Access to Justice

Lasya, a recent graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Law, is careful to emphasize that she’s relatively fortunate. She’s been gainfully employed throughout the pandemic, making just over $200,000 a year at a BigLaw firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. And when she was in law school, her parents were able to cover those three years of living expenses. (Her name has been changed in this story to protect her privacy.) Despite these advantages, Lasya still had to take out loans to cover her law school tuition and fees, which for an in-state Berkeley Law student currently costs…
In September 2016, after a five-year investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division made an announcement: it had reached an agreement with Los Angeles County Superior Court to resolve allegations that the court was discriminating against its users based on their national origin. The department launched the federal probe in response to an administrative complaint filed in 2010 by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), which claimed the court was failing to provide meaningful access to its services for individuals who spoke limited English — in a state where 20 percent of the population fit that…
It was 2018, and one of Asher Waite-Jones’ clients was making minimum wage working part-time in a warehouse when he was assessed about $2000 in fines and fees for a DUI conviction. To pay those, the client, a young man in his 20s, dropped out of school so he could pick up additional work hours. But not long afterward, he was laid off. The client spent a couple of years looking for other work, but his criminal record made it hard to find steady employment. And when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, his options narrowed even more. When Congress passed the…
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Tuesday named members to an ad hoc working group that will determine which of the practices California courts adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic should remain in place after the pandemic is over. “At the beginning of the pandemic, in what we now call Phase 1, the Judicial Council used emergency powers given to us by the Governor to help court users and our court family to be safe while keeping our doors open, both virtually and physically,” Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. “Phase 2 of pandemic planning is reflected in…
We’re used to the idea that good lawyers aren’t born, they’re made. But for mentors like Maria Hall, it’s how they’re made that’s important. Every year in February, Hall–the director of the Los Angeles Incubator Consortium–ushers in a new cohort of 10-12 newly-minted law grads to show them the recipe for success as a free-thinking, adaptable and driven law practitioner. No matter how much promise and idealism you have, jumping headfirst into the world of becoming a “new solo” (or a freshman-level solo practitioner) can be scary when you’re caught in the purgatory between reading books and filing briefs in…
Claiming the court prioritizes non-essential operations over “community safety and human life,” five legal aid organizations on Tuesday sued Los Angeles County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile for holding certain hearings in person during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In a complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the organizations claim that by permitting and sometimes mandating in-person appearances for unlawful detainer and traffic hearings, the presiding judge has put attorneys and litigants at high risk of contracting COVID-19 from non-emergency courtroom proceedings — especially as public health experts call Los Angeles “the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.” The…
The Judicial Council on Friday unanimously approved a plan to grant $25 million to trial courts in order to address court cases delayed due to the pandemic. The allocation of funds will be based on each court’s unresolved caseload during the pandemic period compared to the same period in 2019. The money comes from the remainder of $50 million included in the 2020 Budget Act. Trial courts will also be required to report to the judicial panel on a quarterly basis, giving updates on their progress in reducing their pandemic-related backlogs as well as a report on how they spend…
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday unveiled a proposed $227.2 billion budget for the state’s 2021-2022 fiscal year with a proposed $381.1 million in new funding for its court system, including investments to support the judicial branch’s essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, in the wake of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, California’s court system took $200 million in budget cuts, leading courts to furlough employees, reduce employee compensation, and slash operating costs. California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye called the governor’s new proposed budget “welcome news” for the state’s judicial branch. “It is…
On May 9, 2018, Kenneth Humphrey took his first breath as a free man after nearly a year in jail in San Francisco. At age 64, the Black retiree with a wry smile and salt-and-pepper goatee walked out of custody with a new lease on life, albeit with an ankle bracelet and an amazing story to tell. His case inspired a landmark decision that year, when the state’s First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled that judges must consider a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail terms. “Mr. Humphrey has been in custody for almost a year…