AALL Honors Mark Estes

An announcement from the American Association of Law Libraries honoring Alameda County Law Library Director Mark Estes


California Already Has Its State Dinosaur

California already has its state dinosaur.  Help California county public law libraries avoid becoming the next generation of government dinosaurs.

Stephanie Abromowicz / Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

As of January 1, 2018, California designated an official state dinosaur – the Augustynolophus morrisi.  (Government Code Section 425.7(a))  And unless the state re-thinks how it is going to fund county public law libraries, it may have a lot more “official” dinosaurs all across the state.  2018 is turning out to be an important year for action in Sacramento for a real dinosaur and other don’t-want-to-be extinct historic government institutions.

Short story.

The California State Senate Budget Subcommittee has just moved forward with the county law libraries’ 2018 request for an appropriation.  A giant step down the budget process road.

The California State Senate Budget Subcommittee has just moved forward with the county law libraries’ 2018 request for an appropriation to try to help balance the revenue shortfalls from the past years.  The current need for library funding is dire, as civil filing fee revenue – the legislatively and historically established method for supporting county law library – has dropped 40% since 2009.   Publishing costs have risen over the same time frame.  Libraries are being squeezed.

We can use your voice.  Now.

Please consider letting Governor Brown and other elected officials know how much you support adequate funding for Alameda County Law Library and other state public law libraries.

Here is a sample letter.  Dear Governor Brown

Here is information on how to deliver your letters of support:

Due to the time sensitive nature of this request, we recommend fax.  Please send your letters to the Governor and any of the other people or entities at the fax numbers below.  If over the next few days, you drop your letters of support off at the Reference Desk, we will fax them for you.

Governor Brown – 916-558-3160

Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee – 916-668-7004

Holly Mitchell, Chair  – 916-651-4930    Jim Nielsen, Vice Chair – 916-651-4904

Assembly Budget Committee 916-319-2199

Philip Ting, Chair 916-319-2119     Jay Obernolte, Vice Chair 916-319-2133

 Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5

Shirley Weber, Chair 916-319-2179    Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer 916-319-2159    Tom Lackey 916-319-2136    Melissa Melendez 916-319-2167    Mark Stone 916-319-2129

If you do not have access to a fax, you may send emails to the following addresses.  Note, however, that the recipients will not receive attachments, so place your text within the email itself.  Also, from what we know, there is a long delay in such emails actually being read, which is why we are recommending fax instead.

 Gov. Brown


(or send a message here: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/)

 Senate member emails use the following format:


(ex. Senator.Portantino@senate.ca.gov)

 Assembly member emails use the following format:


(ex. Assemblymember.Cunningham@assembly.ca.gov

Long story.

Funding for county law libraries has been tentative for many years now.  We in California can no longer consider filing fees a workable funding method to sustain this important service.  Branches have already closed and others may close soon without further support.  California county law libraries are public libraries.  These public libraries provide legal information assistance to under-served, under-represented, and vulnerable populations.  County law libraries are in danger of becoming extinct, especially in rural communities, without sufficient appropriation in the state’s budget.  The demand for legal information services by self-represented individuals has never been greater, and county law libraries remain one of the few, if only, places where these individuals can get free help navigating the legal system.  The need for permanent state funding of county law libraries could not be more critical.

In Alameda County, over 50% of litigants appearing in Family Court and 25% involved in Civil Litigation represent themselves.  Many of these individuals rely entirely on the Law Library to research the law, draft legal forms, and prepare for court. County law libraries offer the general public free access to high-quality legal research materials, expert law librarians, and a variety of law-related clinics and workshops. The need for county law libraries has never been greater.

The Alameda County Law Library can no longer rely exclusively on court filing fees to adequately meet expenses, and must seek alternative sources of funding to sustain essential collections and services.

The Alameda County Law Library empowers Bay Area residents by providing them with the tools needed to successfully participate in the legal system. PLEASE ACT NOW to ensure the Law Library receives adequate funding to sustain operations by including a $16.5 million appropriation for California county law libraries in the State Budget, and establishing a Task Force to develop a sustainable funding model for California’s county law libraries.

How the budget process works.

