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Justice Department Announces New Head For "Access To Justice" Initiative

Former California judge Lisa Foster to head office aimed at increasing availability of lawyers for those who cannot otherwise afford counsel. A BuzzFeed News exclusive.

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WASHINGTON — A former California judge who had been the head of California Common Cause, Lisa Foster, has been named the director of the Justice Department's "Access to Justice" Initiative, officials familiar with the appointment told BuzzFeed News.

The initiative, started by Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2010, aims "to address the access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system" by helping to ensure that the justice system is accessible to all people, regardless of income.

The initiative, according to the Justice Department, has worked "within the department, across federal agencies, and with state, local and tribal justice system stakeholders" to increase the availability of legal counsel and related assistance to people who cannot afford lawyers.

Most recently, in September, the initiative resulted in the Justice Department backing a class-action lawsuit in which indigent criminal defendants have sued because, they claim, they "have been constructively denied the right to counsel" in four New York counties "due to systemic failures."

Foster most recently served for the past year as a judicial fellow for Sen. Ed Markey, but before that had a long history in the legal communities in San Diego and Los Angeles.

She spent ten years as a judge in California's Superior Court in San Diego, where she presided over criminal, civil and family law matters. Foster previously was a staff attorney at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles and later the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. After then, she served as the executive director of California Common Cause and taught at University of San Diego Law School. She later worked at the Phillips & Cohen law firm before becoming a judge. She graduated from Stanford University and then Harvard Law School.

Chris Geidner is a Supreme Court correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

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