Lisa Foster is a retired judge and the former Director of the Office for Access to Justice at the United States Department of Justice. As a California Superior Court Judge in San Diego, where she served for ten years, Lisa presided over criminal, family and civil cases and served as the Presiding Judge of the Court’s appellate division. Her on-the-ground experience gives Lisa a unique perspective and keen understanding of the judiciary and court administration. Lisa retired from the bench and joined the Justice Department in 2015 where she led the Department’s efforts to address fines and fees. Her collaborative work across multiple Department components resulted in two DOJ convenings, millions of dollars in funding, and the development of critical advocacy tools. With Vanita Gupta, then head of the Civil Rights Division, Lisa wrote a ten-page “Dear Colleague” to every Chief Justice and state court administrator, addressing the legal framework that governs the enforcement of fines and fees and warning that many collection practices may violate the federal Constitution and/or statutes. She and former Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason co-authored an Advisory to juvenile courts throughout the country on the civil rights implications of imposing fines and fees in juvenile justice proceedings. Since leaving DOJ in January 2017, Lisa has traveled extensively in the United States and Canada speaking about fines and fees and other issues related to poverty and justice and working with state and local courts to address these issues.
Lisa began her legal career as a staff attorney at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles, after serving as a law clerk to United States District Court Judge Marianna Pfaelzer in the Southern District of California. She later became a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the Executive Director of California Common Cause, and was Of Counsel to the law firm of Phillips & Cohen, representing whistleblowers under the federal and California False Claims Acts. Lisa also taught courses in sex discrimination, federal courts and election law as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law.
Lisa received a B.A. in American Studies from Stanford University and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.