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A Few Interventions and Offerings from Five Movement Lawyers to the Access to Justice Movement

By: Jennifer Ching, Thomas B. Harvey, Meena Jagannath, Purvi Shah, Blake Strode

We are five lawyers who occupy very different corners of justice work. We are civil rights, human rights, and criminal defense lawyers, and we have worked at and managed legal services programs. We have taught law at law schools and universities and have built our own organizations. We currently work in interdisciplinary spaces with community organizers, funders, and other stakeholders in the justice system. As diverse as our perspectives are, we share a common belief that any mobilization around access to justice fails if it does not center the vision and strategies of larger social justice movements. We share here our collective calls to action to the legal community—and the allies that support and resource legal services—to expand our mission beyond chasing a standard of fairness that is impossible to achieve as long as we have deeply embedded structural and systemic inequity. Instead, let us reimagine what our communities actually need to be safe, free, and to live in our fullest humanity. We believe the role of movement lawyers is to use the law as a tool of social change, at the direction of communities most impacted by injustice. When we focus our lawyering on listening to community organizers, clients, and activists with a broader vision for social change, we can become partners in transforming systems, rather than simply making them more hospitable.