Block Buddies – ACLL & The Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office

The legal profession has two sides.  Litigation (i.e., courts, lawsuits, alternative dispute resolution) gets the headlines.  Transactional side activities (i. e., contract agreements, real property transactions, wills and estates, etc.) usually remain private between the parties involved except when one of those parties decides to challenge the transaction in court and the disagreement becomes part of a court’s public record.  Though the Alameda County Law Library gets the vast majority of its funding from litigation activities (civil filings), it also provides services relating to the many transactions that are required by our government agencies and the legal system.

Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office

No filing of official documents is done at the law library locations, but the staff can and does assist a patron with researching the proper procedures on how to record documents to protect his or her legal rights.  We also have copies of forms and templates – samples of the proper language and formatting used for each specific form.  Within the library’s various resources, we have numerous forms and templates — more than anyone would ever want to count.  The majority of the requests we receive at the ACLL reference desks are for those forms that need to be filed as part of the official records retained by the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office 1106 Madison St, Oakland, CA 94612

As the Oakland Main Law Library is around the corner from the Clerk-Recorder’s Office, we have steady flow of traffic in patrons seeking deeds and affidavit forms, as well as, other documents that effect the ownership to real property.  These forms need to be filed with the Clerk-Recorder’s Office to have the transaction be included as part of the official chain of title (or ownership) for the property.  The County Clerk-Recorder also provides official services for recording documents including but not limited to: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and certificates, fictitious business names and mechanics liens.  Their office does not supply any paperwork or legal advice.   They send people around the corner to ACLL for those resources.  Many of the forms are also available on Internet sites.  ACLL has its own forms web page but you will need access to a printer.  Just make sure whatever website you use is up-to-date with the requirements of California law.

At the reference desk, we sell deed packets ($2.00) to help people with the proper paperwork to record changes in ownership to California real estate.  The packets include the form itself, as well as, information sheets including locations of notary services in the area for those forms that require signature before a notary.

There are two especially helpful resources at ACLL for County Clerk-Recorder transactions.  The first is the Nolo Press’ Deeds for California Real Estate by Mary Randolph.   This title can help the user with choosing the right kind of deed, drafting (correctly word processing) it, then filing it with a county recorder.  The text is written in plain-English with step-by-step instructions for completing forms.

Information includes how to :

  • add or remove someone’s name from the title of real estate you own
  • transfer real estate into, or out of, a revocable living trust
  • borrow or lend money with real estate as security

You can also access the sections of this books through ACLL’s website using the “Legal Databases” web page and these instructions –2015_nolo_ebsco_access_guide.

The second item is the  title – Recorders’ Document Reference and Indexing Manual: A Training and Reference Manual for State-wide Recording and Indexing Personnel.  It is published by the County Recorders’ Association of California. This unique resource is of value to legal researchers who are trying to trying to establish a public record of his or her interest in property.   The title includes an index to the majority of recordable documents, as well as, a listing of items that will not be recorded by a California county recorder.

Deeds, as well as, a number of other legal documents require that a signature be notarized.  Recent California law has made changes to the language required as part of the notary statement.  People who try to file forms or documents that have been notarized using the old language will have their documents rejected by the Clerk-Recorder’s Office.  But that is a topic for another blog post in the near future.


library logo

The role of traffic court fines in the poverty cycle

Not Just a Ferguson Problem
Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How the Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California

Many have heard of the scathing March 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Justice on the police department of Ferguson, Missouri and the use of fines as a revenue source for the city — fines that are placed disproportionally on people of color via small infractions.  Unfortunately, similar methods of municipal financing is occurring in our own state.

A consortium of legal aid organizations:  The Western Center on Law and Poverty, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, have produced a report that looks at the impact on families of the policy of using traffic fines.  “Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California,” outlines how the fines have increased significantly since 2006, how the courts often impose the maximum fine and how there is little incentive not to since these fines support the courts, and how the resulting license suspension for not paying results in job loss and, therefore, further inability to pay the fines.


San Francisco has the Second Chance Legal Clinic for people who are in just such a predicament:  their license was suspended and they owe exorbitant fines.  This clinic also helps people that are barred from employment or housing due to past criminal actions.  The East Bay Community Law Center, who also helped with the above report, also has a Clean Slate Clinic.

You can find out about these and other resources at the Alameda County Law Library.









Support For County Law Libraries – Let Your State Legislator Hear!

A number of our wonderful patrons have offered to send letters of support for California County Law Libraries up to Sacramento.  Some have requested an electronic sample to help them get started with the process.  If you would like to help us by sending a letter, you can access the sample Word document here – sample_letter_legislator.

There is also a link in the sample to help you identify your state representative.

Thank you.

  •  County Law Libraries provide access to justice by assisting self-represented litigants.
  •  County Law Libraries are an essential component of the justice system, reducing stress on the overburdened court system.
  •  County Law Libraries ‘level the playing field’ by making expensive legal resources available to all, regardless of income.
  •  County Law Libraries make information technology available to all.
  •  County Law Libraries assist tens of thousands California residents every year.
  •  County Law Libraries promote economic recovery by helping small business, assisting individuals with workforce re-entry, and speeding resolution of disputes.
Programs and Services

Reference Assistance: The Law Library provides reference and research assistance at the reference desk, by phone, mail and email. These services are available at no charge to attorneys, legal professionals, students and the general public.

Support Services: The Law Library makes available free public computers and Wi-Fi, plus copiers, printers, typewriters, office supplies, document delivery and e-delivery for a small fee.

