After a warm welcome address by our own Dean Minow, Associate Attorney General Tony West gave a powerful opening to a day focused on “The Future of Equality.” His key message: law’s most vital use is in service of equality and justice. ACS members, he said, should continue to be a central force pushing this kind of conversation to the forefront of social policy and decision making.

AAG West has, through his long career in government, has tried to put law to this higher use in his work. Recently he has done so with Attorney General Eric Holder in three major ways. First, they are reviewing the criminal justice system, aiming to strengthen crime prevention and overcome system disparities. These efforts led to the Smart on Crime Initiative and have shifted the conversation to prosecutorial discretion, mandatory minimums, and community based alternatives. A second area of focus is crime in Indian country, especially addressing the difficulties Indian women face seeking redress for domestic disputes through tribal judicial systems.

Lastly, he highlighted the Access to Justice Initiative and the DOJ’s effort to assure right to counsel and a fair justice system. While these projects illustrate how the goal of equality shapes policy decisions in the current administration, AAG West highlighted the need for sustained effort to address the breadth of work left to be done.

AAG West closed by re-gifting some advice he received from AG Janet Reno before he left the DOJ, after his first time there, to work in California. That advice was: “The government wins its case when justice is done.” His main job, and ours, is not to win every case, but to do justice in every single matter that he handles.

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