has not changed for over 200 years, from Administration to Administration – is the promise that all people – regardless of wealth or want, status or stature, color or creed – are entitled to a set of undeniable rights:  equal protection, fundamental fairness and impartial justice.
This commitment to equal justice is rooted in the founding ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.   It has been enshrined by our Supreme Court in milestone decisions like Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down racial segregation in schools, and Gideon v. Wainwright, which guaranteed that a defendant in a criminal case has the right to a lawyer whether or not that person can afford one.  It has been embraced by Presidents of both parties, as exemplified by the creation of the Legal Services Corporation, the largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans, by President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton’s signing of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, which provides legal aid for victims of domestic violence.  And it is embodied in the renewed debate on the criminal justice system, in which Americans from a range of backgrounds and political beliefs have come to agree on the need to address persistent inequities and inefficiencies in our criminal justice system, from the fairness of our sentencing laws, to the injustice in imposing fines and fees against those unable to pay, to how we reintegrate into civic and economic life those individuals convicted of crimes who have paid their debt to society.
Our progress towards fulfilling these promises has not been uninterrupted.  At times, we have made great strides, dedicating resources, energy and ideas to the task.  At other times, we have fallen short of our own ideals.  But with each triumph and setback, we have been reminded that justice is as much a journey as it is a destination – as much a process as it is an outcome – and that the fairest criminal justice system gives equal attention to both.
Addressing this challenge has been a priority of the Department of Justice in the eight years of the Obama Administration.  In 2010, the department launched the Office of Access to Justice – which I oversee and which seeks to improve access to legal aid to everyone in the United States who needs it.  Much of the Office’s work is directed at strengthening criminal defense for the poor by focusing on many of the same values outlined in the 2012 U.N. Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems.
Among our most significant accomplishments has been to ensure the reality of Gideon’s promise, for the right to counsel is not only a constitutional imperative but vital to the effective functioning – and legitimacy – of the U.S. criminal justice system.  Fulfilling this promise is not easy.  Between 1999 and 2007, the number of public defenders – the front-line lawyers in our country who provide legal aid to indigent criminal defendants – increased by only four percent while their caseload increased by 20 percent.  When managing such huge caseloads, it is difficult and often times impossible, for public defenders to carry out their legal and ethical duties to their clients.  To help alleviate that problem, the Department of Justice has awarded millions of dollars to cities, states and defense advocacy organizations to support their indigent defense work.  These awards expanded the number of cities that participate in the department’s “Smart Defense” program, where cities use data, research and research partnerships to enhance criminal justice systems and programs.  These funds have also been invested in bringing risk assessment to the pre-trial detention stage, so that judges are making informed pre-trial release decisions that improve cost-effectiveness while protecting public safety and defendants’ due process, and to ensure that our public defenders have the skills necessary to be effective pretrial advocates.   And where states have proven unwilling to dedicate the necessary resources to public defender services, the department has filed amicus briefs in our courts arguing that it is a constructive denial of the constitutional right to counsel for a public defender system to be so under-resourced, so understaffed and so underfunded that an indigent defendant has access to counsel in name only.  The priority on access to criminal legal aid has extended to forging partnerships with American Indian tribes – our nation’s indigenous communities.  As Robert Kennedy rightly noted when he served as Attorney General, it is a tragic irony that the first Americans have endured a long and painful history of broken promises, deferred action and denied rights at the hands of the United States Government.  As one of many steps taken by the Justice Department to right these injustices, we have authored and supported landmark legislation to expand American Indian tribal governments’ criminal jurisdiction and sentencing authority while at the same time enhancing protections for criminal defendants in tribal courts.  To further that effort, the department has worked hard to support tribes through funding and training that improves the trial skills of tribal public defenders as well judges and prosecutors. 
Of course, advancing access to justice for all also requires that we look critically at the Justice Department’s own role – and its own responsibility – as a central player in the federal criminal justice system.  Three years ago, the department launched the Smart on Crime initiative – a groundbreaking effort designed to reorient the way we approach criminal justice issues by diminishing the use of harsh mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenses; investing in rehabilitation and reentry programs that can reduce the likelihood of recidivism; and supporting vulnerable communities to prevent them from being caught up in the criminal justice system in the first place.  Additionally, we have embarked on an historic clemency initiative, allowing the President to commute sentences for more individuals than the last 11 Presidents combined.  And we have worked hard to get the incentives right in ensuring access to counsel in the federal system, including no longer requiring defendants in plea deals to waive future claims about whether their counsel was effective, and no longer allowing an immigrant convicted of a crime to be found deportable on the basis of alleged facts never established in the criminal case – a process unfair to immigrants who lack counsel and who may have agreed to plead guilty specifically to avoid immigration consequences. 
Internationally, we have been proud partners with you on promoting equal access to justice, both in the criminal and civil arenas.  Since the U.N.’s unanimous adoption, just over a year ago, of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, we have been working with the international community to breathe life into Global Goal 16, which calls on countries – including the United States – to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”  To that end, the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR) was formally established. 
The Roundtable works to identify how and when legal aid can improve federal programs that serve our nation’s vulnerable and underserved populations. By integrating civil legal aid into a wide array of federal programs designed to improve access to housing, health care services, employment and education, and enhance family stability and public safety, the programs are strengthened and objectives better met.  This month, the Roundtable will issue its first annual report to the President.  This report will detail the history of this interagency effort and provide concrete examples of how civil legal aid has been integrated into federal programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
The Roundtable’s report will not be our only effort to track the progress toward fulfilling Goal 16 – and specifically Target 16.3, which calls on countries to “promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.”  In September, I announced the United States’ commitment to identifying national indicators for Target 16.3, joining other nations around the world, including in the Americas, who have started regional efforts to identify indicators. The United States’ effort, which is being led by the Department of Justice, and includes experts from across the federal government, will help develop national criminal and civil access to justice indicators so that we can rigorously gauge our progress towards the goal of equal justice for all Americans.   While we are still assessing what these indicators might be, we are exploring whether we can track the impact of criminal and civil legal aid on myriad aspects of the justice system.
And because the United States is so strongly supportive of ensuring quality and effective criminal defense, we introduced the groundbreaking resolution at this year’s United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (UN Crime Commission) that you heard about yesterday to promote access to indigent defense, including through the creation of national, regional and international networks of legal aid providers.  Resolution 25/2: Promoting legal aid builds on past international activity, including the 2012 U.N.  Principles and Guidelines, and on the common sense idea that the best way to improve defense services across the globe is through peer-to-peer exchanges and learning.  The United States stands ready to share its experiences in promoting indigent defense and to learn from yours.
Let me end where I began:  by thanking all of you for your participation in this conference, and for your commitment and perseverance to the work of promoting equal access to justice.  When my predecessor Tony West spoke at the inaugural gathering in South Africa, he was clear-eyed about both the progress that had been made in the provision of the right to counsel and the hard work that remained to be done.  Two years later, I echo Tony’s message.  Global efforts to support the right to counsel have never been stronger.  But we have much left to do. 
Conferences like this one are a beginning not an end.   Long after this conference concludes, after all of us have returned home, after all the keynote speeches have been given and outcome documents adopted, there will remain the work of continuing to build criminal and civil legal systems that deliver the promise of equal justice under law for every individual, regardless of where they were born, their color or class, their religious faith or their sexual orientation.  That work will not be easy.  The progress will not always be uninterrupted.  But rest assured that the United States stands with you in this mutual endeavor.  We will remain an outspoken advocate on the importance of access to criminal legal aid at home and abroad.   We will continue to be a staunch ally in the fight for justice.  And we will remain a steadfast partner in the endeavor to build legal systems that are fair and effective for all.  I look forward to all that we will achieve – together – in the years ahead.  Thank you.
Source: Justice News

Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer Delivers Remarks at Second International Conference on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems

Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Jennifer [Smith of the International Legal Foundation] for your kind words. 
I want to thank Minister of Justice [German] Garavano, Vice-Minister of Justice [Santiago] Otamendi and Chief Federal Public Defender General Stella Maris Martinez of the Government of the Republic of Argentina, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Nations Development Programme and the International Legal Foundation, for coordinating this important gathering so that we may, together, explore how to strengthen and improve access to criminal legal aid globally.
And equally important, I want to thank all of you – the gathered Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Attorneys General, Supreme Court Justices and criminal legal aid providers and experts – for participating in this conference.  All of the leaders in this room – and so many others across the globe – are indispensable partners in our efforts to fulfill the promise of access to criminal legal aid.  Your work is moving us closer to the ideals of equality, opportunity and justice under law.
The United States participated with enthusiasm at the historic first international convening on criminal legal aid, held in Johannesburg, and it is a privilege to join you in Buenos Aires at the second biannual conference.
Today, with our Presidential election just concluded, I address you not only as an official of the United States Department of Justice, but also as a representative of American democracy.  Since George Washington first relinquished his office to incoming President John Adams in 1797, a peaceful transition of power has symbolized the stability of the United States government.  On January 20, for the 44th time, a President will transfer his authority and responsibilities to his democratically elected successor.  With that transition may come changes in policies and priorities.  That is normal and in the natural course.  But what will not change – what has not changed for over 200 years, from Administration to Administration – is the promise that all people – regardless of wealth or want, status or stature, color or creed – are entitled to a set of undeniable rights:  equal protection, fundamental fairness and impartial justice.
This commitment to equal justice is rooted in the founding ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.   It has been enshrined by our Supreme Court in milestone decisions like Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down racial segregation in schools, and Gideon v. Wainwright, which guaranteed that a defendant in a criminal case has the right to a lawyer whether or not that person can afford one.  It has been embraced by Presidents of both parties, as exemplified by the creation of the Legal Services Corporation, the largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans, by President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton’s signing of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, which provides legal aid for victims of domestic violence.  And it is embodied in the renewed debate on the criminal justice system, in which Americans from a range of backgrounds and political beliefs have come to agree on the need to address persistent inequities and inefficiencies in our criminal justice system, from the fairness of our sentencing laws, to the injustice in imposing fines and fees against those unable to pay, to how we reintegrate into civic and economic life those individuals convicted of crimes who have paid their debt to society.
Our progress towards fulfilling these promises has not been uninterrupted.  At times, we have made great strides, dedicating resources, energy and ideas to the task.  At other times, we have fallen short of our own ideals.  But with each triumph and setback, we have been reminded that justice is as much a journey as it is a destination – as much a process as it is an outcome – and that the fairest criminal justice system gives equal attention to both.
Addressing this challenge has been a priority of the Department of Justice in the eight years of the Obama Administration.  In 2010, the department launched the Office of Access to Justice – which I oversee and which seeks to improve access to legal aid to everyone in the United States who needs it.  Much of the Office’s work is directed at strengthening criminal defense for the poor by focusing on many of the same values outlined in the 2012 U.N. Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems.
Among our most significant accomplishments has been to ensure the reality of Gideon’s promise, for the right to counsel is not only a constitutional imperative but vital to the effective functioning – and legitimacy – of the U.S. criminal justice system.  Fulfilling this promise is not easy.  Between 1999 and 2007, the number of public defenders – the front-line lawyers in our country who provide legal aid to indigent criminal defendants – increased by only four percent while their caseload increased by 20 percent.  When managing such huge caseloads, it is difficult and often times impossible, for public defenders to carry out their legal and ethical duties to their clients.  To help alleviate that problem, the Department of Justice has awarded millions of dollars to cities, states and defense advocacy organizations to support their indigent defense work.  These awards expanded the number of cities that participate in the department’s “Smart Defense” program, where cities use data, research and research partnerships to enhance criminal justice systems and programs.  These funds have also been invested in bringing risk assessment to the pre-trial detention stage, so that judges are making informed pre-trial release decisions that improve cost-effectiveness while protecting public safety and defendants’ due process, and to ensure that our public defenders have the skills necessary to be effective pretrial advocates.   And where states have proven unwilling to dedicate the necessary resources to public defender services, the department has filed amicus briefs in our courts arguing that it is a constructive denial of the constitutional right to counsel for a public defender system to be so under-resourced, so understaffed and so underfunded that an indigent defendant has access to counsel in name only.  The priority on access to criminal legal aid has extended to forging partnerships with American Indian tribes – our nation’s indigenous communities.  As Robert Kennedy rightly noted when he served as Attorney General, it is a tragic irony that the first Americans have endured a long and painful history of broken promises, deferred action and denied rights at the hands of the United States Government.  As one of many steps taken by the Justice Department to right these injustices, we have authored and supported landmark legislation to expand American Indian tribal governments’ criminal jurisdiction and sentencing authority while at the same time enhancing protections for criminal defendants in tribal courts.  To further that effort, the department has worked hard to support tribes through funding and training that improves the trial skills of tribal public defenders as well judges and prosecutors. 
Of course, advancing access to justice for all also requires that we look critically at the Justice Department’s own role – and its own responsibility – as a central player in the federal criminal justice system.  Three years ago, the department launched the Smart on Crime initiative – a groundbreaking effort designed to reorient the way we approach criminal justice issues by diminishing the use of harsh mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenses; investing in rehabilitation and reentry programs that can reduce the likelihood of recidivism; and supporting vulnerable communities to prevent them from being caught up in the criminal justice system in the first place.  Additionally, we have embarked on an historic clemency initiative, allowing the President to commute sentences for more individuals than the last 11 Presidents combined.  And we have worked hard to get the incentives right in ensuring access to counsel in the federal system, including no longer requiring defendants in plea deals to waive future claims about whether their counsel was effective, and no longer allowing an immigrant convicted of a crime to be found deportable on the basis of alleged facts never established in the criminal case – a process unfair to immigrants who lack counsel and who may have agreed to plead guilty specifically to avoid immigration consequences. 
Internationally, we have been proud partners with you on promoting equal access to justice, both in the criminal and civil arenas.  Since the U.N.’s unanimous adoption, just over a year ago, of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, we have been working with the international community to breathe life into Global Goal 16, which calls on countries – including the United States – to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”  To that end, the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR) was formally established. 
The Roundtable works to identify how and when legal aid can improve federal programs that serve our nation’s vulnerable and underserved populations. By integrating civil legal aid into a wide array of federal programs designed to improve access to housing, health care services, employment and education, and enhance family stability and public safety, the programs are strengthened and objectives better met.  This month, the Roundtable will issue its first annual report to the President.  This report will detail the history of this interagency effort and provide concrete examples of how civil legal aid has been integrated into federal programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
The Roundtable’s report will not be our only effort to track the progress toward fulfilling Goal 16 – and specifically Target 16.3, which calls on countries to “promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.”  In September, I announced the United States’ commitment to identifying national indicators for Target 16.3, joining other nations around the world, including in the Americas, who have started regional efforts to identify indicators. The United States’ effort, which is being led by the Department of Justice, and includes experts from across the federal government, will help develop national criminal and civil access to justice indicators so that we can rigorously gauge our progress towards the goal of equal justice for all Americans.   While we are still assessing what these indicators might be, we are exploring whether we can track the impact of criminal and civil legal aid on myriad aspects of the justice system.
And because the United States is so strongly supportive of ensuring quality and effective criminal defense, we introduced the groundbreaking resolution at this year’s United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (UN Crime Commission) that you heard about yesterday to promote access to indigent defense, including through the creation of national, regional and international networks of legal aid providers.  Resolution 25/2: Promoting legal aid builds on past international activity, including the 2012 U.N.  Principles and Guidelines, and on the common sense idea that the best way to improve defense services across the globe is through peer-to-peer exchanges and learning.  The United States stands ready to share its experiences in promoting indigent defense and to learn from yours.
Let me end where I began:  by thanking all of you for your participation in this conference, and for your commitment and perseverance to the work of promoting equal access to justice.  When my predecessor Tony West spoke at the inaugural gathering in South Africa, he was clear-eyed about both the progress that had been made in the provision of the right to counsel and the hard work that remained to be done.  Two years later, I echo Tony’s message.  Global efforts to support the right to counsel have never been stronger.  But we have much left to do. 
Conferences like this one are a beginning not an end.   Long after this conference concludes, after all of us have returned home, after all the keynote speeches have been given and outcome documents adopted, there will remain the work of continuing to build criminal and civil legal systems that deliver the promise of equal justice under law for every individual, regardless of where they were born, their color or class, their religious faith or their sexual orientation.  That work will not be easy.  The progress will not always be uninterrupted.  But rest assured that the United States stands with you in this mutual endeavor.  We will remain an outspoken advocate on the importance of access to criminal legal aid at home and abroad.   We will continue to be a staunch ally in the fight for justice.  And we will remain a steadfast partner in the endeavor to build legal systems that are fair and effective for all.  I look forward to all that we will achieve – together – in the years ahead.  Thank you.
Source: Justice News

Justice Department Files Brief to Address Automatic Suspensions of Driver’s Licenses for Failure to Pay Court Debt

The Justice Department filed a statement of interest today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia addressing the constitutionality of state policies that automatically suspend the driver’s licenses of those who fail to pay court fines or fees.  The statement of interest was filed in Stinnie et al. v. Holcomb, a class action brought by four individuals whose driver’s licenses were suspended because they could not afford to pay fines, fees and costs assessed by Virginia courts.The statement of interest advances the United States’ position that suspending a driver’s license is unconstitutional if it is done without providing due process and without assessing whether the individual’s failure to pay was willful or the result of an inability to pay.  As the Supreme Court has affirmed, the Constitution prohibits punishing a person because of his or her poverty.  The United States’ brief explains that the defendant’s alleged “practice of automatically suspending the driver’s license of any person who fails to pay outstanding court debt—without inquiring into ability to pay—violates that constitutional principle.”  Without taking into account an individual’s ability to pay, the practice results in indigent defendants having their driver’s licenses suspended because they cannot afford fines and fees, while defendants who can afford to pay do not.  The brief argues that, if the facts as alleged by plaintiffs are true, such practice violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. 

In Stinnie v. Holcomb, the plaintiffs allege that their driver’s licenses were indefinitely suspended because they did not pay court fines and costs that they could not afford.  They further allege that 900,000 people in Virginia, or one in six drivers, have had their licenses suspended for failure to pay court debt.  The department’s statement of interest in this case rests on a fundamental principle, developed in a long line of Supreme Court cases, “that conditioning access or outcomes in the justice system solely on a person’s ability to pay violates the Fourteenth Amendment.”  The brief also explains that a driver’s license is a constitutionally protected interest under clear Supreme Court precedent and that it cannot be suspended under the circumstances permitted in Virginia without adequate notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard first.

“People depend on driver’s licenses to get to work, access health care and provide for their families – and so when their license is suspended for reasons that do not relate to public safety, it unnecessarily disrupts lives and harms communities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  “This brief advances the department’s robust efforts to prevent unlawful practices that punish poverty at every stage of the justice system and that trap vulnerable residents in cycles of debt from court fines and fees.”

