February 2012 • Vol. 32 No. 2 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association


Speakers representing an unprecedented alliance of all facets of the legal system,
bar leaders, labor representatives, and government officials demonstrate support for
increased court funding.   

Government Officials, Bar Leaders, Judges, Court Workers, and Others Rally in Support of Increased Court Funding 
 
Former Gov. Gray Davis, Justice Carlos Moreno (ret.), LACBA President Eric Webber among many who spoke before crowd of 300.

If proposed cuts to court funding happen, the new realities of justice in Los Angeles are dire. Should foster children go without medical care indefinitely because the courts are too backed up to hear their plea? Should victims of domestic violence fear the possibility of having to wait weeks or months to receive a restraining order? Does it seem reasonable to wait five years for a divorce to be finalized, or spend eight hours in line to pay a parking ticket?

Those are just a few of the concerns addressed at the noontime Rally to Support Adequate Court Funding on January 18, 2012, by an unprecedented alliance of all facets of the legal system, including judges, plaintiff and defense attorneys, victims' advocates, bar leaders, labor representatives, and government officials. The rally, sponsored by the Open Courts Coalition Committee with support by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, drew a crowd of 300 people in front of the Walt Disney Concert Hall near the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to raise awareness of the effects that budget cuts have had on staff layoffs and furloughs, shuttered courtrooms, and overloaded calendars.

“Our courts are in crisis,” said LACBA President Eric A. Webber. “After years of unprecedented budget cuts and rising caseloads, civil justice is slowing to a crawl. If we do not find adequate funding for the courts, the system will hit gridlock. Millions of Californians are facing justice long delayed and, so, effectively denied.”

Cuts of as much as 30 percent over the last three years have already left the courts hobbled and unable to meet the needs of the thousands of vulnerable and needy citizens who come to the courthouses daily. Additional proposed cuts will grind justice to a halt in the coming year.

These court advocates are joining together to warn the public of the grim situation our justice system is facing under the Governor’s new budget and to let lawmakers know that Los Angeles citizens demand access to justice.

Distinguished speakers at the podium included:
Former Gov. Gray Davis
Former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno
Former state Sen. Joseph L. Dunn (ret.), executive director, State Bar of California
Deborah Kelly, directing attorney, LACBA Domestic Violence Project
Niall McCarthy, president, Consumer Attorneys of California
Gary Paul, president, American Association for Justice
Sharis Peters, president, AFSCME Local 276
Linda Miller Savitt, board of directors, California Defense Counsel
Jon Streeter, president, State Bar of California
Hernan Vera, president/CEO, Public Counsel
Eric A. Webber, president, Los Angeles County Bar Association
Robbie Hunter, Building Trades representative

Statements by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, California State Assemblymember Michael Feuer, and California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg were read by Edith Matthai, member of the Open Courts Coalition Committee, and Sen. Dunn. Paul Kiesel, cochair of the Open Courts Coalition Committee, moderated the rally and welcomed Bar Association of San Francisco President Kelly Dermody and other BASF members who attended to help raise awareness about the issue.

LACBA President Eric A. Webber's Comments from the
Rally to Support Adequate Court Funding on January 18, 2012

As an Angelino and a lawyer, I'm here to stand up for justice—and for our courts.

Without adequately funded courts, there will be no justice for millions of Californians. It's as simple as that: No courts, no justice.

As president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, I stand here for tens of thousands of lawyers who recognize that our courts are in jeopardy.

We're a diverse group: prosecutors, plaintiff's lawyers, criminal and civil defense lawyers, and lawyers on all sides of almost any kind of case you can think of. We represent individuals, families, and businesses large and small.

Despite our differences, we lawyers agree on two things:

  • First, our clients—whoever they are, and whatever side they're on—all need courts to dispense justice. If our courts can't dispense justice when it's needed, our clients' legal problems can't be resolved.
  • Second, when the courts can't do their work, it has costly and damaging consequences for everyone in California. Not just for people using the courts right now, but for everyone.

The dangers of a failing court system are hard to see until it's too late. Whether or not you know it now, almost every Californian will need the courts at some point. Like police and fire protection, most of us don't know how much we need them until we really need them.

Justice means a fair and timely resolution for your grievance.

Real justice can't be "mass produced." It must be done by a court, after a fair hearing for all involved, based on the individual merits of the case. That's our system. And that system requires adequately funded courts to work.

Without courts, Californians won't have justice when we need it.

No courts, no justice: The problem is real and urgent.

Because we lawyers work with the courts every day to help resolve our client's legal problems, we see the impact of court budget cuts firsthand.

So we're sounding an alarm: California's courts are in serious trouble.

After four years of unprecedented budget cuts, our courts now struggle to deliver justice. It takes longer and longer for cases to be heard. Everything from divorces, adoption, and child welfare matters to landlord/tenant and employment disputes take longer to resolve.

If our courts don't get more resources, the problem will get worse soon. As caseloads continue to grow with fallout from the economic downturn, the justice backlog is increasing every day. California's civil justice system is on the verge of grinding to a halt.

No courts, no justice: Here are some reasons all Californians should worry:

  • Without courts, laws and contracts can't be enforced—and become meaningless.
  • Without courts, civil rights and civil liberties need not be respected—and become empty promises.
  • Without courts, responsibilities need not be honored—and become hollow platitudes.
  • Without courts, restraining orders won't be issued—leaving victims of threats and violence, and others in need of protection, exposed to danger.
  • Without courts, divorce and child custody matters will drag on, and adoptions will be delayed—leaving children and families stuck in situations that are stressful, heart-wrenching, and damaging.
  • Without courts, probate and estate matters will remain tied up—leaving families and loved ones waiting for closure in circumstances that are draining emotionally and financially.
  • Without courts, landlord-tenant matters, employment claims, business disputes, and a host of other civil matters will linger unresolved—leaving individuals, families, and businesses mired in uncertainty and delay.
  • Without courts, a host of grievances won't be heard—and will fester into growing frustration and anger.

No courts, no justice: California cannot afford to let that happen.

Justice delayed is justice denied. And justice denied has deeply corrosive impacts on our communities, our economy, and our democracy. And the damage to California cannot be undone or easily corrected in the future.

  • If businesses can't depend on the courts to enforce contracts and laws fairly and to resolve disputes timely, California becomes hostile to the job-creating engines of commerce we need.
  • If Californians can't have their grievances heard and find justice in the courts, more and more will turn to "self-help" remedies—"street justice." That jeopardizes public safety.
  • If the courts can't deliver justice, public frustration with and cynicism about government will only deepen.

No courts, no justice: That leads to "no justice, no law." To "no justice, no jobs." To "no justice, no peace."

We cannot let it come to that. So stand up for our courts—and stand up for justice. Stand up for justice today, tomorrow, and every day until our courts are assured of adequate funding.

No courts, no justice.

 

 




© 2012 Los Angeles County Bar Association  •  Disclaimer and Proprietary Notice
Privacy Policy •  Questions@lacba.org •  Contact  •  Sitemap