Updates on BayLegal’s Advocacy with the Judicial Council of California

Categories: Advocacy, Homepage, News

The Judicial Council is the policymaking body of the California courts. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, BayLegal has worked with the Judicial Council to advocate for the needs of low-income litigants and for overall public safety within the legal system, supporting the statewide suspension of eviction proceedings along with court closures and changes to procedures to support physical distancing and transmission prevention. This week, in an effort led by our Domestic Violence Prevention team and with contributions from our Housing Law unit, we submitted extensive comments to the Judicial Council on a number of pressing issues related to family safety, pandemic response, and racial justice:

  1. Successfully Opposed Curtailing the Eviction Moratorium: The Council considered the early discontinuation of its emergency rules related to Covid-19. Within one day, the BayLegal Housing team turned around a strong advocacy letter to advocate that the moratorium stay in place as originally issued, for 90 days past the expiration of the state of emergency. Due to widespread concern, the Chief Justice called off the vote on the eviction moratorium, giving the legislature and governor time to work through potential legislation.
  2. Mandating Judicial Bias Education: We voiced strong support for a proposed rule that mandates implicit bias training for judges, all the more poignant now as thousands across the country protest widespread racialized violence and structural racism.
  3. Protecting Consumers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: We continue to see debt collectors filing lawsuits against consumers at a rate equal to or greater than before the pandemic. We are advocating that the Judicial Council order California courts not to issue summonses or enter defaults in debt collection cases during the State of Emergency and for a period of 60 days thereafter, except as necessary to protect public health and safety; and that e-signature rules be modified during this time to help pro per litigants.
  4. Advocated for the Right to Electronic Record for Low-Income Litigants: We advocated that court reporters or electronic records be available in all proceedings involving indigent litigants as a matter of right (to comply with the CA Supreme Court case of Jameson v. Desta). We argued that the Judicial Council proposal to require indigent litigants to proactively request this on a form is too burdensome.
  5. Improving Disability Accommodation Request Process: We supported the Judicial Council’s efforts to improve the accommodation request process, but advocated that it go further, including:
    1. extend the timeframe to request accommodation;
    2. mandate an explanation if the request for accommodation is denied; and
    3. have a fillable form on the court website in addition to mail, email, fax, and in-person requests.
  6. Updating Family Court Rules/Forms: We supported and recommended improvements on proposals to update rules and forms to comply with new laws affecting Child Custody Evaluations, Spousal Support & Property Division to best serve client needs.
  7. Enhancing Safety of Supervised Visitation during COVID: We developed our own proposed rule for the Judicial Council’s consideration to address the lack of consistency in practices of supervised visitation providers during the pandemic, which has been resulting in confusion and safety problems for clients.