“The Constitution prohibits punishing a person for their poverty,” said Director Lisa Foster of the Office for Access to Justice.  “Yet suspending a person’s driver’s license when they are unable to pay court debt does just that.  And it’s also counterproductive.  How can a person pay their fines and fees if they lose their job because they can’t drive to work?”

“Driver’s licenses permit individuals to work and contribute to society in positive ways,” said U.S. Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. of the Western District of Virginia.  “It makes no sense to suspend this privilege because a person is poor.”

In recent years, the department has taken several steps to address the unequal treatment of the poor in the justice system.  In March 2015, the Civil Rights Division addressed a range of harmful practices in the enforcement of fines and fees, including the suspension of driver’s licenses to coerce payment, in its investigation of Ferguson, Missouri.  In March 2016, the division and the Office for Access to Justice sent a Dear Colleague Letter to state courts clarifying the constitutional limits on coercing payment of court debt, including through license suspensions.

Plaintiffs in Stinnie v. Holcomb filed their complaint in federal court in July.  The defendant is the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.  In October, the state’s Office of the Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss the case.  In its filing, the United States does not take a position on the factual accuracy of the plaintiffs’ claims, but instead addresses the appropriate legal framework for analyzing their claims. 
Source: Justice News

Justice Department Files Brief to Address Automatic Suspensions of Driver’s Licenses for Failure to Pay Court Debt

The Justice Department filed a statement of interest today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia addressing the constitutionality of state policies that automatically suspend the driver’s licenses of those who fail to pay court fines or fees.  The statement of interest was filed in Stinnie et al. v. Holcomb, a class action brought by four individuals whose driver’s licenses were suspended because they could not afford to pay fines, fees and costs assessed by Virginia courts.The statement of interest advances the United States’ position that suspending a driver’s license is unconstitutional if it is done without providing due process and without assessing whether the individual’s failure to pay was willful or the result of an inability to pay.  As the Supreme Court has affirmed, the Constitution prohibits punishing a person because of his or her poverty.  The United States’ brief explains that the defendant’s alleged “practice of automatically suspending the driver’s license of any person who fails to pay outstanding court debt—without inquiring into ability to pay—violates that constitutional principle.”  Without taking into account an individual’s ability to pay, the practice results in indigent defendants having their driver’s licenses suspended because they cannot afford fines and fees, while defendants who can afford to pay do not.  The brief argues that, if the facts as alleged by plaintiffs are true, such practice violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. 

In Stinnie v. Holcomb, the plaintiffs allege that their driver’s licenses were indefinitely suspended because they did not pay court fines and costs that they could not afford.  They further allege that 900,000 people in Virginia, or one in six drivers, have had their licenses suspended for failure to pay court debt.  The department’s statement of interest in this case rests on a fundamental principle, developed in a long line of Supreme Court cases, “that conditioning access or outcomes in the justice system solely on a person’s ability to pay violates the Fourteenth Amendment.”  The brief also explains that a driver’s license is a constitutionally protected interest under clear Supreme Court precedent and that it cannot be suspended under the circumstances permitted in Virginia without adequate notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard first.

“People depend on driver’s licenses to get to work, access health care and provide for their families – and so when their license is suspended for reasons that do not relate to public safety, it unnecessarily disrupts lives and harms communities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  “This brief advances the department’s robust efforts to prevent unlawful practices that punish poverty at every stage of the justice system and that trap vulnerable residents in cycles of debt from court fines and fees.”

“The Constitution prohibits punishing a person for their poverty,” said Director Lisa Foster of the Office for Access to Justice.  “Yet suspending a person’s driver’s license when they are unable to pay court debt does just that.  And it’s also counterproductive.  How can a person pay their fines and fees if they lose their job because they can’t drive to work?”

“Driver’s licenses permit individuals to work and contribute to society in positive ways,” said U.S. Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. of the Western District of Virginia.  “It makes no sense to suspend this privilege because a person is poor.”

In recent years, the department has taken several steps to address the unequal treatment of the poor in the justice system.  In March 2015, the Civil Rights Division addressed a range of harmful practices in the enforcement of fines and fees, including the suspension of driver’s licenses to coerce payment, in its investigation of Ferguson, Missouri.  In March 2016, the division and the Office for Access to Justice sent a Dear Colleague Letter to state courts clarifying the constitutional limits on coercing payment of court debt, including through license suspensions.

Plaintiffs in Stinnie v. Holcomb filed their complaint in federal court in July.  The defendant is the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.  In October, the state’s Office of the Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss the case.  In its filing, the United States does not take a position on the factual accuracy of the plaintiffs’ claims, but instead addresses the appropriate legal framework for analyzing their claims. 
Source: Justice News

Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin Delivers Opening Remarks at the National Security Division 10 Year Anniversary Conference

Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Sean, for your kind introduction.  And thank you to CSIS for partnering with us in this conference and for your leadership and innovative thinking on critical policy issues that affect us all.  I would like to take a few moments now to reflect on how the National Security Division (NSD) came to be and how, in our first decade, we have strived to achieve our twin aims: protecting the United States against national security threats while safeguarding our core freedoms.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, were heartbreaking not only because of the loss of life—the single largest from a foreign attack on American soil in U.S. history—or because they altered our sense of safety in our homes and workplaces, but also because, in the words of the Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, the “attacks were a shock, but they should not have come as a surprise.”  The September 11 attacks caught the United States off guard not because we had no information that such an attack by al Qaeda was likely, but because no one put all the information together, made sense of it and shared it with those who could best act on it.
In the wake of this tragedy, our growing understanding of the nature of the terrorist threat, both domestically and internationally, led to dramatic changes in the structure of our government.  Among those changes, and based on the recommendations of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, Congress created the National Security Division in 2006—the Department of Justice’s first new litigating division in nearly 50 years, since the establishment of the Civil Rights Division in 1957.  As the WMD Commission recognized, bringing together the department’s national security-related intelligence, policy, and operational functions into one division would create a “single focal point on all national security matters” and would better allow the existing components to “ac[t] in concert to serve [their] common mission”: combatting terrorism and other threats to national security.  Perhaps more fundamentally, the attacks of September 11 united the nation and the world against a common enemy and with a shared sense of purpose.  At NSD, every day still reflects that powerful sense of unity. 
The history of National Security Division’s constituent parts in fact starts much earlier than 2006, or even 2001.  The Internal Security Division—now the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES)—was founded as a free-standing division of the Department of Justice in the early years of the Cold War.  Largely focused on investigating and prosecuting suspected Soviet agents, the division’s attorneys prosecuted such infamous traitors as the Walker spy ring, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.  Its lawyers also pioneered the use of the Classified Information Procedures Act, which allows the United States to prosecute defendants in national security cases fairly while safeguarding classified information. 
In 1991, under the leadership of then-Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller, the Criminal Division formed the Terrorism and Violent Crimes Section (TVCS)—now the Counterterrorism Section (CTS)—to serve as a focal point for the department’s international and domestic terrorism prosecutions.  During its early years, the section handled a number of hijacking and airplane bombing cases and represented the United States’ interests in the Scottish trial arising out of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  In the ensuing years, TVCS continued to grow in response to new statutory tools enacted in the wake of the First World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  TVCS also assisted the State Department in the first round of designations of foreign terrorist organizations in 1997, the initial step toward our current regime for prosecuting the crime of providing material support to terrorists.
And finally, the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review (OIPR)—the predecessor to NSD’s Office of Intelligence (OI)—was created to implement the intelligence collection regime of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  FISA was enacted in 1978 in the wake of the Church Committee’s revelation that parts of the Intelligence Community had infringed upon the civil liberties of the citizens it was supposed to protect.  The abuses catalogued by the committee were many, including warrantless break-ins, excessive surveillance of politically “subversive” groups, and indiscriminate opening of citizens’ mail.  To address the problems it identified, the Church Committee Report called for oversight of intelligence activity.  In response to this need, FISA provided for oversight by all three branches of government, requiring approval of all FISA warrants by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, searching review by the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence and oversight from within the executive branch itself, to be spearheaded by the Attorney General.  While ensuring that intelligence collection pursuant to FISA observed both statutory and constitutional limits, OIPR attorneys obtained intelligence collection authorities that enabled critical FBI counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations.
Drawn from these three chains, OIPR, TVCS and ISS coexisted largely independent of one another within the Department of Justice’s broader umbrella.  Because of the then-well accepted legal and cultural “wall” between intelligence collection under FISA and criminal investigations, interactions between OIPR attorneys and lawyers from the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices were limited.  So were contacts between the FBI’s law enforcement agents and their intelligence community counterparts.  September 11 forced us to rethink that divide.  With the passage of the USA PATRIOT ACT in 2001 and a 2002 decision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, the legal wall fell, facilitating the later merger of the department’s national security-focused entities into one division, following the WMD Commission’s critical recommendation.
And so, in 2006, the National Security Division was born.  Designed to foster information sharing, coordination and unity of purpose, NSD brings together prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and the Intelligence Community to respond more effectively to national security threats.  And we continue to honor our historical roots: the Church Committee Report and the 9/11 Commission Report are required reading for all new attorneys in the Division.
NSD is comprised of a number of other key offices, beyond CTS, CES, and OI, reflecting its broad mission and the continuing need for greater coordination across government and with our partners abroad: the Foreign Investment Review Staff, drawn originally from both the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and the Office of the Attorney General, supports the department’s participation on the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, among other functions.  The Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism works to ensure that American victims of terrorist attacks abroad are supported and given a voice.  And the Office of Law and Policy, among its many hats, participates in the interagency national security policy process, provides legal assistance and advice on matters ranging from legislation to cyber threats to international counterterrorism capacity building, and includes the division’s Appellate Unit.
In its first ten years, NSD has demonstrated time and again the wisdom of its founders’ vision: that improved coordination and information sharing leads to better results.  Since NSD’s creation, the Department of Justice has convicted more than 340 defendants in federal court for terrorism-related charges.  This record of convictions and lengthy sentences we have achieved—and the intelligence we have gained—are testaments to the value of law enforcement in protecting national security.  The division has also seen many notable successes in cases involving espionage, the illegal export of military and strategic goods and services, and cyber attacks related to national security.   
Beyond the numbers, the division’s commitment to coordination across the government, internationally, and with the private sector has proven vital.  NSD has adopted an intelligence-led, threat-driven, whole-of-government approach, in which criminal prosecution is a strong and effective tool, but just one of many the U.S. government may bring to bear.  Integrating our policy and intelligence functions with the department’s national security prosecutors has allowed us to take advantage of the full array of legal tools, including sanctions, diplomatic engagements and military options, among others, as we combat threats to our national security. 
Early in the division’s history, to provide one example, attorneys from the Office of Intelligence and the Office of Law and Policy were instrumental in the development and implementation of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which modernized FISA to permit effective and civil liberties-protective foreign intelligence collection in the digital age.  The Office of Intelligence has supported numerous foreign intelligence investigations, as well as criminal prosecutions involving the use of information collected under FISA.  And NSD’s counterterrorism prosecutors and attorneys in our Appellate Unit later worked together, along with prosecutors from local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, to successfully implement the protections in the FISA Amendments Act in multiple criminal cases.
In 2009, we successfully prevented a planned attack on the New York City subway by Najibullah Zazi and his co-conspirators.  Externally directed and large scale, this plot resembled the types of terrorist threats we came to expect from al Qaeda and its affiliates.  And in 2010, we obtained convictions from 10 individuals who had served as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation. 
But halfway through our first decade, the most pressing threats we faced evolved and expanded and so did we. As we worked to neutralize Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the threat evolved and expanded to associated groups, like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Shabaab.  Today, the threat has metastasized to include increasingly diverse and geographically dispersed groups like ISIL and Boko Haram and the homegrown violent extremists ISIL and other terrorist groups inspire in the United States remain unpredictable and hard to detect.  ISIL’s use of the Internet to effectively crowdsource terrorism and the shortened flash to bang time between the initiation of a lone-wolf plot and its execution have presented new challenges for the ability to detect and disrupt potential terrorist attacks.  And while much attention has focused on those inspired and directed by al Qaeda and ISIL—and rightly so—we have not lost sight of the domestic terrorism threat posed by other violent extremists motivated by any viewpoint on the full spectrum of hate.  We must do both.
Our work combatting the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters demonstrates the value of NSD’s agile, coordinated efforts to meet a global threat.  In the past few years, following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2178, which calls upon the international community to address the foreign-fighter threat, NSD attorneys have worked with more than 20 countries to develop their criminal legislation and effectively investigate and prosecute foreign fighter cases.  At home, since late 2013, attorneys in the Counterterrorism Section have helped to publicly charge more than 110 individuals in more than 35 districts for foreign fighter, homegrown violent extremism and ISIL-related conduct.
And as computer crimes have been on the rise, we have refocused our efforts to help deter and disrupt cyber-based attacks on our national security.  In 2012, we created the National Security Cyber Specialists (NSCS) Network, a partnership between NSD, the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, to combat cyber terrorism and state-sponsored computer intrusions.  By linking our components closer together, and looking for opportunities to act, as we did in the unprecedented prosecutions described below, the NSCS Network has been an important part of our whole-of-government effort to deter and disrupt such threats.
In a particularly notable case, in May 2014, NSD, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh, obtained the first indictment of state-sponsored computer hacking and economic espionage, charging five named members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army based on their theft of trade secrets and other sensitive business information from American companies.  Our actions altered the diplomatic dialogue between the United States and China on this critical issue: A little more than a year later, Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time publicly declared, “China strongly opposes and combats the theft of commercial secrets and other kinds of hacking attacks.”  The United States and China agreed that neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to their companies or commercial sectors.  And, at the G20 Summit last fall, leaders of the world’s most powerful nations pledged not to conduct or support cyber economic espionage.  Now we must work to see that these commitments are honored.
Also in 2014, North Korea-sponsored hackers attacked Sony Pictures Entertainment, damaged its computer systems, stole valuable information and private correspondence and released it at significant cost to the company and its employees.  In a matter of mere weeks, through close partnership with Sony and the hard work of the FBI, we publicly named—for the first time—the nation-state responsible for a destructive attack on an American company.  Then, less than two months after the attack, the United States imposed additional sanctions on North Korea. 
Likewise, we publicly named—and charged—Iranian hackers affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for their roles in a campaign of distributed denial of service attacks against the U.S. financial sector and members of the Syrian Electronic Army for conspiracies related to computer hacking.  As important as the resolution of these individual cases are, they also promise a larger deterrent for would-be cyber criminals: that we can—and we will—remove the cloak of anonymity.  And that no matter where a hacker is located or who he is affiliated with—whether a nation state or terrorist group—we can figure out who did it, we can do so publicly, and we can impose consequences.
Our heightened focus on homegrown violent extremists, foreign fighters and cyber attacks does not mean that we no longer worry about traditional espionage activity or threats from al Qaeda.  Far from it.  Rather, we have continued to meet those more established threats, while remaining vigilant against the new threats that have arisen in our first decade. 
In the next decade, the threats will certainly change again.  NSD can and must change with them.   In addition to continuing efforts by terrorists to undermine our way of life, we foresee risks posed by data theft, ransomware and other extortion efforts and the increased vulnerabilities of the so-called “Internet of Things.”  What is more, already, we are seeing how cyber attacks can blend and blur with real-world terrorist attacks in unexpected ways.  In August 2015, ISIL-affiliated hackers publicly released the names, locations, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of more than 1,000 U.S. military and other government personnel for the purpose of encouraging terrorist attacks against them.  In a first-of-its-kind case, the Department of Justice charged Ardit Ferizi with a material support violation for providing this stolen information to ISIL.  Ferizi was extradited and ultimately pleaded guilty.  Deterring and disrupting these kinds of threats will require the sorts of interagency, public-private and international cooperation that is at the core of NSD’s mission. 
As we look ahead to the types of new threats we may face, the importance of engagement with the private sector and with the public cannot be overstated.  As recognized in the 9/11 Commission’s Tenth Anniversary Report, “national security leaders must communicate to the public—in specific terms—what the threat is, how it is evolving, what measures are being taken to address it, [and] why those measures are necessary.”  We have invested significant energy in engaging with various sectors of the economy and sharing information with the public at large to help people and businesses protect themselves from emerging threats.  In doing so, we achieve our mission and build relationships of trust and common interest.  This will be a critical and ongoing part of our work in the coming years.
I cannot fully express my pride in the accomplishments of the men and women of the National Security Division over the past decade.  NSD is a mission-driven team that uses all tools to protect against threats to our national security, while honoring our role in safeguarding our nation’s most precious freedoms.  We are committed to working closely with all our partners—from the Intelligence Community to law enforcement, from the private sector here to international partners abroad—to help protect the American people.  We will remain vigilant and ever adaptive as we strive to meet the challenges of the next ten years and beyond.
Source: Justice News

Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin Delivers Opening Remarks at the National Security Division 10 Year Anniversary Conference

Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Sean, for your kind introduction.  And thank you to CSIS for partnering with us in this conference and for your leadership and innovative thinking on critical policy issues that affect us all.  I would like to take a few moments now to reflect on how the National Security Division (NSD) came to be and how, in our first decade, we have strived to achieve our twin aims: protecting the United States against national security threats while safeguarding our core freedoms.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, were heartbreaking not only because of the loss of life—the single largest from a foreign attack on American soil in U.S. history—or because they altered our sense of safety in our homes and workplaces, but also because, in the words of the Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, the “attacks were a shock, but they should not have come as a surprise.”  The September 11 attacks caught the United States off guard not because we had no information that such an attack by al Qaeda was likely, but because no one put all the information together, made sense of it and shared it with those who could best act on it.
In the wake of this tragedy, our growing understanding of the nature of the terrorist threat, both domestically and internationally, led to dramatic changes in the structure of our government.  Among those changes, and based on the recommendations of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, Congress created the National Security Division in 2006—the Department of Justice’s first new litigating division in nearly 50 years, since the establishment of the Civil Rights Division in 1957.  As the WMD Commission recognized, bringing together the department’s national security-related intelligence, policy, and operational functions into one division would create a “single focal point on all national security matters” and would better allow the existing components to “ac[t] in concert to serve [their] common mission”: combatting terrorism and other threats to national security.  Perhaps more fundamentally, the attacks of September 11 united the nation and the world against a common enemy and with a shared sense of purpose.  At NSD, every day still reflects that powerful sense of unity. 
The history of National Security Division’s constituent parts in fact starts much earlier than 2006, or even 2001.  The Internal Security Division—now the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES)—was founded as a free-standing division of the Department of Justice in the early years of the Cold War.  Largely focused on investigating and prosecuting suspected Soviet agents, the division’s attorneys prosecuted such infamous traitors as the Walker spy ring, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.  Its lawyers also pioneered the use of the Classified Information Procedures Act, which allows the United States to prosecute defendants in national security cases fairly while safeguarding classified information. 
In 1991, under the leadership of then-Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller, the Criminal Division formed the Terrorism and Violent Crimes Section (TVCS)—now the Counterterrorism Section (CTS)—to serve as a focal point for the department’s international and domestic terrorism prosecutions.  During its early years, the section handled a number of hijacking and airplane bombing cases and represented the United States’ interests in the Scottish trial arising out of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  In the ensuing years, TVCS continued to grow in response to new statutory tools enacted in the wake of the First World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  TVCS also assisted the State Department in the first round of designations of foreign terrorist organizations in 1997, the initial step toward our current regime for prosecuting the crime of providing material support to terrorists.
And finally, the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review (OIPR)—the predecessor to NSD’s Office of Intelligence (OI)—was created to implement the intelligence collection regime of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  FISA was enacted in 1978 in the wake of the Church Committee’s revelation that parts of the Intelligence Community had infringed upon the civil liberties of the citizens it was supposed to protect.  The abuses catalogued by the committee were many, including warrantless break-ins, excessive surveillance of politically “subversive” groups, and indiscriminate opening of citizens’ mail.  To address the problems it identified, the Church Committee Report called for oversight of intelligence activity.  In response to this need, FISA provided for oversight by all three branches of government, requiring approval of all FISA warrants by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, searching review by the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence and oversight from within the executive branch itself, to be spearheaded by the Attorney General.  While ensuring that intelligence collection pursuant to FISA observed both statutory and constitutional limits, OIPR attorneys obtained intelligence collection authorities that enabled critical FBI counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations.
Drawn from these three chains, OIPR, TVCS and ISS coexisted largely independent of one another within the Department of Justice’s broader umbrella.  Because of the then-well accepted legal and cultural “wall” between intelligence collection under FISA and criminal investigations, interactions between OIPR attorneys and lawyers from the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices were limited.  So were contacts between the FBI’s law enforcement agents and their intelligence community counterparts.  September 11 forced us to rethink that divide.  With the passage of the USA PATRIOT ACT in 2001 and a 2002 decision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, the legal wall fell, facilitating the later merger of the department’s national security-focused entities into one division, following the WMD Commission’s critical recommendation.
And so, in 2006, the National Security Division was born.  Designed to foster information sharing, coordination and unity of purpose, NSD brings together prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and the Intelligence Community to respond more effectively to national security threats.  And we continue to honor our historical roots: the Church Committee Report and the 9/11 Commission Report are required reading for all new attorneys in the Division.
NSD is comprised of a number of other key offices, beyond CTS, CES, and OI, reflecting its broad mission and the continuing need for greater coordination across government and with our partners abroad: the Foreign Investment Review Staff, drawn originally from both the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and the Office of the Attorney General, supports the department’s participation on the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, among other functions.  The Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism works to ensure that American victims of terrorist attacks abroad are supported and given a voice.  And the Office of Law and Policy, among its many hats, participates in the interagency national security policy process, provides legal assistance and advice on matters ranging from legislation to cyber threats to international counterterrorism capacity building, and includes the division’s Appellate Unit.
In its first ten years, NSD has demonstrated time and again the wisdom of its founders’ vision: that improved coordination and information sharing leads to better results.  Since NSD’s creation, the Department of Justice has convicted more than 340 defendants in federal court for terrorism-related charges.  This record of convictions and lengthy sentences we have achieved—and the intelligence we have gained—are testaments to the value of law enforcement in protecting national security.  The division has also seen many notable successes in cases involving espionage, the illegal export of military and strategic goods and services, and cyber attacks related to national security.   
Beyond the numbers, the division’s commitment to coordination across the government, internationally, and with the private sector has proven vital.  NSD has adopted an intelligence-led, threat-driven, whole-of-government approach, in which criminal prosecution is a strong and effective tool, but just one of many the U.S. government may bring to bear.  Integrating our policy and intelligence functions with the department’s national security prosecutors has allowed us to take advantage of the full array of legal tools, including sanctions, diplomatic engagements and military options, among others, as we combat threats to our national security. 
Early in the division’s history, to provide one example, attorneys from the Office of Intelligence and the Office of Law and Policy were instrumental in the development and implementation of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which modernized FISA to permit effective and civil liberties-protective foreign intelligence collection in the digital age.  The Office of Intelligence has supported numerous foreign intelligence investigations, as well as criminal prosecutions involving the use of information collected under FISA.  And NSD’s counterterrorism prosecutors and attorneys in our Appellate Unit later worked together, along with prosecutors from local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, to successfully implement the protections in the FISA Amendments Act in multiple criminal cases.
In 2009, we successfully prevented a planned attack on the New York City subway by Najibullah Zazi and his co-conspirators.  Externally directed and large scale, this plot resembled the types of terrorist threats we came to expect from al Qaeda and its affiliates.  And in 2010, we obtained convictions from 10 individuals who had served as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation. 
But halfway through our first decade, the most pressing threats we faced evolved and expanded and so did we. As we worked to neutralize Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the threat evolved and expanded to associated groups, like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Shabaab.  Today, the threat has metastasized to include increasingly diverse and geographically dispersed groups like ISIL and Boko Haram and the homegrown violent extremists ISIL and other terrorist groups inspire in the United States remain unpredictable and hard to detect.  ISIL’s use of the Internet to effectively crowdsource terrorism and the shortened flash to bang time between the initiation of a lone-wolf plot and its execution have presented new challenges for the ability to detect and disrupt potential terrorist attacks.  And while much attention has focused on those inspired and directed by al Qaeda and ISIL—and rightly so—we have not lost sight of the domestic terrorism threat posed by other violent extremists motivated by any viewpoint on the full spectrum of hate.  We must do both.
Our work combatting the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters demonstrates the value of NSD’s agile, coordinated efforts to meet a global threat.  In the past few years, following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2178, which calls upon the international community to address the foreign-fighter threat, NSD attorneys have worked with more than 20 countries to develop their criminal legislation and effectively investigate and prosecute foreign fighter cases.  At home, since late 2013, attorneys in the Counterterrorism Section have helped to publicly charge more than 110 individuals in more than 35 districts for foreign fighter, homegrown violent extremism and ISIL-related conduct.
And as computer crimes have been on the rise, we have refocused our efforts to help deter and disrupt cyber-based attacks on our national security.  In 2012, we created the National Security Cyber Specialists (NSCS) Network, a partnership between NSD, the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, to combat cyber terrorism and state-sponsored computer intrusions.  By linking our components closer together, and looking for opportunities to act, as we did in the unprecedented prosecutions described below, the NSCS Network has been an important part of our whole-of-government effort to deter and disrupt such threats.
In a particularly notable case, in May 2014, NSD, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh, obtained the first indictment of state-sponsored computer hacking and economic espionage, charging five named members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army based on their theft of trade secrets and other sensitive business information from American companies.  Our actions altered the diplomatic dialogue between the United States and China on this critical issue: A little more than a year later, Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time publicly declared, “China strongly opposes and combats the theft of commercial secrets and other kinds of hacking attacks.”  The United States and China agreed that neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to their companies or commercial sectors.  And, at the G20 Summit last fall, leaders of the world’s most powerful nations pledged not to conduct or support cyber economic espionage.  Now we must work to see that these commitments are honored.
Also in 2014, North Korea-sponsored hackers attacked Sony Pictures Entertainment, damaged its computer systems, stole valuable information and private correspondence and released it at significant cost to the company and its employees.  In a matter of mere weeks, through close partnership with Sony and the hard work of the FBI, we publicly named—for the first time—the nation-state responsible for a destructive attack on an American company.  Then, less than two months after the attack, the United States imposed additional sanctions on North Korea. 
Likewise, we publicly named—and charged—Iranian hackers affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for their roles in a campaign of distributed denial of service attacks against the U.S. financial sector and members of the Syrian Electronic Army for conspiracies related to computer hacking.  As important as the resolution of these individual cases are, they also promise a larger deterrent for would-be cyber criminals: that we can—and we will—remove the cloak of anonymity.  And that no matter where a hacker is located or who he is affiliated with—whether a nation state or terrorist group—we can figure out who did it, we can do so publicly, and we can impose consequences.
Our heightened focus on homegrown violent extremists, foreign fighters and cyber attacks does not mean that we no longer worry about traditional espionage activity or threats from al Qaeda.  Far from it.  Rather, we have continued to meet those more established threats, while remaining vigilant against the new threats that have arisen in our first decade. 
In the next decade, the threats will certainly change again.  NSD can and must change with them.   In addition to continuing efforts by terrorists to undermine our way of life, we foresee risks posed by data theft, ransomware and other extortion efforts and the increased vulnerabilities of the so-called “Internet of Things.”  What is more, already, we are seeing how cyber attacks can blend and blur with real-world terrorist attacks in unexpected ways.  In August 2015, ISIL-affiliated hackers publicly released the names, locations, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of more than 1,000 U.S. military and other government personnel for the purpose of encouraging terrorist attacks against them.  In a first-of-its-kind case, the Department of Justice charged Ardit Ferizi with a material support violation for providing this stolen information to ISIL.  Ferizi was extradited and ultimately pleaded guilty.  Deterring and disrupting these kinds of threats will require the sorts of interagency, public-private and international cooperation that is at the core of NSD’s mission. 
As we look ahead to the types of new threats we may face, the importance of engagement with the private sector and with the public cannot be overstated.  As recognized in the 9/11 Commission’s Tenth Anniversary Report, “national security leaders must communicate to the public—in specific terms—what the threat is, how it is evolving, what measures are being taken to address it, [and] why those measures are necessary.”  We have invested significant energy in engaging with various sectors of the economy and sharing information with the public at large to help people and businesses protect themselves from emerging threats.  In doing so, we achieve our mission and build relationships of trust and common interest.  This will be a critical and ongoing part of our work in the coming years.
I cannot fully express my pride in the accomplishments of the men and women of the National Security Division over the past decade.  NSD is a mission-driven team that uses all tools to protect against threats to our national security, while honoring our role in safeguarding our nation’s most precious freedoms.  We are committed to working closely with all our partners—from the Intelligence Community to law enforcement, from the private sector here to international partners abroad—to help protect the American people.  We will remain vigilant and ever adaptive as we strive to meet the challenges of the next ten years and beyond.
Source: Justice News

