Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bench-Bar Coalition Seeks Real-World Examples of Impact of Judicial Branch Budget Cuts

The California Statewide Bench-Bar Coalition (BBC), an organization of judges and bar leaders from throughout California, is compiling real-world examples of the impact of the cuts in the judicial branch budget that have taken place over the past couple of years (culminating in last year's massive reduction).  

The following letter was sent last week to BBC members by Donna Hershkowitz, Deputy Director of the Administrative Office of the Court's Office of Governmental Affairs, who is in charge of compiling the examples (
To: Bench-Bar Coalition Members

Re: Urgent Action Request: Reports on the Effects of Judicial Branch Budget Reductions on Legal Practitioners, Their Clients, and Court Users

I am writing to request your immediate assistance in gathering information on how the reductions to the judicial branch budget have impacted you, your clients, and members of the public who access trial court programs and services throughout the state.

We are in the process of developing the necessary information to convey to the legislative and executive branches the true nature of these impacts and the need to restore funding to the judicial branch budget. To be most effective, we must capture and share clear, meaningful examples of what these reductions mean in human terms and how access to justice has been compromised in California.

Specifically, we are asking that you immediately begin sending your observations and experiences—and those of your clients—as they occur to Donna Hershkowitz, assistant director of the AOC Office of Governmental Affairs by email at: Donna will aggregate the information for use in statewide outreach and education efforts conducted by you, members of the judicial branch, and our justice system partners.

Your submission should include enough information to enable us to aggregate similar stories and present a picture of the cumulative effects on the public:

  1. The trial court at which the incident you are describing occurred; 
  2. The type of case you or your client brought before the court; 
  3. The specific reduction in programs or services that impacted you or your client; and 
  4. The immediate, subsequent or residual effect that the reduction had on you or your client, and what that means in terms of access to and the delivery of justice. 
  5. Your contact information should we need to follow up with you on your submission.
For illustrative purposes, using the September 14 Oakland Tribune article on court services reductions in Alameda County as background, the following example could be submitted:

  1. Superior Court of Alameda County, Hayward Hall of Justice
  2. Traffic court/red-light camera ticket processing 
  3. Effective Monday, September 12, traffic court proceedings previously held at the Hayward Hall of Justice were moved to the Fremont Hall of Justice. 
  4. My client reported to me that he had received a traffic citation to appear at the Hayward Hall of Justice. Upon arriving at the Hayward courthouse, there were no signs posted at that location to alert the public that traffic cases would now be heard at the Fremont courthouse, so he had waited in line for one hour before learning from a clerk that he was at the wrong location. The subsequent impact on my client was that he then had to travel 12 miles through morning commute traffic to the Fremont courthouse, and upon arriving, found that he was at the end of a line of about 60 people that had already formed before the Fremont court opened at 8:00 a.m. After processing his ticket and driving the 12 miles back to Alameda, the client had missed three hours of work and pay for a matter that he could have handled at the Hayward courthouse within one hour. Note: Ideally, this example would continue to further illustrate the sustained impact to the client: Because he told his employer he would be one hour late to work, not three hours, the client, who is the sole provider for his family, was put on probationary status and is at risk of losing his job. This scenario presents added complications for clients without adequate access to transportation to outlying courthouses. 
  5. John Q. Barmember, Attorney at Law, (name of firm, address, phone number and email address) 
Thank you for your urgent consideration of this request. Please contact Donna Hershkowitz in OGA at 916-323-3121 should you have any questions regarding the content we are seeking. We anticipate beginning statewide outreach activities immediately and will benefit greatly by having as much information as possible to share with decisionmakers. We look forward to hearing from you.

Donna Hershkowitz
Assistant Director
Office of Governmental Affairs
Judicial Council of California - Administrative Office of the Courts
770 L Street, Suite 700
Sacramento, CA 95814
916-323-3121, Fax: 916-323-4347,

No comments:

Post a Comment