News Release

Council to Consider Ways to Help Court Users at Risk of Homelessness

Will also hear about standards to prevent bias in court proceedings, a new remote proceedings guide, and efforts to educate youth about the court system
Nov 12, 2021

VIA WEB CONFERENCE—The Judicial Council next week will hear ways the judicial branch could increase access and assistance for court users experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

In its final report to the council, the Chief Justice’s Work Group on Homelessness provides recommendations on how the judicial branch could help improve the process for litigants in eviction cases, including:

  • Increasing remote access, expanding self-help resources, and creating more user-friendly court forms with information sheets and checklists
  • Supporting the development of legislation to create and fund a statewide program to provide legal representation in residential eviction cases for litigants who can’t afford attorneys
  • Starting and/or expanding court diversion, mediation, and settlement efforts

The report further explains how remote access to courts in general can benefit those experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. While much of this population has access to a cell phone or computer, transportation and other barriers can make it difficult to access the courthouse in person.

In addition, the work group also recommends more courts establish special homeless court programs, which can reduce barriers to housing stability by clearing defendants’ fines, fees, warrants, and outstanding cases after treatment and rehabilitation. According to the latest data, 18 California counties have some form of homeless court program.

Other items on the Nov. 19 council meeting agenda include:

Addressing Bias in Court Proceedings: The council will consider recommendations from a work group established by the Chief Justice to review and revise standards that promote an environment free of bias and the appearance of bias in court proceedings.

Remote Proceedings Guide for Judicial Officers: The council’s Ad Hoc Workgroup on Post-Pandemic Initiatives will discuss a new resource guide that will help judges plan and conduct proceedings by videoconference.

Civic Learning Initiative: The council will get an update from the Power of Democracy Steering Committee, which promotes efforts to connect courts with schools in their community, including the Civic Learning Awards and Judges in the Classroom programs.

The complete meeting agenda and council reports are posted to the California Courts Meeting Information Center. A link to a live webcast of the meeting will be on the California Courts website on the day of the meeting.