Director Lisa Foster of the Office for Access to Justice Delivers Remarks at the ABA’s 2016 National Meeting of State Access to Justice Chairs

Good morning. 
In 1962, Thomas Kuhn, a physicist, historian and philosopher of science published a controversial book entitled “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”  Kuhn argued that the progress of scientific knowledge is not always linear and continuous.  Indeed, he asserted that most breakthroughs in science occur when a scientist sees an old problem from a different perspective, which opens up new approaches to understanding the natural world that scientists would not previously have considered valid.  Kuhn called this phenomenon a paradigm shift.
I’m going to talk today about why those of us who work in the justice system – all of us who care about access to justice – need to shift the paradigm and think differently about the justice system.  I will argue that the most exciting and successful innovations in access to justice have come when perspectives have shifted.  And I will contend that we will not be able to achieve the goal of meaningful access to justice for all without a paradigm shift. 
My modern metaphor for Kuhn’s paradigm shift is a cell phone, specifically, your cell phone camera.  Cell phone cameras take pictures in one of two ways.  You can take a selfie or you can press the button and take a picture facing out.  In the justice system, we take selfies.  We have structured the legal profession and the courts based on what’s best for us – the judges, the lawyers and the staff who work inside the justice system.  Lawyers and paralegals sit in offices and expect the clients to come to us – during regular business hours.  Courts are designed for lawyers, whose job it is to come to the courthouse and file papers or attend hearings or trials – during regular business hours.  To be sure, we recognize that many people don’t have legal representation, but we still design self-help with the goal of helping litigants act more like lawyers.  We make it easier for them to complete and file forms, we provide them with the information they need to understand court processes and procedures.  We still insist that they come to the courthouse during regular business hours – often repeatedly.  Our perspective is framed by the legal institutions we have in place.
What if we pressed the button on our cell phones and focused not on the profession and the courts, but on the people who need us – the people who need access to justice.  We might view the work that needs to be done differently.  Medical-legal partnerships are a great example of a paradigm shift – on the part of doctors.  Doctors realized that despite the medicines they prescribed, some of their patients were not getting better.  So they talked to their patients and learned that the real problems were not those that presented in the exam room, but larger social and economic issues – what the public health folks call the social determinants of health – that kept their patients from getting well.  A child with asthma wasn’t getting better despite the inhaler the doctor prescribed because the apartment she lived in had mold and lacked heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer.  A victim of domestic violence kept returning to the clinic with escalating injuries because her husband threatened to keep her children, and she wouldn’t leave them with her abuser.  Once they identified those larger social problems, the doctors realized that many of them could be solved with the help of a lawyer.  The lawyers’ shift occurred after they realized that when the doctor handed patients a card directing them to the closest legal aid office, few patients would actually seek assistance.  Instead, the lawyers needed to work in the clinic – they needed to go to where the clients were. 
Here’s another example – the recently announced Legal Services Corporation, Microsoft and ProBonoNet initiative to build model online statewide portals.  The portal would be a single online point of entry for anyone in the state who needs help.  The portal would use triage technology to direct the person to the appropriate service provider and the most effective level of service under the circumstances.  It will work on any device, any time and it will be open source.  So, any state can take the technology and use it.  The portal is thinking about access to justice from the perspective of a person who may know only that they have a problem and that they need help.  It doesn’t assume the person knows the problem has a legal solution or which of any of a number of legal aid, government or social service offices or online resources in their community could help, or even which courthouse or administrative agency, if any, they will ultimately need to interact with. 
A similar example from the courts is online case resolution.  The University of Michigan Law School developed a platform that allows courts to resolve certain disputes online, including traffic tickets and parking tickets, because physically appearing in court for minor infractions remains a barrier for many people, including those who are working or have child care or transportation challenges.  The system allows both parties – the defendant and the prosecutor to make their case online to a judge, who then issues a decision online.  It can also allow people to set up payment plans and to monitor those plans.   Once the paradigm shifts – from the notion that an adversarial proceeding must be in person – we can think about other types of disputes that might also be resolved online. 
Believe it or not, paradigm shifts can even happen in government.  As many of you know, my office, the Office for Access to Justice, was charged by former Attorney General Eric Holder with resolving the access to justice crisis in both the civil and criminal justice systems. 
We were initially overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and the seemingly innumerable ways in which we could intervene.  We obviously identified legal aid as an important way to increase access to justice for low-income and vulnerable populations but it wasn’t clear what our office could uniquely offer.  Others, including many of you, were already working on Congress to increase LSC’s budget, the province of the legislative branch.  But then, my colleague Karen Lash, shifted her perspective, and focusing on the executive branch realized that legal aid could help just about every federal anti-poverty program work better.  That shift of focus also revealed how many agencies work to help low-income Americans.  So we explained how legal aid could support the agencies’ efforts to increase access to housing, healthcare, employment, education, family stability and public safety.  That subtle but profound shift launched the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable – now, after President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum in September 2015, the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR), staffed by my office, with Karen as its Executive Director.  LAIR was built with a different paradigm: that federal programs run by executive branch agencies and targeting low-income and vulnerable populations work better – deliver better results – if legal aid is among the supportive services provided. 
What might a paradigm shift mean for the work of Access to Justice Commissions?  And why do I believe it’s so important now?  Let me answer the latter question first.  The reason we need to shift our perspective is because I believe we are at one of those unusual moments in American history when dramatic change can happen, when social and economic forces have shifted the terrain of American politics and placed fairness in our justice system and equal access to justice at the top of the political agenda. 
The first of those forces is the growing recognition of income inequality.  As measured by the census bureau, income inequality in the United States is greater today than it has been since 1928, and the divide is wider in the United States than in any other developed democracy in the world.  To be sure, income inequality has long been with us.  What’s different today is that everyone is talking about it.  The impact of income inequality, including on the justice system, is part of the national conversation.
The second dynamic can be summarized in a word: protest.  From Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore to Chicago to Los Angeles, thousands of people have marched to voice their concerns with the justice system.  While the primary focus has been on law enforcement, there is growing recognition of the unlawful and harmful enforcement of fines and fees in certain jurisdictions.  When people are incarcerated simply because they are too poor to pay fines and fees or their drivers licenses are suspended, they can lose their jobs, their homes and even their children, becoming trapped in a cycle of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.  The extensive media coverage of these issues has drawn unprecedented attention to areas where our justice system is falling short of its responsibility to provide equal justice and due process.  The third relevant strain is criminal justice reform.  From bail to pre-trial diversion programs to sentencing reform to reentry, there has been unprecedented attention on and activity around the criminal justice system.  Some of you may have heard about the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015, a bill currently making its way through Congress.  The Senate bill has 24 co-sponsors – 17 Democrats and 17 Republicans.  Bipartisanship can happen. 
