Access to Justice Commission
JUSTICE NEWSLETTER
 
"If we do not maintain justice, justice will not maintain us." - Francis Bacon

May 2012
In This Issue
Year in Review: 2011 Access Commission Accomplishments
Foreclosure Settlement & Budget Uncertainties
Deadline Extended to June 15th for Benjamin Aranda III Award
Pathways to Justice Conference
Justice Gap Fund Update
Welcome New Commissioners
Quick Links

A Message From the Chair:

 

"A fair and just society requires open courts and services that provide the ability to use them. The courts are not an optional service of government, but instead are the third branch of government that fulfills the fundamental role of preserving the rule of law." These true and significant statements are from the upcoming report on the recently held public hearings on the crisis California's civil justice system is facing, described more below. As the hearings demonstrated, we must restate and reaffirm these fundamental principles, and the California Access to Justice Commission is committed to ensuring a well functioning and adequately funded civil justice system

 

This issue of Justice highlights the work of the Commission in 2011, as we begin our 15th year. We are proud of what we have accomplished, but recognize that there is much more to be done. As Chair of the Commission, I assure you that the Commission is continuing to work diligently to ensure access to justice for all.

 

Hon. Ronald B. Robie

Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District

Sacramento 

A Year in Review: 2011 Accomplishments of Access to Justice Commission
  • CO-SPONSORED PUBLIC HEARINGS ON CALIFORNIA'S CIVIL JUSTICE CRISIS: In November and December 2011,the Access Commission, along with the State Bar and the California Chamber of Commerce jointly sponsored a series of four public hearings around the state, coordinated by OneJustice. Representatives from all facets of California's diverse population - low income individuals, seniors, veterans, representatives from businesses, social service agencies, private foundations and health care providers - presented testimony at the hearings. The testimony demonstrated the critical role California's civil justice system plays and also demonstrated that the system is at risk of collapse due to underfunding of both the courts and the legal services organizations that provide free assistance to low-income Californians. A report will be released in the near future with the findings from the hearings which will be presented to the legislature. To learn more about the hearings, read testimony or watch videos from the hearings, go to californiahearings.org .
  • HELPED LAUNCH THE CAMPAIGN FOR JUSTICE: The Access Commission, State Bar and Legal Aid Association of California launched the Campaign for Justice in an effort to increase pro bono and to raise $10 million over three years for legal aid programs throughout the State and ensure that all Californians can get the legal help they need. Among other things, the Campaign declared October 2011 Campaign for Justice Month, and also created the website CAforJustice.org, where people can pledge to support justice, access key messages to use when discussing legal services and learn about upcoming events.
  • COMPILED BEST PRACTICES FOR ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES: The Access Commission's Administrative Agency Committee continued its efforts to increase access to justice within agencies, which is critical because some of the highest priority legal needs of low-income Californians involve agencies and not courts.   The committee developed training for administrative law judges, continued working with the AOC to develop and update the administrative agency information on the judicial council's self-help website and took the lead in coordination with access to justice stakeholders around the country to analyze proposed revisions to the Model State Administrative Procedures Act.
  • PROVIDED INPUT ON LEGISLATION REGARDING OUR STATEWIDE COURT SYSTEM AND LEGAL SERVICES FUNDING: The Access Commission continued to assess and comment on legislation that would impact the availability of ensuring equal access to our courts. One key focus was language access. The Access Commission worked with the ABA and the Conference of Chief Justices to help ensure ultimate approval for the new ABA Standards for Language Access in the Courts, which were ultimately adopted in February 2012. The Access Commission will continue to work with all appropriate parties to pursue implementation of the new standards.

For a more detailed and comprehensive look at the Commission accomplishments, please click here

 

 

Foreclosure Settlement and Budget Uncertainties 

On February 9, 2012, a national settlement was announced between state attorneys general and the five leading bank mortgage services that resulted in approximately $25 billion dollars in monetary sanctions and relief across the country. The settlement is intended to enable hundreds of thousands of distressed homeowners to stay in their homes through enhanced loan modifications. It will also fund payments to victims of unfair foreclosure practices and provide support for housing counseling, legal services, and state-level foreclosure prevention programs. According to the settlement documents:

 

"The remaining settlement funds, approximately $2.5 billion, will be paid to the participating states. The funds may be distributed by the attorneys general to foreclosure relief and housing programs, including housing counseling, legal assistance, foreclosure prevention hotlines, foreclosure mediation, and community blight remediation. A portion of the funds may also be designated as civil penalties for the banks robo-signing misconduct."

