SAN FRANCISCO—At its public meeting on December 12, the Judicial Council approved recommendations from its Policy Coordination and Liaison Committee to advocate for new investment in the justice system, more judgeships for communities most in need, and legislation to continue expanding access to court interpreters.
The council’s action occurred after it debated a provision in the recommendations to advocate for extending sunset dates for certain court filing fees that have become necessary to support court operations absent other funding sources. Several council members expressed concerns that the fees can inhibit and diminish access to justice for much of the public.
Despite these misgivings, the council approved all the legislative priorities, including the extension of the court fees. The vote was 15-2.
Other items on the December 12 council meeting agenda included:
Report on Need for New Judgeships: The council approved a report to the Legislature showing that the California court system needs nearly 270 new judicial officers to meet its workload. The council also approved a recommendation from the council’s Workload Assessment Advisory Committee to revise the methodology used to prioritize judgeships to make it easier for small courts with high workloads to become eligible for new judges. Smaller courts with judicial workload that is substantial but less than the threshold currently required to be eligible for an additional judgeship, are less able to spread the increased workload around because they have fewer judges than larger courts.
Expanding Interpreter Use to More Civil Cases: The council approved a recommendation from the council’s Court Interpreters Advisory Panel to authorize trial courts to request reimbursement for expenditures on court interpreters for parties in civil cases, consistent with the requirements of Assembly Bill 1657. The statute, effective January 1, 2015, authorizes courts to provide interpreters to all parties in civil matters, regardless of income, and sets forth a priority order when courts do not have sufficient resources to provide interpreters for all persons.
Report on Parolee Reentry Courts Shows Promise: The council approved a report to the Governor and Legislature on the effectiveness of pilot reentry courts in reducing recidivism. The report found that reentry courts are serving the intended high-risk, high-need target populations, and that reentry court participants were revoked (for either parole violations or new crimes) less frequently than the comparison group and spent fewer days in prison.
Reports on How Budget Cuts Reducing Access to the Courts: During council meetings, council members report on their liaison visits to local courts since the last meeting. The council received reports about how courts in Colusa, San Bernardino, and San Diego are struggling with the budget cuts imposed on the court system, including staffing shortages, delays in case processing, and courthouse closures that are decreasing access to justice for the public.
An archived audiocast of the entire meeting broken out by topic will be available on the December 12 council meeting webpage later this week.