Finally, for the first time, the United Nations included access to justice as part of its Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.  It’s Goal 16, which the United States strongly supported.  The inclusion of access to justice, both as an enabler of development and as a critical development objective in its own right, recognizes that legal empowerment – giving all people the power to understand and use the law to secure justice and meet basic needs is essential to economic and social stability and security.
The issues of poverty and justice are on the front page of the papers, on NPR, local news broadcasts and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight”; the direct connection between poverty and justice is part of the national dialogue.  It’s on the agenda in Congress.  It is in the streets.  The last time we had this much attention paid to poverty and justice in America was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Office of Economic Opportunity was created and the Legal Services Corporation was born.
As advocates for access to justice, we need to take advantage of the opportunity this moment in history affords.  If we don’t act boldly now, we may lose the chance to do so for another 50 years.  But the ways in which we think about access to justice are often incremental, and, as I noted at the outset, more like selfies.  We need to push the button on our internal cell phone cameras and shift the paradigm.  What does that mean?  Well let’s look at the issues you’re going to be addressing here in Chicago: communications and messaging; self-representation; and funding for Civil Legal Aid.  With respect to communications and messaging, it means connecting access to justice to these larger social issues.  Access to Justice Commissions are uniquely qualified to take on that task.  While we at Department of Justice – together with partners like the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, the American Bar Association, Voices for Civil Justice and others – are making the case at the national level, we need coordinated media, outreach and lobbying efforts to happen at the local and state level.  Only people who know their communities can brainstorm opportunities to make the case for justice.  That means thinking strategically about a coordinated media strategy and lobbying effort; it means writing op-ed pieces and talking to editorial boards and educating local and state government officials.  It means speaking whenever possible – at rotary club and chamber of commerce meetings, at churches and community meetings – and emphasizing the ways in which access to justice will improve community health and safety.  We need to connect the dots beyond our traditional allies to make the case that without a vibrant and thriving civil justice system, we cannot solve the problems of poverty and unrest.  As my good friend, Wilhelm Joseph, the executive director of Maryland Legal Aid says, “If you do not invest in civil order, you raise the possibility of increased criminal disorder.”
That is precisely what we at the Office for Access to Justice do with LAIR.  We educate federal agencies about the role legal aid can play in achieving their program goals – whether it’s preventing domestic violence or elder abuse, keeping families housed and children in school, giving people with a criminal record a second chance or securing for veterans the benefits they need and deserve.  Many of you have seen our online toolkit which contains case studies linking legal aid to these issues and many more.  And if you haven’t – here’s the website.
With respect to self-represented litigants, there is so much opportunity, and Katherine Alteneder and the Self-Represented Litigation Network are outstanding allies.  Court self-help centers and navigators are critically important, and they need to be expanded, because there will always be disputes where people need to come to court.  Once people get to court – and specifically to courtrooms – we need to help judges better understand how to work with self-represented litigants.  As some of you may have heard, the Justice Department launched the first national reentry week at the end of April, which included well-deserved recognition of the importance of civil legal aid to reentry.  One of the most successful reentry week activities was a simulated exercise where probation officers, prosecutors and others assumed the role of a person returning to their community after a period of incarceration.  The participants came to understand the obstacles people reentering face and the frustrations they experience.  What if we designed a similar simulation for judges?  We could help them understand the court from the perspective of self-represented litigants.  Paradigms might just shift.
And think how much more effective self-help centers could be if we reduced the number of people who use them because we’ve eliminated the need for some people to come to court.  I’ve already talked about the Legal Services Corporation portal project.  By directing people to the appropriate service and level of service, the portal should lessen the burden on court clerks to answer questions and it may help resolve disputes before they need to come to court.  One of the two states that will pilot the portal could be yours – find out more about the project.  In addition, Access to Justice Commissions could ask  for a demonstration of the University of Michigan online dispute resolution platform – they will come to you in person or virtually – and think about whether it could be utilized for disputes in your community.  Think about the areas of the court where self-represented litigants predominate – like debt collection, housing or family law.  And then think about whether there might be a way to resolve some of those issues online.  Or instead of turning just to your state’s law schools as potential partners, what about including engineering schools and design schools who may bring fresh perspectives to problems we experience as intractable?
Turning finally to revenue, let me share how a paradigm shift has already happened for two commissions.  Last year at a chairs meeting breakout session, LAIR’s Karen Lash made the case for replicating LAIR at the state level, challenging attendees to focus their attention on state executive agencies – as we did at the federal level – and consider where legal aid currently could and should help further state agency goals.  Because some state programs originate from federal funds, the federal LAIR primes the pump for states to similarly improve agency effectiveness by including legal aid. 
The California and Massachusetts Commissions took the dare, and both opted for a trial run of a state version of LAIR with Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Department of Justice administered funds, which had tripled in fiscal year 2015, and remained at that level for 2016.  The California Commission, partnering with the Legal Aid Association of California and the state bar, reached out to their state VOCA administrator to explain how civil legal aid can help them better serve domestic violence, elder abuse and consumer fraud crime victims.  They offered data and studies to prove the connection, and they developed case studies modeled on LAIR’s.  It worked: the California VOCA administrator issued RFPs that can include legal aid applicants unlocking about $22 million – and issued another targeting $10 million specifically for a new victim legal assistance program.  Kelli Evans, the California architect of the effort is here today and deserves our collective kudos! 
The Massachusetts Commission is on the same track.  Commissioner Sue Finegan and the revenue enhancement committee, catalyzed by the fact that the Massachusetts share of VOCA funds increased from nearly $10 million to more than $40 million in one year, began campaigning to raise awareness about how legal services help crime victims via public forums, letters of support from the domestic violence community and meetings with state decision-makers.  In preparing for the not-yet-out RFPs, they’ve been brainstorming with legal aid, domestic violence and sexual assault advocates so that they’ll be ready to respond with an innovative, statewide and comprehensive proposal.
And in late breaking news, we just learned that in Washington State, the state agency administering its VOCA funds will be releasing a $4 million RFP for a regional response for crime victim civil legal services.
Your commissions can do the same.  Reach out to your state VOCA administrators.  Investigate other federal – and state – grant and policy initiatives that work better with legal assistance folded in.  Merely shifting your perspective will uncover them.  And for help doing just that, be sure to attend Karen Lash’s table talk: The Alphabet Soup of Federal Block Grants.
Access to Justice Commissions throughout the country, the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and we at the Department of Justice have embraced the goal of meaningful access to justice for all.  Every person should have access to appropriate and effective services to address their critical legal needs.  I know none of us wants that goal to be solely aspirational.  It is a goal that can be – indeed, it must be – achieved.  When everyone from President Obama to Pope Francis is talking about justice, this is truly our moment.  Let’s all use this meeting to flip our cellphones, to change our perspective and shift the paradigm.  When we do, we can think big – and be bold – and make access to justice for all a reality.
Source: Justice News