 

Click here to read an Executive Summary of the Settlement.

 

In California there was approximately $410 million available out of this settlement to help provide foreclosure-related services. Unfortunately, the Governor's proposed 2012-2013 budget redirects those funds to other ongoing work in the Office of the Attorney General, to save general funds. Most of the funds are devoted to existing projects for the 2012-2013 year, while $111 million is saved for the following year for similar purposes. The final decision on how those funds will be allocated will be determined through the budget process in Sacramento over the coming weeks.

Nominations being sought for the 2012 Benjamin Aranda III Access to Justice Award: Nominations Deadline Extended to June 15th, 2012  

The California Commission on Access to Justice is seeking nominations of a California judge for the 2012 Benjamin Aranda III Access to Justice Award.    

 

The Aranda Access to Justice Award honors one California trial judge, appellate court justice, or commissioner who deserves recognition for his or her efforts to improve access to our judicial system, who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to equal access to our courts, and who has personally done significant work in improving access to our courts for low and moderate income Californians.

 

Nominations are being sought for the 2012Aranda Award, which will be presented by the Chief Justice in the fall. You can also access the forms on our web site: Nomination Form.  The nominations deadline has been extended to June 15th, 2012.

 

Please feel free to contact Frank Monti by email at Frank.Monti@calbar.ca.gov if you have any questions or need further information. We look forward to receiving nominations of the worthy judges who have demonstrated dedication and commitment to improving access to the judicial system.

Mark Your Calendars: Pathways to Justice Conference June 7-8, 2012

On June 7 and 8, at UC Hastings College of Law, the State Bar of California's Office of Legal Services, LAAC and the AOC's Equal Access Project is presenting the Pathways to Justice Conference. The conference is open to all and will provide discussions, programming and training on numerous topics critical to ensuring access to justice. Forty training sessions will be offered, in areas such as Cultural Competency, Organizational Development, Public Benefits, Small Claims and Consumer Law and technology. Carlos Moreno, member of the Access to Justice Commission and former Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court will be the keynote speaker on June 7. For more information on the conference and to register visit calbar.org/pathwaystojustice 

 

Justice Gap Fund Update  

The Justice Gap Fund supports and sustains critical legal assistance for the most vulnerable Californians. Donations to the Justice Gap Fund recorded for the current campaign now total just over $787,000, reflecting contributions from about 9,400 attorneys.   Donations are down from this time last year, even as the need is rising - new figures from the census show an additional 350,000 people in California's indigent population.  To make a tax deductible contribution online now, visit caforjustice.org/donate. 

 

For more about California's overall efforts to enhance legal services through direct contributions, pro bono work, and gifts to the Justice Gap Fund, visit the Campaign for Justice website at CAforJustice.org, and join thousands of California attorneys and legal aid advocates across the state who are helping increase access for justice for those without.

 

The Access Commission Welcomes Its New Members

The Access Commission is comprised of 26 members from across the state and includes representatives from fourteen appointing bodies, including, among others, the Governor, the California Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters, and the State Bar of California. Members serve three year terms that are renewable up to two times. In 2011, the Commission welcomed nine new members, including, for the first time, a representative from the California Supreme Court, Justice Goodwin Liu. The Commission welcomes all of its new members:

 

Mary Lou Aranguren is a state certified court interpreter in Spanish and has worked in criminal and civil matters throughout Northern California since 1992. She has taught workshops on language access issues for interpreters, lawyers, and law students.

 

Kresta Daly practices with Barth, Tozer, and Daly. Her practice focuses on criminal and administrative matters.

 

Meera Deo is an Assistant Professor of Law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Her research focuses on issues of diversity, affirmative action, race, inequality and higher education.

 

Janis R. Hirohama served as President of the League of Women Voters of California from 2007 - 2011. She has held leadership positions on the local, state, and national levels of the League.

 

Hon. Goodwin Liu is an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. Before joining the state's highest court, Justice Liu was Professor of Law at the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall).

 

Paul S. Marks has been an active member of the State Bar of California. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Solo and Small Firm Section of the Bar. He previously served on the Committee on the Administration of Justice.

 

Hon. Carlos Moreno is a Gubernatorial appointee, who is of counsel at Irell & Manella LLP. Prior to joining Irell, he served for a decade as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court.

 

Anne Marie Murphy is a principal at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, where she practices civil litigation.

 

Dian Vorters is an Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings and has thirteen years of experience in court advocacy.

 

For more information about the Commission and for a listing of all of its members  click here.