DOJ Picks Ex-Public Defender To Head Access To Justice Unit

By Sarah Martinson | May 20, 2022, 8:02 PM EDT ·

Rachel Rossi
Rachel Rossi
The U.S. Department of Justice has picked a deputy associate attorney general who previously served as a Los Angeles public defender to lead its revamped Office for Access to Justice that was shuttered under the Trump administration.

As director of the office, Rachel Rossi will lead "its efforts to improve the federal government's understanding of and capacity to address the most urgent legal needs of communities across America," the DOJ announced Thursday.

Rossi said in a statement Thursday that she has "seen firsthand how access to justice can make the difference in keeping families together, people in their homes and victims safe from violence."

"I look forward to working closely alongside dedicated public servants across the department as we examine and reimagine the tools and systems we rely on to make justice more accessible for all," she said.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced in October that the Justice Department would be reopening its Office for Access to Justice, which was first established under President Barack Obama in 2010 and formally made a standalone component within the DOJ in 2016.

Since then, the office has spearheaded the Justice Department's work to address the housing and eviction crisis, provide equal access to justice for military veterans and eliminate barriers to reentry for people who were formerly incarcerated, according to the DOJ.

"There can be no equal justice without equal access to justice," Garland said. "For the past six months, our newly restored Office for Access to Justice has worked to fulfill that mission."

Rossi, a Pepperdine University School of Law graduate, served as a Los Angeles County public defender for three years before becoming a federal public defender in 2014, according to her LinkedIn profile.

In 2017, Rossi became detailee counsel for Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and the Senate Judiciary Committee, a position that she held for two years, her profile says.

Rossi's other accomplishments include serving as counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security; running for Los Angeles County district attorney; and serving on the Biden-Harris Justice Department agency review team, according to her profile.

Miriam Krinsky, executive director of the prosecutor network Fair and Just Prosecution, said in a statement that Rossi is the "ideal person" to serve as director of the Office for Access to Justice.

"Rossi has spent her career working to identify and address the barriers to justice that too many members of our communities face," Krinsky said.

--Additional reporting by Jack Karp. Editing by Daniel King.

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