Elkins Family Law Task Force Recommendations Open for Comment

On October 2, 2009, the Elkins Family Law Task Force released its draft recommendations for ways to improve access to justice in the California Family Court system.

The public comment period is October 1, 2009, through December 4, 2009.

The draft recommendations and an online comment form are available at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/tflists/elkins.htm.

In addition, the task force will hold two public hearings to receive in-person comments on the draft recommendations. The public hearings will be held on Thursday, October 22 in San Francisco, and on Tuesday, October 27 in Los Angeles. For information and to sign up to participate in the public hearings, go to www.courtinfo.ca.gov/jc/tflists/elkins.htm.

To learn more about the Task Force, view the FACT SHEET.

It’s evident from the List of Topics (below) that the Task Force worked hard to review the entire system:

1. Right to Present Live Testimony at Hearings
2. Expanding Legal Representation and Providing a Continuum of Legal Services
3. Caseflow Management
4. Providing Clear Guidance Through Rules of Court
5. Children’s Voices
6. Domestic Violence
7. Enhancing Safety
8. Contested Child Custody
9. Minor’s Counsel
10. Scheduling of Trials and Long-Cause Hearings
11. Litigant Education
12. Expanding Services to Assist Litigants in Resolving Their Cases
13. Streamlining Family Law Forms and Procedures
14. Enhancing Mechanisms to Handle Perjury
15. Standardize Default and Uncontested Process Statewide
16. Interpreters
17. Public Information and Outreach
18. Judicial Branch Education
19. Family Law Research Agenda
20. Court Facilities
21. Leadership, Accountability, and Resources

The SC Access to Justice Commission will continue to follow the project and update you as it develops.

-RFW

Yea Alabama!

For all of you who don’t know, “Yea Alabama” is  the University of Alabama’s (my alma mater) fight song.  However, I’m using this phrase  completely outside of its usual context, which is Crimson Tide football (although I have no problem using the phrase in that context at all).

Frequently, I become tired of hearing people criticize the state of Alabama and how “backwards” it is.   Here, however, is something progressive the state has done.  Check out page 2 of the Civil Right to Counsel Update.

In 2008, both Alabama and Louisiana signed into law statutes recognizing a right to counsel, not only where the state seeks to terminate parental rights, but also where the other parent seeks to terminate parental rights.  This is a great step forward, especially after hearing testimony at some of the S.C. Access to Justice Commission hearings from fathers who wanted to play a role in their children’s lives but who had problems securing their parental rights because of lack of funds.

http://www.civilrighttocounsel.org/pdfs/2008-10-13-newsletter.pdf

Also, as you may have seen in the issue linked above, the state of Alaska’s Supreme Court is poised to make similar determinations in the near future. The issue being whether Alaska’s constitution requires publicly funded counsel for  indigent parents in child custody procedures where the opposing party has private counsel.

Read here for the latest update:

 http://www.civilrighttocounsel.org/pdfs/2008-12%20Update.pdf

– Alex

SCATJ’s 8 Reasons to Give Thanks in ’08

8. Public Hearings are Complete.

And the response was really good. South Carolina Judges, Attorneys and members of the public spoke about barriers to civil justice that they had witnessed or encountered.

7. SCETV’s The Big Picture and staff.

On December 11, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. The Big Picture will feature speakers from the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission’s public hearings. The topic will be self-represented litigants. The next morning, Friday, December 12, 2008, the radio program will continue discussion of this topic.

6. Support of National Access to Justice community.

Shout-outs to Bob Echols, Richard Zorza, Deborah L. Rhode, Jim Sokolove, Judy Meadows, Kate Bladow and all the many others who have contributed this past year to show me that access to justice is larger than South Carolina. There are many pieces within access to justice, all of which are important. The list is too numerous to mention here and I hope you all know who you are.

5. Support of the South Carolina Bar.

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission works out of the South Carolina Bar building and without the assistance of the many Bar employees, the Commission would not have been able to accomplish as much as it has. Additionally, the support of all the Bar members has been overwhelming. Attorneys who are already working hard within the legal services community are familiar with access to justice and working toward this goal every day. Additionally without the care and support of the private bar, access to justice would remain an unrealized concept.

4. Support from the South Carolina Bar Foundation.

The South Carolina Access to Justice Commission is currently fully funded by IOLTA funds from the South Carolina Bar Foundation. Thanks for making everything possible.

3. Active Participation of the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The final hearing was the ultimate in Supreme Court participation. All of the five justices actively joined in the somewhat lively discussion. They prepared meticulous questions and settled only for thorough answers. And their questions often indicated their interest in identifying solutions to the broad problems facing disenfranchised South Carolinians.

2. Wonderful South Carolina Access to Justice Commission Members.

There are 27 members of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. Each one of these members has contributed to the success of the past year.

1. Supportive Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal and Steering Committee.

Special thanks to the support of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission Chair, Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal, and Vice Chair, Stuart Andrews. Additionally, many thanks to Stephanie A. Nye, counsel to the Chief Justice, and George Cauthen, ex-officio. Without each of them individually and collectively, the Commission would not exist. Many thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

-RFW

SC Access to Justice Returns Home Wiser

Richard Zorza, self-represented litigant guru, and Stephanie Nye
Richard Zorza, self-represented litigant guru, and Stephanie Nye

The delegation from the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission returned to South Carolina yesterday from the Court Solutions Conference in Baltimore. The conference was informative and educational. The track pertaining to self-represented litigants offered 15 modules to choose from. The plenary sessions for self-represented litigants offered general information about each of the modules while allowing for an intensive focus on the specific. Many states offered information about initiatives and were willing to share ways to move forward to ensuring access to justice for all.

Desiree Allen, Stephanie Nye, Judge Deadra Jefferson, Judge Michael Baxley, Ellen Osborne
South Carolina Delegation: Desiree Allen, Stephanie Nye, Judge Deadra Jefferson, Judge Michael Baxley, Ellen Osborne

Each state was asked to briefly describe what they are proud of and what they want to learn from other states. The South Carolina state report was:

Judge Jefferson compares notes with Judge Lora Livingston out of Texas
Judge Jefferson compares notes with Judge Lora Livingston out of Texas
  • South Carolina is proud of: (1) completing public hearings where we identified problems faced by self-represented litigants; (2) completing initial judicial and clerk of court trainings where we featured the public hearing video from self-represented litigants describing their experiences; (3) providing ethical training to summary court and clerks of courts when working with self-represented litigants; and (3) completing and distributing the Bench Guide to summary court judges.
  • South Carolina wants to learn from others: (1) ways to build strong library partnerships; (2) ways to enhance partnerships and collaboration with other entities such as Legal Services, Community organizations, etc.; and (3) information about successful self-help centers.
Robin Wheeler interviews Judge Bell of Maryland