Last week, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum to expand access to legal representation and the courts.
“Timely and affordable access to the legal system can make all the difference in a person’s life—including by keeping an individual out of poverty, keeping an individual in his or her home, helping an unaccompanied child seek asylum, helping someone fight a consumer scam, or ensuring that an individual charged with a crime can mount a strong defense and receive a fair trial,” the White House said in a statement.
President Biden’s order directs the Attorney General to submit a plan to the President within 120 days to expand the Department of Justice’s access to justice work. The plan must include expected staffing and budget.
The order also revives the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, first established in 2015 to raise federal agencies’ awareness of how civil legal aid could increase employment, family stability, housing security, consumer protection, and public safety. The new iteration of this Roundtable, co-chaired by the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President, will convene federal agencies to identify ways to address pressing legal services challenges—including those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project, said the President’s order could be particularly important in terms of housing stability given that the eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is set to expire at the end of June.