Elder courts are surely a wave of the future –if only because of the demographics, and the need to focus social service and support resources in the courthouse when senior cases are to be there. It can not hurt that seniors are a politically potent and politically sympathetic constituency.
So its great news to hear that Contra Costa County has received a California Courts Kleps Awaard for its Senior Court, the details of which are below, pasted from the Contra Costa Lawyer Blog.
Weekly calendars in the central part of the county [ ]. The docket includes small claims, criminal, landlord tenant, and general civil matters. To minimize transportation issues, documents and emergency elder abuse cases can be handled by the branch courts in the eastern and western parts of the county.
Senior Peer Counselors. Volunteer Counselors are available during every Elder Court session to assist petitioners in coping with emotional stress, and work closely with the District Attorney’s Victim’s Assistance Program.
Senior Self Help Center is staffed by experienced attorneys and is open from 9 am until 1:30 pm on Elder Court days (Tuesdays). It offers free legal assistance and referrals regarding restraining orders, small claims forms, consumer credit, unlawful detainer, and foreclosure actions, as well as preparing for hearings.
Free Spanish Translation and Interpretation services at the Senior Self Help Center are available from a court interpreter training program.
Mediators assist elders to reconcile with family members and negotiate their differences. “Kitchen Top” mediations at home are available for those with mobility issues.
Outreach, Education and Prevention. Judge Cram and representatives of the Elder Court partner agencies frequently speak at service club meetings and community events.
This is indeed a valuable model, not only for seniors, but for its process of identifying a problem area and then focusing ideas and needed resources at the point of maximum impact.
Note that this remains a priority area for SJI (2011 Grant Guideline at III A 1(c):
c. Elder Issues
This category includes research, demonstration, evaluation, and education projects designed to improve management of guardianship, probate, fraud, Americans With Disabilities Act, and other types of elder-related cases. SJI is particularly interested in projects that would develop and evaluate judicial branch education programs addressing elder law and related issues.