*as adapted from the LA Times Editorial Board*
Tens of thousands of Californians who otherwise would have been at grave risk of losing their homes, their children, their ability to pursue a living or other basic human rights and needs at least had a fighting chance to defend themselves in court because of landmark 2009 legislation that gave them access to lawyers.
In a rare feat of foresight, the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act that established the pilot program required and provided funding for evaluations. So we know, for example, that providing counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction in Los Angeles County increased the likelihood of tenants responding to eviction actions, of cases being settled, and of tenants retaining their housing or finding new places to live with minimal costly disruption.
Similarly good outcomes in the few other counties involved in the pilot led the Legislature to make the program permanent in 2016. Now lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase court filing fees to expand the number of people served by the program. It’s a good move that deserves to proceed.
AB 330 by Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat representing the west San Fernando Valley, would increase filing fees for some court services, such as issuing a writ to enforce a judgment or taking an affidavit.