Director Lisa Foster of the Office for Access to Justice Delivers Remarks at the ABA’s 2016 National Meeting of State Access to Justice Chairs

Good morning. 
In 1962, Thomas Kuhn, a physicist, historian and philosopher of science published a controversial book entitled “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”  Kuhn argued that the progress of scientific knowledge is not always linear and continuous.  Indeed, he asserted that most breakthroughs in science occur when a scientist sees an old problem from a different perspective, which opens up new approaches to understanding the natural world that scientists would not previously have considered valid.  Kuhn called this phenomenon a paradigm shift.
I’m going to talk today about why those of us who work in the justice system – all of us who care about access to justice – need to shift the paradigm and think differently about the justice system.  I will argue that the most exciting and successful innovations in access to justice have come when perspectives have shifted.  And I will contend that we will not be able to achieve the goal of meaningful access to justice for all without a paradigm shift. 
My modern metaphor for Kuhn’s paradigm shift is a cell phone, specifically, your cell phone camera.  Cell phone cameras take pictures in one of two ways.  You can take a selfie or you can press the button and take a picture facing out.  In the justice system, we take selfies.  We have structured the legal profession and the courts based on what’s best for us – the judges, the lawyers and the staff who work inside the justice system.  Lawyers and paralegals sit in offices and expect the clients to come to us – during regular business hours.  Courts are designed for lawyers, whose job it is to come to the courthouse and file papers or attend hearings or trials – during regular business hours.  To be sure, we recognize that many people don’t have legal representation, but we still design self-help with the goal of helping litigants act more like lawyers.  We make it easier for them to complete and file forms, we provide them with the information they need to understand court processes and procedures.  We still insist that they come to the courthouse during regular business hours – often repeatedly.  Our perspective is framed by the legal institutions we have in place.
What if we pressed the button on our cell phones and focused not on the profession and the courts, but on the people who need us – the people who need access to justice.  We might view the work that needs to be done differently.  Medical-legal partnerships are a great example of a paradigm shift – on the part of doctors.  Doctors realized that despite the medicines they prescribed, some of their patients were not getting better.  So they talked to their patients and learned that the real problems were not those that presented in the exam room, but larger social and economic issues – what the public health folks call the social determinants of health – that kept their patients from getting well.  A child with asthma wasn’t getting better despite the inhaler the doctor prescribed because the apartment she lived in had mold and lacked heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer.  A victim of domestic violence kept returning to the clinic with escalating injuries because her husband threatened to keep her children, and she wouldn’t leave them with her abuser.  Once they identified those larger social problems, the doctors realized that many of them could be solved with the help of a lawyer.  The lawyers’ shift occurred after they realized that when the doctor handed patients a card directing them to the closest legal aid office, few patients would actually seek assistance.  Instead, the lawyers needed to work in the clinic – they needed to go to where the clients were. 
Here’s another example – the recently announced Legal Services Corporation, Microsoft and ProBonoNet initiative to build model online statewide portals.  The portal would be a single online point of entry for anyone in the state who needs help.  The portal would use triage technology to direct the person to the appropriate service provider and the most effective level of service under the circumstances.  It will work on any device, any time and it will be open source.  So, any state can take the technology and use it.  The portal is thinking about access to justice from the perspective of a person who may know only that they have a problem and that they need help.  It doesn’t assume the person knows the problem has a legal solution or which of any of a number of legal aid, government or social service offices or online resources in their community could help, or even which courthouse or administrative agency, if any, they will ultimately need to interact with. 
A similar example from the courts is online case resolution.  The University of Michigan Law School developed a platform that allows courts to resolve certain disputes online, including traffic tickets and parking tickets, because physically appearing in court for minor infractions remains a barrier for many people, including those who are working or have child care or transportation challenges.  The system allows both parties – the defendant and the prosecutor to make their case online to a judge, who then issues a decision online.  It can also allow people to set up payment plans and to monitor those plans.   Once the paradigm shifts – from the notion that an adversarial proceeding must be in person – we can think about other types of disputes that might also be resolved online. 
Believe it or not, paradigm shifts can even happen in government.  As many of you know, my office, the Office for Access to Justice, was charged by former Attorney General Eric Holder with resolving the access to justice crisis in both the civil and criminal justice systems. 
We were initially overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and the seemingly innumerable ways in which we could intervene.  We obviously identified legal aid as an important way to increase access to justice for low-income and vulnerable populations but it wasn’t clear what our office could uniquely offer.  Others, including many of you, were already working on Congress to increase LSC’s budget, the province of the legislative branch.  But then, my colleague Karen Lash, shifted her perspective, and focusing on the executive branch realized that legal aid could help just about every federal anti-poverty program work better.  That shift of focus also revealed how many agencies work to help low-income Americans.  So we explained how legal aid could support the agencies’ efforts to increase access to housing, healthcare, employment, education, family stability and public safety.  That subtle but profound shift launched the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable – now, after President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum in September 2015, the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR), staffed by my office, with Karen as its Executive Director.  LAIR was built with a different paradigm: that federal programs run by executive branch agencies and targeting low-income and vulnerable populations work better – deliver better results – if legal aid is among the supportive services provided. 
What might a paradigm shift mean for the work of Access to Justice Commissions?  And why do I believe it’s so important now?  Let me answer the latter question first.  The reason we need to shift our perspective is because I believe we are at one of those unusual moments in American history when dramatic change can happen, when social and economic forces have shifted the terrain of American politics and placed fairness in our justice system and equal access to justice at the top of the political agenda. 
The first of those forces is the growing recognition of income inequality.  As measured by the census bureau, income inequality in the United States is greater today than it has been since 1928, and the divide is wider in the United States than in any other developed democracy in the world.  To be sure, income inequality has long been with us.  What’s different today is that everyone is talking about it.  The impact of income inequality, including on the justice system, is part of the national conversation.
The second dynamic can be summarized in a word: protest.  From Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore to Chicago to Los Angeles, thousands of people have marched to voice their concerns with the justice system.  While the primary focus has been on law enforcement, there is growing recognition of the unlawful and harmful enforcement of fines and fees in certain jurisdictions.  When people are incarcerated simply because they are too poor to pay fines and fees or their drivers licenses are suspended, they can lose their jobs, their homes and even their children, becoming trapped in a cycle of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.  The extensive media coverage of these issues has drawn unprecedented attention to areas where our justice system is falling short of its responsibility to provide equal justice and due process.  The third relevant strain is criminal justice reform.  From bail to pre-trial diversion programs to sentencing reform to reentry, there has been unprecedented attention on and activity around the criminal justice system.  Some of you may have heard about the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015, a bill currently making its way through Congress.  The Senate bill has 24 co-sponsors – 17 Democrats and 17 Republicans.  Bipartisanship can happen. 
Finally, for the first time, the United Nations included access to justice as part of its Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.  It’s Goal 16, which the United States strongly supported.  The inclusion of access to justice, both as an enabler of development and as a critical development objective in its own right, recognizes that legal empowerment – giving all people the power to understand and use the law to secure justice and meet basic needs is essential to economic and social stability and security.
The issues of poverty and justice are on the front page of the papers, on NPR, local news broadcasts and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight”; the direct connection between poverty and justice is part of the national dialogue.  It’s on the agenda in Congress.  It is in the streets.  The last time we had this much attention paid to poverty and justice in America was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Office of Economic Opportunity was created and the Legal Services Corporation was born.
As advocates for access to justice, we need to take advantage of the opportunity this moment in history affords.  If we don’t act boldly now, we may lose the chance to do so for another 50 years.  But the ways in which we think about access to justice are often incremental, and, as I noted at the outset, more like selfies.  We need to push the button on our internal cell phone cameras and shift the paradigm.  What does that mean?  Well let’s look at the issues you’re going to be addressing here in Chicago: communications and messaging; self-representation; and funding for Civil Legal Aid.  With respect to communications and messaging, it means connecting access to justice to these larger social issues.  Access to Justice Commissions are uniquely qualified to take on that task.  While we at Department of Justice – together with partners like the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, the American Bar Association, Voices for Civil Justice and others – are making the case at the national level, we need coordinated media, outreach and lobbying efforts to happen at the local and state level.  Only people who know their communities can brainstorm opportunities to make the case for justice.  That means thinking strategically about a coordinated media strategy and lobbying effort; it means writing op-ed pieces and talking to editorial boards and educating local and state government officials.  It means speaking whenever possible – at rotary club and chamber of commerce meetings, at churches and community meetings – and emphasizing the ways in which access to justice will improve community health and safety.  We need to connect the dots beyond our traditional allies to make the case that without a vibrant and thriving civil justice system, we cannot solve the problems of poverty and unrest.  As my good friend, Wilhelm Joseph, the executive director of Maryland Legal Aid says, “If you do not invest in civil order, you raise the possibility of increased criminal disorder.”
That is precisely what we at the Office for Access to Justice do with LAIR.  We educate federal agencies about the role legal aid can play in achieving their program goals – whether it’s preventing domestic violence or elder abuse, keeping families housed and children in school, giving people with a criminal record a second chance or securing for veterans the benefits they need and deserve.  Many of you have seen our online toolkit which contains case studies linking legal aid to these issues and many more.  And if you haven’t – here’s the website.
With respect to self-represented litigants, there is so much opportunity, and Katherine Alteneder and the Self-Represented Litigation Network are outstanding allies.  Court self-help centers and navigators are critically important, and they need to be expanded, because there will always be disputes where people need to come to court.  Once people get to court – and specifically to courtrooms – we need to help judges better understand how to work with self-represented litigants.  As some of you may have heard, the Justice Department launched the first national reentry week at the end of April, which included well-deserved recognition of the importance of civil legal aid to reentry.  One of the most successful reentry week activities was a simulated exercise where probation officers, prosecutors and others assumed the role of a person returning to their community after a period of incarceration.  The participants came to understand the obstacles people reentering face and the frustrations they experience.  What if we designed a similar simulation for judges?  We could help them understand the court from the perspective of self-represented litigants.  Paradigms might just shift.
And think how much more effective self-help centers could be if we reduced the number of people who use them because we’ve eliminated the need for some people to come to court.  I’ve already talked about the Legal Services Corporation portal project.  By directing people to the appropriate service and level of service, the portal should lessen the burden on court clerks to answer questions and it may help resolve disputes before they need to come to court.  One of the two states that will pilot the portal could be yours – find out more about the project.  In addition, Access to Justice Commissions could ask  for a demonstration of the University of Michigan online dispute resolution platform – they will come to you in person or virtually – and think about whether it could be utilized for disputes in your community.  Think about the areas of the court where self-represented litigants predominate – like debt collection, housing or family law.  And then think about whether there might be a way to resolve some of those issues online.  Or instead of turning just to your state’s law schools as potential partners, what about including engineering schools and design schools who may bring fresh perspectives to problems we experience as intractable?
Turning finally to revenue, let me share how a paradigm shift has already happened for two commissions.  Last year at a chairs meeting breakout session, LAIR’s Karen Lash made the case for replicating LAIR at the state level, challenging attendees to focus their attention on state executive agencies – as we did at the federal level – and consider where legal aid currently could and should help further state agency goals.  Because some state programs originate from federal funds, the federal LAIR primes the pump for states to similarly improve agency effectiveness by including legal aid. 
The California and Massachusetts Commissions took the dare, and both opted for a trial run of a state version of LAIR with Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Department of Justice administered funds, which had tripled in fiscal year 2015, and remained at that level for 2016.  The California Commission, partnering with the Legal Aid Association of California and the state bar, reached out to their state VOCA administrator to explain how civil legal aid can help them better serve domestic violence, elder abuse and consumer fraud crime victims.  They offered data and studies to prove the connection, and they developed case studies modeled on LAIR’s.  It worked: the California VOCA administrator issued RFPs that can include legal aid applicants unlocking about $22 million – and issued another targeting $10 million specifically for a new victim legal assistance program.  Kelli Evans, the California architect of the effort is here today and deserves our collective kudos! 
The Massachusetts Commission is on the same track.  Commissioner Sue Finegan and the revenue enhancement committee, catalyzed by the fact that the Massachusetts share of VOCA funds increased from nearly $10 million to more than $40 million in one year, began campaigning to raise awareness about how legal services help crime victims via public forums, letters of support from the domestic violence community and meetings with state decision-makers.  In preparing for the not-yet-out RFPs, they’ve been brainstorming with legal aid, domestic violence and sexual assault advocates so that they’ll be ready to respond with an innovative, statewide and comprehensive proposal.
And in late breaking news, we just learned that in Washington State, the state agency administering its VOCA funds will be releasing a $4 million RFP for a regional response for crime victim civil legal services.
Your commissions can do the same.  Reach out to your state VOCA administrators.  Investigate other federal – and state – grant and policy initiatives that work better with legal assistance folded in.  Merely shifting your perspective will uncover them.  And for help doing just that, be sure to attend Karen Lash’s table talk: The Alphabet Soup of Federal Block Grants.
Access to Justice Commissions throughout the country, the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and we at the Department of Justice have embraced the goal of meaningful access to justice for all.  Every person should have access to appropriate and effective services to address their critical legal needs.  I know none of us wants that goal to be solely aspirational.  It is a goal that can be – indeed, it must be – achieved.  When everyone from President Obama to Pope Francis is talking about justice, this is truly our moment.  Let’s all use this meeting to flip our cellphones, to change our perspective and shift the paradigm.  When we do, we can think big – and be bold – and make access to justice for all a reality.
Source: Justice News