SAN FRANCISCO--The Judicial Council at its May 18-19 business meeting will consider recommendations to temporarily modify how it distributes funding to small courts for court-appointed attorneys in juvenile dependency cases. Funding for dependency counsel is provided through the state budget and is allocated by the Judicial Council based on formulas developed by a council committee.

Small courts, defined as the 30 courts in California counties with the lowest child welfare caseloads (fewer than 400 children in child welfare), generally have less access to qualified court-appointed attorneys. These smaller courts, located in more remote and less-populated counties, must pay the attorneys more for their time and travel than larger courts in more populated counties.

The Judicial Council calculates it needs a total of $202.9 million to adequately fund court-appointed dependency counsel for local courts but currently receives only $114.7 million.

Other items on the May 18-19 council meeting agenda include:

Reducing Maintenance and Utilities Costs in Courthouses: The council will consider a recommendation to direct its staff to take all actions necessary to reduce utility and maintenance costs, including engaging the local trial courts.

Language Access to the Courts: The council will receive an update on the progress of its Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force. The update will include a report on how to improve “wayfinding” strategies and multilingual signage in courthouses.

Courthouse Closures or Reduced Hours: Per statute and its normal meeting procedures, the council will receive a report on which trial courts have closed courtrooms or clerks’ offices or reduced clerks’ office hours because of budget challenges. Since the previous report, 3 superior courts—Kings, Santa Clara, and Yuba Counties have issued new notices of closures or reductions.

The meeting agenda and council reports have been posted online, and a link to the live videocast of the meeting will be on the California Courts website on the day of the meeting.