Family Law

Family Law News 2014, Issue 2, Volume 36, No. 2

BUDGET MEETING AT THE STATE CAPITOL How the Budget Cuts are Impacting Litigants’ Access to Justice

Diane Fetzer*

On March 11, 2014, a Senate Judiciary Committee Information Meeting was held in Sacramento at the State Capitol. The topic of this meeting was Family Law Courts: Budget Cutbacks and Access to Justice. Those in attendance, other than the legislators, were the Honorable Jerilyn Borack, the Honorable Kimberly Nystrom-Geist, the Honorable James M. Mize, the Honorable Scott M. Gordon, Dianne M. Fetzer (Advisor to the Family Law Executive Committee), Diane Bras (Placer County Superior Court), Billie-Jean Lee (Bay Area Legal Aid), and Chris Chiristman (Placer County Public Law Library).

Senator Leno indicated that California has a surplus of funds this year and hoped to allocate some of these funds to the CA Judiciary Branch. He stated this with a caveat: as the Governor also indicated, he wanted to direct the funds primarily to pay off debt and to shift some funds to CalPERs and CalSTRS retirement plans. The purpose of this meeting was to provide input to legislators about the impact of the budget cuts on litigants’ access to justice.

Of the topics raised, it was clear family law litigants need access to interpreters, as do court reporters for assuring that the court’s record is preserved for possible appeals. We all know the struggle of our family law courts — including the lines for filing, the fact that some trials are set over a two year period, closure of facilitator’s offices, backlog of entry of judgments (some more than six months away), delays in obtaining access to custody mediators, loss of court clerks and their historical knowledge, loss of a minor’s counsel, and the impact of obtaining necessary restraining orders on a timely basis.

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