Report to Judicial Council Shows Expansion of Self-Help Services by Local Courts
SAN FRANCISCO—The Judicial Council at its May 17 business meeting will receive a report on how the state’s trial courts are using new branch funding provided in the 2018 state budget to increase access and improve court efficiency for the public.
This year’s state budget included $19.1 million for courts to expand self-help services to help litigants without attorneys navigate the court system.
With those new funds, by the end of last year, 27 courts had already expanded hours of self-help centers, opened new centers, or re-opened ones previously shuttered due to budget cuts. Statewide, courts had already hired 18 new attorneys and expanded the hours of eight additional attorneys to help Californians with civil filings that include domestic violence, elder abuse, or eviction cases.
In addition, the state budget provided nearly $100 million in funding—with nearly half of that amount earmarked for the most underfunded counties—to improve court operations. Many courts reported the new funding helped them hire more staff to reopen closed courtrooms and reduce or eliminate case backlogs; increase hours at public counters; and reopen facilities previously closed due to budget cuts. Courts also used discretionary funding to invest in new case management and document storage systems that will increase the public’s access to court records and information.
Other items on the council meeting agenda include:
Update on Latest State Budget Proposal: The council’s Administrative Director Martin Hoshino will provide an update on Governor Newsom’s revised state budget proposal released this week. The proposal includes funding for more judgeships, expansion of language access, and dependency counsel. The proposal would also increase the cap on trial court reserves from 1% to 3%.
Increasing Access to Court Reporters and Interpreters: The council will consider revisions to court rules and forms to match recent changes in the law related to fee waivers for court reporters, providing interpreters in civil cases by priority level, and reimbursing courts for the cost of providing interpreters. The council will also consider proposed new rules and forms related to language services outside of the courtroom.
San Francisco’s Expanded Veterans Court Project: The council will hear from San Francisco court leaders about the court’s enhanced Veterans Justice Court. The court expanded its use of evidence-based treatment and established a clinical case manager to help secure care for participants ineligible for full health benefits from Veterans Affairs. The project is one of 50 programs supported by the Court Innovations Grant Program to promote court innovations and efficiencies.
Tactical Plan for Court Technology: The council will consider an update to the judicial branch’s tactical plan, which focuses on enhancing electronic access to courts and court services, and promoting more efficient business practices. The updated plan also identifies projects related to information security and data analytics.
Ensuring Quality of Judicial Branch Data: The council will consider updating policy guidelines for courts to ensure the reliability and consistency of reporting aggregate case information to the Judicial Branch Statistical Information System. The branch reports these statistics publicly and uses them to inform decisions on court funding and the need for more judgeships.