California Judicial Council Approves Seven Shriver Pilot Project Grants: Court Involvement, Triage and Evaluation

The California Judicial Council has approved seven Shriver “civil Gideon” pilot grants (with some for two projects within the same grant).  The overall project includes required court involvement, triage, and a broad evaluation.  Note that notwithstanding media description otherwise, the project does not create a right to counsel, rather it establishes pilot projects in the expansion of the provision of counsel, with possible implications for future creation of a right.  (Actual text [page 15]: “Legal counsel shall be appointed to represent low-income parties in civil matters involving critical issues affecting basic human needs in those specified courts selected by the Judicial Council as provided in this section.”)  This is one to watch.

The actual grants are as follows:

  • Bar Association of San Francisco Voluntary Legal Services Program Superior Court of San Francisco County Child Custody Pilot Project…………………………………………………………….. $350,000
  • Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance Superior Court of Kern County Housing Pilot Project……………………………………………………………………. $560,043
  • Legal Aid Society of San Diego Superior Court of San Diego County Housing Pilot Project………………………………………………………………….. $1,873,919
  • Legal Aid Society of San Diego Superior Court of San Diego CountyChild Custody Pilot Project……………………………………………………………… $700,000
  • Legal Aid Society of Santa Barbara County Superior Court of Santa Barbara County Housing Pilot Project……………………………………………………………………. $465,439
  • Legal Aid Society of Santa Barbara County Superior Court of Santa Barbara County Probate Guardianship Pilot Project…………………………………………………….$482,981
  • Legal Services of Northern California Superior Court of Sacramento County Superior Court of Yolo County Housing Pilot Project………………………………………………………………….. $1,408,077
  • Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice Superior Court of Los Angeles County Child Custody/Domestic Violence Project……………………………………………… $850,000
  • Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County Superior Court of Los Angeles County Housing Pilot Project………………………………………………………………….. $2,809,601

As the Report to the Judicial Council recommending this grants also states with respect to the courts (at page 4):

Government Code section 68651(b)(4) recognizes that even with the new funding available under the legislation, not all eligible low-income parties with meritorious cases can be provided with legal representation. So, in addition to the legal representation provided by the legal services providers, the statute provides for funds to courts to adopt innovative practices, which can include “procedures, personnel, training, and case management and administration practices that reflect best practices to ensure unrepresented parties meaningful access to justice and to guard against the involuntary waiver of rights, as well as to encourage fair and expeditious voluntary dispute resolution, consistent with principles of judicial neutrality.”

Note that as to intake and the decision whether to provide services, the statute includes an interesting triage approach, mandating consideration of the following factors (at page 17, Attachment C [the statute]):

(A) Case complexity.(B) Whether the other party is represented. (C) The adversarial nature of the proceeding. (D) The availability and effectiveness of other types of services, such as self-help, in light of the potential client and the nature of the case. (E) Language issues. (F) Disability access issues. (G) Literacy issues. (H) The merits of the case. (I) The nature and severity of potential consequences for the potential client if representation is not provided. (J) Whether the provision of legal services may eliminate or reduce the need for and cost of public social services for the potential client and others in the potential client’s household.

Note also the mandated evaluation, due by 2016, and the matters to be reported upon (extract from statute, at page 18 of Attachment C).

The study shall report on the percentage of funding by case type and shall include data on the impact of counsel on equal access to justice and the effect on court administration and efficiency, and enhanced coordination between courts and other government service providers and community resources. This report shall describe the benefits of providing representation to those who were previously not represented, both for the clients and the courts, as well as strategies and recommendations for maximizing the benefit of that representation in the future. The report shall describe and include data, if available, on the impact of the pilot program on families and children. The report also shall include an assessment of the continuing unmet needs and, if available, data regarding those unmet needs.

In my opinion the triage and evaluation are what makes this a really important and helpful project, and yet another demonstration of the national leadership provided by the California courts.

Here is a link to a Los Angeles Times article about one of the projects.

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About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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One Response to California Judicial Council Approves Seven Shriver Pilot Project Grants: Court Involvement, Triage and Evaluation

  1. Pingback: California Courts Issue RFP for Evaluation of Shriver Project | Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog

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