California Courts Report Successful Start to CARE Act
SAN FRANCISCO—The Judicial Council at its Jan. 19 meeting received an update on the successful implementation of the CARE Act, which authorizes specified people to petition a civil court to create a voluntary CARE agreement or a court-ordered CARE plan that can include treatment, housing support, and other services for persons with untreated schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.
The council heard from two superior courts that have started receiving CARE Act petitions, including lessons learned on the importance of collaboration among stakeholders and reaching out to the community.
“The most important ingredient for a successful program is collaboration among all the stakeholders,” said Orange County Judge Ebrahim Bayteih. “The objective for everyone, from beginning to end, is to provide wraparound services to those people and their families who so desperately need it.”
Judge Bayteih added that while nearly half of the petitions filed in his court were submitted by family members, some were filed--with help from the Public Defender--directly by those who need the services.
“Our court intends to communicate successful outcomes to build trust and increase participation in the CARE Act process,” added San Diego County Judge Kimberlee A. Lagotta. “That includes expanding our outreach to 13 neighborhood community centers, which are one-stop shops that improve access to legal services. We are committed to the success of the program.”
Seven counties (Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Stanislaus, Tuolumne) started CARE Act implementation Oct. 1. Los Angeles County implemented the act on Dec. 1, and the remaining 50 counties must implement by Dec. 1, 2024.
So far, those eight courts have received more than 220 CARE Act petitions. The act tasked the council with collecting data on the program’s implementation, which it reports quarterly to the California Department of Health Care Services.
The council helped courts put the legislation into practice by approving new court rules and forms and creating fact sheets, webinars, and videos to educate courts and the public about the CARE Act process. The council also continues to meet with courts and county stakeholders to gauge progress and identify challenges. Watch
Remote Appearances in Civil Cases Get High Marks
The council also received a report finding the ability to hold remote appearances in civil cases is popular with court users and staff.
The report shows that:
- California courts statewide handled nearly 150K civil proceedings remotely per month, equaling 7,000 per court day
- More than 90% of court users and 98% of court staff reported a positive experience
- Overall, less than 5% of litigants and only 2% of court staff reported experiencing technical issues during the remote proceeding
In addition to the written report, the council also heard from Mendocino County Judge Ann Moorman, on how the option for attending remotely can increase participation and save litigants both time and money by not having to travel to the courthouse. She noted these benefits were seen in multiple areas, including proceedings in juvenile, conservatorships, domestic violence, and elder abuse cases.
Set to sunset Jan. 1, 2026, Senate Bill 133 extends the option to appear remotely for a court conference, hearing, proceeding, or trial using remote technology in civil cases. The bill also requires the council to submit annual reports to the Legislature on any technology issues affecting the remote proceedings. Watch
Other Items on the Council Meeting Agenda:
Racial Justice Toolkit for Judicial Officers and Court Staff: The council reviewed a new toolkit designed to help bench officers, trial court leaders, and court staff incorporate racial diversity, equity, and inclusion into their court operations; build effective community partnerships; train and educate staff; and develop and sustain a diverse workforce. The online toolkit has links to studies, practice guides, and sample racial justice programs and outreach activities, such as presenting information at townhall events, professional conferences, and self-help centers. Watch
Update on Program Providing Free Legal Services in High-Stakes Civil Cases: The council received an update on the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act pilot program, which funds free legal services for low-income Californians facing critical civil cases such as child custody, eviction, conservatorship, elder abuse, and restraining orders. Since its launch in 2011, nearly 80,000 litigants have received legal services via the Shriver program, and 91% of those were in housing cases. Housing cases were significantly more likely to resolve via settlement and less likely to involve a trial when tenants had legal representation. Watch
Education for Judges and Court Staff: The council approved its next two-year education plan for developing and delivering education to the judicial branch, which includes justices, judges, and court staff. The plan includes on-demand videos, online courses, webinars, podcasts, and publications, as well as live interactive programs and courses, offered both in person and remotely. Participants in those live courses benefit from the curriculum and by creating lasting relationships with their colleagues attending the programs. Watch
2024 Legislative Priorities: The council approved the types of legislation it should support to increase access to justice for court users, which includes adequate court funding to address increased costs, remote access to the courts while balancing due process, new judicial officer positions in counties with the greatest need, ensuring the availability of verbatim records of court proceedings, and efficient court operations. Watch
The complete meeting agenda, council reports, and archived webcast are posted to the California Courts Meeting Information Center.