Biden to order plan to improve legal aid for the poor

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the April jobs report from the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden will instruct the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday to find ways to make it easier for poor people to gain access to publicly funded lawyers and other legal aid in criminal and civil cases, the White House said.

The White House described the plan as part of a wider effort to improve access for those on lower incomes to representation in the U.S. legal system.

"Low-income people have long struggled to secure quality access to the legal system," the White House said, adding that the challenge had grown amid the COVID-19 pandemic and chronic underfunding for civil legal aid providers and public defenders.

A memo from Biden would direct U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to develop a plan within two months to improve access to legal aid. The White House said Garland would issue his own memo later on Tuesday launching the effort immediately.

The White House will also relaunch an Obama-era task force, which would direct federal agencies to tackle the issue.

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Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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