Inclusive Agency Design

74 Administrative Law Review __ (2022, Forthcoming)

48 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2021 Last revised: 31 Jan 2022

See all articles by Amy Widman

Amy Widman

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School

Date Written: October 27, 2021


For many people who interact with federal agencies in matters like housing, employment, health, education, benefits, and consumer issues, the federal apparatus is not well-designed. This widens the justice gap and undermines the mission and stated goals of these agencies. Design thinking from the access to justice movement can be used to address both structural and procedural access gaps in the administration of justice by federal agencies.

This article introduces an access to justice framework—an emphasis on essential elements of access to justice that have emerged as crucial in work done with communities and advocates to change state courts to narrow the justice gap--as guidance for the reform of federal administrative agencies. This article develops three types of problems for agencies that can be remedied through intentional access to justice design: a disconnect between the agency mission and its current functions; a breakdown between the agency and the people who are affected by agency action; and a deterioration of trust among those affected by agency action that is born from incomplete information. Then, drawing from a variety of federal laws and regulations, including some newly proposed, this article examines how these essential elements of access to justice are already being used or referenced in federal administrative agency design and where such elements can be fully embraced to establish a more inclusive and accessible administrative state.

Framing reforms in this way--for consideration and use by numerous entities, including the agencies themselves and their stakeholders--offers a roadmap for policy-makers and advocates to achieve a necessary administrative agency overhaul. This approach offers an essential opportunity to design and build agencies that are more inclusive, and thus more likely to realize agencies’ goals, improve people's justice system outcomes, and increase the overall legitimacy of law and government in the lives of the people.

Keywords: access to justice, administrative law

Suggested Citation

Widman, Amy, Inclusive Agency Design (October 27, 2021). 74 Administrative Law Review __ (2022, Forthcoming), Available at SSRN:

Amy Widman (Contact Author)

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers Law School ( email )

Newark, NJ

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