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Hearing to examine justice crisis facing California families

By Jeff Barbosa

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) will chair a special informational hearing of the Assembly Judiciary Committee to examine the serious challenges facing the state's judicial system in light of the economic recession and recent budget changes.

Millions of Californians depend on access to our courts to defend their rights and freedoms, protect their families, children, employment, and homes. The recession has forced the state to make substantial budget cuts to our justice system, resulting in closure of some courtrooms, reductions in key public services and elimination of self-help programs upon which thousands, without lawyers, rely.

This hearing will review the reasons for the state-takeover of funding for trial courts and include testimony by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, one of the drafters of this reform. Additionally, a panel of witnesses, including Sacramento Presiding Judge Laurie Earl and Los Angeles Court Executive Officer Jack Clark, will describe painful actions already taken by trial courts that have dramatically reduced court services to the public.

Chilling stories about the impacts of the court crisis are expected, such as the need for a victim of domestic violence to sleep in her car to avoid further assault at home because she could not obtain a timely court hearing; or the woman who had to wait in line for days with her young child to try and secure a child support and custody order; and the infirm senior who died in his car awaiting an emergency court order preventing him from being locked out of his apartment.

The hearing will also take a special look at how the court budget crisis severely affected families and children seeking to navigate the complicated family court system and how the funding crisis of legal services for those unable to afford lawyers is making justice illusory for too many Californians.

Informational Hearing of the Assembly Judiciary Committee
"The Access to Justice Crisis Facing California Families"
Tuesday, February 12
1:30 -5:00 p.m.
Room 447
California State Capitol
915 Capitol Mall, Sacramento

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