A message from Mark E. Estes, Director, Alameda County Law Library
California county law librarians testify for needed funding
On April 19, 2018, Sandi Levin, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Law Library, testified before Senate Budget Subcommittee #5 in support of a budget appropriation for California county public law libraries. After her testimony, twelve other county law librarians, along with a law library patron and the CCLL lobbyist presented their individual cases for funding.
Upon completion of the public testimony, the two subcommittee members present both expressed support for county law libraries and a desire to further investigate both one-time and ongoing funding.
You can add your support to the county law libraries request for funding by writing Governor Brown and the State Senators and Assemblymembers on the respective budget committees. On the lists below, Alameda County legislators appear in bold type.
Senate Budget Committee:
Holly J. Mitchell (Chair), Jim Nielsen (Vice Chair), Joel Anderson, Jim Beall, Steven M. Glazer (Contra Costa), Hannah-Beth Jackson, Mike McGuire, Bill Monning, John M. W. Moorlach, Richard Pan, Anthony J. Portantino, Richard D. Roth, Nancy Skinner, Henry I. Stern, Jeff Stone, Bob Wieckowski, Scott Wilk
Assembly Budget Committee:
Philip Y. Ting (Chair), Jay Obernolte (Vice Chair), Dr. Joaquin Arambula, Richard Bloom, William P. Brough, Anna M. Caballero, Rocky J. Chávez, David Chiu, Steven S. Choi, PhD., Jim Cooper, Vince Fong, Cristina Garcia, Matthew Harper, Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr., Tom Lackey, Monique Limón, Devon J. Mathis, Kevin McCarty, Jose Medina, Melissa A. Melendez, Kevin Mullin, Al Muratsuchi, Patrick O’Donnell, Jim Patterson, Blanca E. Rubio, Mark Stone, Randy Voepel, Shirley N. Weber, Jim Wood
A video of Thursday’s hearing is available at the California Senate Media Archive
- Select/look for 04/19/2018
- Select “Senate Budget Subcommittee #5”
- Skip to 3:22:00 for the portion of the hearing discussing California county law libraries.
The following is a transcript of Ms. Levin’s testimony.
Madam Chair and Senators, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you about access to justice in California!
I’m Sandi Levin, Executive Director of the LACLL
127 years ago California showed foresight and leadership by being the first state in the country to prioritize free public access to the law by establishing County Law libraries. Most of the country followed suit.
Unfortunately, though, California’s commitment to that ideal has waned in the last decade.
For 127 years, we have been funded by civil filing fee revenue. But, with the adoption of the Uniform Civil Filing Fee Act the state eliminated any local control over those revenues as of 2008. However, the Legislature also established a task force on civil filing fees, which found:
“Without immediate consideration of a filing fee increase or identification of alternative revenue sources, law libraries will not be able to fund their increased operating costs in 2008.”
A decade has gone by and we have not received any filing fee increase or any alternative revenue source.
In fact, our funding has DECREASED by 40% since then – with more people going to ADR, more people getting fee waivers and the expansion of small claims court jurisdiction, filing fees for CLLs have plummeted.
This is a problem. This is a problem in the lives of your constituents. Probably the best way to make this point would be to tell you some of our patrons’ stories, but I want to respect the time limits.
So let me just say that a half a million times each year someone walks into a county law library in California with their own unique, desperate story. Half a million times.
> People fighting for the safety of their children or grandchildren;
> People panicking because the order evicting them was the first time they even heard about a lawsuit;
> People fending for themselves without counsel in deportation proceedings against experienced government attorneys;
> People trying to start a business or transfer real property or collect on their insurance;
> People grieving over the death of a loved one who they can’t lay to rest because there are legal technicalities they don’t understand;
> People appearing time after time after time in court only to be sent away because they don’t understand the process;
> People who just need a little bit of help and support to find their way
We do our best to help them. Those of us who are still managing to keep our doors open do our best —
despite having lost almost 40% of our funding;
despite shortened hours and closed branches
despite working with out of date materials
despite short staffing and roof leaks and old equipment and every other challenge you can think of.
We do our best.
We’re asking you to do your best to make sure County Law Libraries stay open for all Californians.
It doesn’t cost a lot. You don’t have to hire attorneys for everyone. You don’t have to build a whole new infrastructure. You don’t have to invent new programs.
We’re already here and we’re ready to do the work.
We’re asking for $16.5 million dollars to be shared among all the County Law Libraries across the state — to ensure that Californians have access to information and access to justice.
— Mark E. Estes, Director, ACLL