|Vice President Biden|
Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., and other senior administration figures, chief justices of several states,and leaders of the legal profession from across the country gathered at the White House on April 16, 2013 for a program entitled "A White House Forum on Increasing Access to Justice." It was the second such event that the Legal Services Corporation has co-hosted with the White House.
Biden, who was introduced by White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, argued that equal access to legal representation is "the single right that makes every other right viable." He also shared the story of his early career decision to leave a large law firm and become a public defender.
LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi struck a similar chord in his opening remarks, noting that we must all work toward a full realization of the equal access to justice embodied in our values and laws. "It is not enough to have a system of laws if millions of our citizens do not have access, or believe they do not have access, to that system," he said. (See video of Levi's remarks.)
Holder also spoke, discussing various equal access initiatives at the Justice Department, including the Access to Justice Initiative, a new office he launched three years ago "to help spearhead national efforts to ensure that basic legal services are available, affordable and accessible for everyone in this country – regardless of status or income." (See video of Holder's remarks.)
The forum also featured two panels.
The first, moderated by Harvard Law School Dean and LSC Vice Chair Martha Minow, focused on pro bono. Panelists: Laurel Bellows, American Bar Association president; Robert J. Grey, Jr., partner at Hunton & Williams, LSC board member and co-chair of the LSC Pro Bono Implementation Task Force; Heather Hodges, senior attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services Program of DC; Sheila Hubbard, executive director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association; Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, Texas Supreme Court, Laura Klein, pro bono program manager at the U.S. Department of Justice; Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, New York Court of Appeals; Chief Justice Chase Rogers, Connecticut Supreme Court. (See video of the Pro Bono panel.)
The second panel, moderated by LSC President James J. Sandman, focused on the broader and more effective use of technology to help improve pro bono and to better assist those who must represent themselves as they navigate the court system. The panelists were: Illinois Legal Aid Online Executive Director Lisa Colpoys; Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction Executive Director John Mayer; Hon. Fern Fisher, deputy chief administrative judge for New York City courts; Pine Tree Legal Assistance Executive Director Nan Heald; Legal Services Corporation Program Counsel Glenn Rawdon; and Bay Area Legal Aid Managing Attorney Haydee Alfonso. (See video of the Technology panel.)
At a reception following the program, White House Deputy Counsel Steven Croley drew together the themes of the forum and urged the development of new court procedures to enhance access to justice.