Classes and Programs: The reference staff teaches legal research classes to the public including classes on Lexis, WestlawNext, research using print sources, utilizing free legal internet sites, locating forms, and many more. The Law Library, supported by many partners within the legal community, also provides law-related informational and clinical classes and workshops for its diverse patron groups on many subjects.

Library Usage

The Law Library is open to all members of the public. During Fiscal Year 2013-14, the Law Library Reference staff fielded more than 15,000 requests for information from a diverse group of users that includes self-represented litigants, attorneys, paralegals, judges, students and the general public. In addition, thousands of patrons used the Library’s legal resources on their own.  The Law Library’s website received over 140,000 visits.

library logo

National Library Week – Not Fun Funding


We’ll take a reliable source of funding to-go, please.  Hold the chocolate and tea.

Over the last few years, California’s county law libraries budgets have been battered — caught between the rising tide of ever-increasing subscription costs of legal research materials and the crumbling supports of the number of court filings.  Why court filings you say?  Because a percentage of those filing fees is the primary source of funding for county law libraries in California.

California Business and Professions Code §§ 6320 – 6326 established the funding of county law libraries through a portion of civil filing fees and set out the amount distributed to each. Thus, libraries are supported by civil litigants, their primary users, and not by state and local taxes.

Libraries have been forced to manage expenses by reducing resources and staff, seriously undercutting our mission.  If not addressed soon, the issue of funding will cause services to dwindle further, and some libraries or branches will be forced to close.

The county law library administrators are reaching out to Sacramento for help.  Please help us communicate the urgency of our situation to the state legislature by adding your name to a petition found at our Reference Desk that will be delivered to CA State Senator Loni Hancock.  Senator Hancock represents many Alameda County communities and is a member of the CA State Senate’s Standing Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review.

The petition can be signed using this link.

Thank you to our patrons who have already taken a moment to sign the petition as well as providing kind words of support for the Alameda County Law Library.


library logo


National Library Week – Community Involvement

Alameda County Law Library’s involvement with our community


Kim Vanderheiden from Words That Glimmer


In addition to housing the books on shelves and databases on computers,  the Alameda County Law Library  offers the community space for art exhibitions, meetings and other gatherings.

The walls at both the Oakland and Hayward libraries are used to display the works of local artists.  Next month from May 1st to June 12th, 2015, Kim Vanderheiden’s show Words that Glimmer will be on display at ACLL’s Main Library.  Earlier this winter, the Hayward library hosted a show by Forrest Newton.

Floyd's Folly
Floyd’s Folly by Forrest Newton

Shows change throughout the year.  For more information and details of how shows are selected, please contact Clara Lim at

In addition to conference room rentals, ACLL also provides working and meeting space for local non-profits.  The East Bay Community Law Center‘s Clean Slate program is held at the library in downtown Oakland twice a month.  Other local legal-related non-profits take advantage of the ACLL space to hold training sessions.  Contact Nicole at for use criteria and more information.

Staff members from our Hayward library participate in local senior education fairs providing information on legal resources and forms of interest to older citizens who live in southern Alameda County.

The American Library Association has recently released a report on the state of America’s libraries.  The ALA discusses the shift currently occurring in a public library’s place within American communities.  Here is an excerpt from the press release which accompanied the report:

“Public libraries and librarians are viewed as change agents by addressing unique needs and identifying trends that impact the community. The majority of public libraries offer neutral space for patrons, residents and students to discuss and resolve critical issues. For example the fatalshooting of Michael Brown brought chaos to Ferguson, Missouri. Protests divided residents and caused schools and city services to shut down—but the Ferguson Municipal Public Library stayed open, providing a much-needed safe haven for the community and served as an ad hoc school.”

Public libraries continue to play an important part in our local communities.  They need your support to continue to do so – with your votes or with your financial contributions.  Thank you.

library logo

National Library Week – More Than Just Books – ACLL’s Role In Access To Justice

Access to Justice – The Role of Public Law Libraries

The Alameda County Law Library is a public law library.  We try to help everyone who walks through our doors.

In addition to traditional library services of organizing and providing legal books and periodicals, the library envisions a future in which all people have effective access to justice.  To bring about this vision, staff gathers resources and assists patrons with gaining access to information required for participation in the legal system, resolving legal disputes, engaging in commerce, and tending to personal legal affairs and academic projects.  Staff members are specialists in the legal information.

What is access to justice?

The phrase “access to justice” was popularized in 1978 by Mauro Cappelletti and Bryant Garth.  These authors wrote:
The words “access to justice” are not easily defined but they focus on two basic purposes of the legal system – the system by which people may vindicate their rights and/or resolve their disputes under the general auspices of the state.  First, the system must be equally accessible to all; second, it must lead to results that are individually and socially just.
— Mauro Cappelletti and Bryant Garth, “Access to Justice: The Newest Wave in the Worldwide Movement to Make Rights Effective,” 27 BUFF. L. REV. 182 (1978)

What role do the California public law libraries play in achieving access to justice?

Law librarians and law libraries have a keen interest in and a duty to promote access to justice in the various law libraries in which we work, be they academic, firm, state, court and county, or special. We have the knowledge, skills, and resources to provide self-represented litigants with needed information and assistance and provide referrals to legal resources in the community.

It is important to distinguish between providing information and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, however, e.g., giving legal advice. It is also important to maintain impartiality and neutrality.  Access to justice includes affordable legal services; readily available legal information and forms; the ability to bring a case to trial without hiring an attorney; the unbundling of legal services; fair treatment and equality in the justice system regardless of social standing; and confidence that the outcome will be fair and just.  It is all these things and more.

library logo