14 July 2013

Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye - Quotes of the Month: Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act & Public Confidence in Judicial System

Tani Cantil-Sakauye Entrusted with Legacy of Chief Justice Ronald George to Preserve Public Confidence in Courts

United States District Court Eastern District of California – Sacramento Federal Court – United States Courts - Judge William Shubb - Judge Edmund Brennan - Judge Garland Burrell Jr - Judge Carolyn Delaney - Judge Morrison England Jr - Judge Gregory Hollows - Judge John Mendez - Judge Kendall Newman - Judge Troy Nunley - Judge Allison Claire - Judge Dale Drozd - Judge Lawrence Karlton - Judge Kimberly Mueller – Office of the United States Attorneys Benjamin B. Wagner Eastern District of California, Hon. Robert C. Hight – Hon. Bunmi O. Awoniyi – Hon. Steven M. Gevercer – Hon. Tami R. Bogert – Hon. James M. Mize – Vance Raye - CJP Victoria B. Henley – Hon. Thadd A. Blizzard -Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye Supreme Court of California - Chief Justice Ronald George Supreme Court of California - Presiding Judge Sacramento County Superior Court - family court Sacramento - Court Executive Officer Sacramento County Superior Court - Sacramento Family Court
Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is charged with maintaining the vision of former Chief Justice Ronald George to increase the availability of legal representation for indigent litigants. Cantil-Sakauye previously was a judge of Sacramento Superior Court.
"Increasing the availability of legal representation for litigants who must currently represent themselves or face loss of their legal rights is a key priority of the Judicial Council and Chief Justice Ronald M. George. As the Chief Justice has noted, the large and growing number of self-represented litigants is one of the most challenging issues in the coming decade, imposing significant costs on the judicial system and the public by impairing the ability of the courts to efficiently process heavy caseloads, and eroding the public's confidence in our judicial system." 
AB 590 - Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act.
Four years ago today a historic vote was held in the California Senate Judiciary Committee. The final vote tally was was 3-2, allowing Assembly Bill 590 to move forward in the legislative process. AB 590 included the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act, which proposed to establish a pilot program for the appointment of legal representation for unrepresented low-income parties in civil matters involving basic human needs. 
"Legal and judicial leaders increasingly recognize the need to fix a system that is not only failing to meet the needs of so many court users, and the courts themselves, but also failing to honor basic constitutional and common law principles underlying the doctrine of equal justice under the law," according to a legislative analysis of the bill. "[AB 590] builds on a 2007 budget proposal advocated by Chief Justice Ronald George and backed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger." 
Current Chief Justice Tani Catil-Sakauye was nominated to the high court by Schwarzenegger on July 22, 2010. Assembly Bill 590 was part of a still expanding, nationwide movement known as "Civil Gideon." In the landmark 1963 United States Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court decided that indigent defendants have a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney, at no charge, in state criminal cases. 

The term "Civil Gideon" refers to a growing national movement to provide legal counsel, as a matter of right and at public expense, to low-income persons in civil legal proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving housing, and specific family court issues, such as child custody. Civil Gideon advocates cite startling statistics showing that people without lawyers who face off against attorneys in court often lose cases or rulings they should have won. 

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Judge Robert Hight – Judge Bunmi Awoniyi – Judge Steven Gevercer – Judge Tami Bogert – Judge James Mize – Vance Raye - Victoria Henley CJP - Judge Thadd Blizzard -Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye Supreme Court of California - Associate Justice Goodwin Liu - Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter - Associate Justice Ming W. Chin - Associate Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar - Associate Justice Joyce L. Kennard - Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan - Supreme Court California - Sacramento Federal Court Eastern District of California – United States Courts, US District Court Sacramento, Judge William B. Shubb, Judge Edmund F. Brennan, Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr, Judge Carolyn K. Delaney, Judge Morrison C. England Jr, Judge Gregory G. Hollows, Judge John A. Mendez, Judge Kendall J. Newman, Judge Troy L. Nunley, Judge Allison Claire, Judge Dale A. Drozd, Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner,
Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and head of the Judicial Council is responsible for ensuring equal access to justice for all Californians, irrespective of their socioeconomic status.
Proponents of AB 590 referred to statistical data, including one family court study in which the outcome of child custody disputes were significantly different depending on whether one, or both parents had counsel. Where both parties had a lawyer, joint legal custody occurred 92% of the time, compared to 77% when only one parent was represented. Lopsided outcomes in physical custody disputes were even more dramatic. When the father had counsel and the mother was self-represented, the mother obtained physical custody only 49% of the time. When just the mother had a lawyer, she obtained physical custody 86% of the time. Click here to view a law review summarizing this and similar studies. 

California legislators acknowledged the problem and the final version of AB 590 and the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 11, 2009. 
"Equal access to justice without regard to income is a fundamental right in a democratic society. It is essential to the enforcement of all other rights and responsibilities in any society governed by the rule of law. It also is essential to the public's confidence in the legal system and its ability to reach just decisions," reads AB 590. 
Sacramento native, C.K. McClatchy High School graduate, and former Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye was sworn in as chief justice of the California Supreme Court on January 3, 2011. And in her joint positions as chief justice of the state's highest court and head of the Judicial Council, is responsible for shoring up diminishing public confidence in California's courts, and carrying on this signature program of her predecessor. 

Sacramento Family Court News will have additional reporting on developments in the Civil Gideon movement in the near future. The Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act is codified beginning at Government Code section 68650. Important portions of the Act include:

68650. This chapter shall be known, and may be cited, as the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act. 

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1. The Legislature hereby finds and declares all of the following:

(a) There is an increasingly dire need for legal services for poor Californians. Due to insufficient funding from all sources, existing programs providing free services in civil matters to indigent and disadvantaged persons, especially underserved groups such as elderly, disabled, children, and non-English-speaking persons, are not adequate to meet existing needs. 

There are significant social and governmental fiscal costs of depriving unrepresented parties of vital legal rights affecting basic human needs, particularly with respect to indigent parties, including the elderly and people with disabilities, and these costs may be avoided or reduced by providing the assistance of counsel where parties have a reasonable possibility of achieving a favorable outcome.

...eroding the public’s confidence in our judicial system.

(f) The doctrine of equal justice under the law is based on two principles. One is that the substantive protections and obligations of the law shall be applied equally to everyone, no matter how high or low their station in life. The second principle involves access to the legal system. Even if we have fair laws and an unbiased judiciary to apply them, true equality before the law will be thwarted if people cannot invoke the laws for their protection. For persons without access, our system provides no justice at all, a situation that may be far worse than one in which the laws expressly favor some and disfavor others.

(g) Many judicial leaders acknowledge that the disparity in outcomes is so great that indigent parties who lack representation regularly lose cases that they would win if they had counsel. A growing body of empirical research confirms the widespread perception that parties who attempt to represent themselves are likely to lose, regardless of the merits of their case, particularly when the opposing party has a lawyer, while parties represented by counsel are far more likely to prevail.
As many legal and judicial leaders have noted, the combined effect of widespread financial inability to afford representation coupled with the severe disadvantages of appearing in court without an attorney foster a destructive perception that money drives the judicial system. Respect for the law and the legal system is not encouraged if the public perceives, rightly or wrongly, that justice is mainly for the wealthy.
...undermine public trust and confidence in the courts.

Click here to view Assembly Bill No. 590 and the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act

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