The U.S. Department of Justice reestablished the Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) as a standalone agency in October 2021 to address the access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system. ATJ’s mission is to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status. ATJ is dedicated to improving the federal government’s understanding of and capacity to address the most urgent legal needs of communities across America. ATJ staff works within the Department of Justice, across federal agencies, and with state, local, and tribal justice system stakeholders to increase access to counsel and legal assistance and to improve the justice delivery systems that serve people who are unable to afford lawyers.
ATJ is guided by three principles:
- Promoting Accessibility — eliminating barriers that prevent people from understanding and exercising their rights.
- Ensuring Fairness — delivering fair and just outcomes for all parties, including those facing financial and other disadvantages.
- Increasing Efficiency — delivering fair and just outcomes effectively, without waste or duplication.
To translate these principles into action, ATJ pursues strategies to leverage and better allocate justice resources, and works to:
- Advance new statutory, policy, and practice changes that support development of quality indigent defense and civil legal aid delivery systems at the state and federal level;
- Promote less lawyer-intensive and court-intensive solutions to legal problems; and
- Expand research on innovative strategies to close the gap between the need for, and the availability of, quality legal assistance.
Memorandum on Restoring the Department of Justice's Access-to-Justice Function and Reinvigorating the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, Joseph R. Biden Jr., May 18, 2021
Presidential Memorandum - Establishment of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, Barack Obama, September 24, 2015