So, this blog has shared information on the debate that ensued in Texas, when the Supreme Court moved to simplified family law forms. https://accesstojustice.net/2012/01/25/texas-supreme-court-moves-forward-on-forms/. The State Bar has tried to change the Court’s decision to move towards simplifing the forms in its role as the administrator of justice. The opposition of the Bar created ripples and was picked up by national media. https://accesstojustice.net/2012/02/24/wall-street-journal-has-video-report-on-texas-forms-fight/; https://accesstojustice.net/2012/02/29/collection-of-srl-data/
Reading this piece by Richard Zitrin, http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/files/tmc-2012—7-on-line—lack-of-court-funding-hampers-access-120413.pdf led me to ponder the differences between these Bar Associations.
In San Francisco, this week 4/18/2012, there was a rally organized by the San Francisco Bar Association, with participation from legal aid leaders, law schools, big firms, prominent plaintiff firms, the State Bar, coming together to support the courts and protest the closing of courts and self help centers and courts due to lack of funding. Here is a report on the rally: http://www.law.com/jsp/ca/PubArticleCA.jsp?id=1202549475928&Rally_for_Court_Funding_Draws_Hundreds_in_San_Francisco
The array of speaker was impressive—a list of who is who in the legal community across the state. http://www.sfbar.org/calendar/eventdetail.aspx?id=X120036/X120036.
Other local Bar Associations also joined the effort, including Contra Costa Bar Association http://www.cccba.org/attorney/news/press-20120315.php and the Santa Clara Bar Association. https://m360.sccba.com/event.aspx?eventID=49135&instance=0 . So this rally cannot be dismissed as a San Francisco event only—San Francisco being well known to take first time positions in many issues. And private firms are also supporting the rally. http://lieffcabraser.com/media/pnc/5/media.1255.pdf and http://rftmlaw.com/?email-campaign=rally-to-support-court-funding-april-18-2012-in-san-francisco
This is orthogonal to the developments in Texas. In CA, the groups that work with this overlapping population are joining together to support the courts and protest the effect the cuts are having on access to justice, signified by the closing of courts and reduction in self help services. As they write in CA, “justice delayed is justice denied”. Joining to support the court and protest the cuts in particular the cuts to self help services, may signify a deeper understanding that in effect all of these groups are affected by the non-abating recession and the initiatives courts take to assist those without lawyers are valuable and have a legitimate place in the administration of justice and in the continuum of legal services.
These are times of change. There is no end in sight for the impact of this recession—it started in 2008 and it will go on for an uncertain number of months if not years. I hope that all of the courts and Access to Justice Commissions that are looking at the developments in Texas, also take a look at this rally in CA —and that they are not chilled in moving away from legal processes and forms rooted in the past. The satire of the British legal system by Charles Dickens “Jarndyce v Jarndyce” in Bleak House (1852) could well apply in 2012 in the US in a majority of jurisdictions. I hope all those who work with the courts can agree that there is no use in preserving a system that is slow, arcane, frustrating to the litigants, and costly to courts and all of those who interact with it. As much as the law is based on precedent, it is time to rethink the processes and tools and come with a more American model—based on fairness, due process, equality for all, and American ideals of fair play and accountability to all of it users, not just expert users. Courts that are being proactive to improve things for those in most need deserve everyone’s support. Let the San Francisco rally be a model for other legal communities .