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Simplification: Feds' Proposed Way to Bolster Access to Justice  

Federal officials rolled out a new report aimed at improving access to justice for individuals of every economic demographic through “simplification” of the legal system.

Merrick GarlandThe report, entitled “Access to Justice through Simplification: A Roadmap for People-Centered Simplification of Federal Government Forms, Processes, and Language” represents the efforts of Attorney General Merrick Garland and White House Counsel Stuart Delery, who co-chaired the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, which was tasked with generating the report. Among its many charges, the roundtable investigated ways to improve interagency coordination, support evidence-based research and develop policy recommendations to “increase the availability of meaningful access to justice for individuals and families, regardless of wealth or status.”

“Government forms and processes must be accessible to everyone—not just lawyers or those who can afford them,” Garland said in a statement. “The Roundtable’s 2022 Report provides a roadmap to help agencies reduce barriers and expand access to federal government programs and services.”

According to the report, the roundtable honed in on three concrete steps to accomplish its goal:

  • It sought to identify the barriers preventing access
  • It looked to implement its strategies by incorporating meaningful feedback
  • It aimed to evaluate how effective “simplification” of legal processes is with respect to expanding access to justice.

Additionally, successful efforts related to process and form simplification already deployed were included. “Through this work, we are prioritizing people-centered approaches to simplify forms, processes and language,” said Rachel Rossi, Director of the Office for Access to Justice. “It is critical to place the communities we serve at the center of our efforts to pursue access to justice for all.”

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Much of the roundtable’s work centered on engaging with marginalized communities and grappling with existing roadblocks to justice. It also emphasized the importance of incorporating data to develop better solutions with respect to language, processes and forms.

The timing of the report coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination sponsored by the United Nations (UN). Thematically similar, the crux of the 2023 iteration of the day, celebrated on Tuesday, March 21, focused on combating discrimination and racism. This year, participants also recognized the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Seventy-five years ago, for the first time, the international community agreed on a set of common values and acknowledged that rights are inherent to every single human being and not granted by the State,” according to the UN announcement. “These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a blueprint for international human rights norms.”

Additionally, Garland named Allie Yang-Green executive director of the roundtable, which exists as an independent position in the Office for Access to Justice. As directed by the co-chairs, Yang-Green will be responsible for convening roundtable meetings and supervising the members’ work.

Read the full Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable 2022 Report.

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