The budget process for California defies a simple concise definition.  It is a process rather than a product. It is not the development of the Governor’s Budget, the Legislature’s enactment of a budget nor the executive branch’s administration of the budget.  Rather, it is the combination of all of these phases with all the ramifications and influences of political interactions, relationships with federal and local governments, public input, natural events, legal issues, the economy, initiatives and legislation, etc.

Here is an official, simplified description:

Late May – June 15  (Hence, the “NOW” above.)

The budget committee of each house considers the subcommittees’ reports and sends a revised budget bill to the floor for evaluation by the full body.  Each house discusses and then votes on its version of the budget bill.  The differences between the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget bill are worked out in a conference committee made up of three members from each house.  Upon completion of its review, the conference committee submits a single version of the budget bill to both houses.  The Senate and Assembly each vote on this final version before it is sent to the Governor.

The houses also vote on trailer bills if statutory changes are necessary to implement provisions of the budget bill.


Thank you for your support from the California county public law libraries who are trying to extricate themselves from the California tar pits of under-funding.


United States of Islamophobia – New Database – May 22 Program

United States of Islamophobia Database – Presentation

Tuesday, May 22, 2018   4:00 – 5:00 pm at Alameda County Law Library

Speaker – Elsadig Elsheikh, Director, Global Justice Program, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society

The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley recently released a searchable, public database of anti-Muslim bills designed to institutionalize the exclusion of Muslims from society.  The database also identifies the state legislators across the country who sponsored or advocated for the legislation.  The database includes detailed information on 216 bills introduced, since 2010, in 43 state legislatures that sought to ban “Sharia law,” or a set of guiding principles, from being considered by United States courts.

Elsadig Elsheikh

Mr. Elsheikh will discuss why and how the Haas Institute decided to develop the database, as well as, demonstrate the database, and discuss the implications nationally and internationally of  “othering” and fueling public fear of Muslims and Islam.

Elsadig Elsheikh is the Director of the Global Justice program at the Haas Institute, where he oversees the program’s projects on food system, global equity, and human rights.  Elsadig holds degrees and training from Panteion University/Athens, Greece, the Ohio State University/Ohio, SIT Graduate Institute/Vermont, and Columbia University/New York

More information about the release of the databases is available HERE.

Register online at ACLL’s Eventbrite site https://tinyurl.com/yc987drn

1 Hour of Participatory MCLE Credit in Recognition and Elimination of Bias  $25 advance registration, $35 day of event



Mother’s Day 2018 – AmazonSmile

Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, May 13.  We know how wonderful our supporters are, so we are sure they will be shopping for nice gifts for the moms in their lives.

If you do your shopping on Amazon at smile.amazon.com, Amazon will donate to Alameda County Law Library.

A nice gift for Mom, good feelings for yourself, and an effortless contribution to ACLL — great pick-me-ups for all.

Thank you.


County Law Librarians At The State Capitol

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.

Please support

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

  •  http://senate.ca.gov/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.

Thank you


— Mark E. Estes, Director, ACLL

Patrons Are Asking For It

Patrons are asking for it.

  • Do you have this book?”
  • Where can I find this information?
  • How can I use a computer?

and (the most important question for many in our community)

  • Can YOU help me use the computer to do…?

Staff at the Alameda County Law Library, because it is a public library, regularly answers these more traditional types of library questions.  We also answer not-so-traditional, issue–specific information questions related to law.  Public librarians at a city public library, such as the Oakland Public Library, stretch the furthest across the information universe.  Those of us who work at subject-focused special libraries, like ACLL, can go deep into a topic.  ACLL’s focus is on legal information – local, California, federal – but that still has us covering quite a bit of information territory.

Libraries disseminate information.  ACLL staff members are experienced in helping people find, retrieve, and share legal information – via a page in a book, a view on a computer screen, a download to a USB, or an attachment to an email.  Our job not only involves finding the text of information but assisting a patron in the delivery of the information to a file or to others.  What patrons do with the information is up to them.  Librarians do not provide a legal interpretation for any information retrieved since that would be providing legal advice.

What kinds of questions are we asked at ACLL?  Most of our patrons are non-attorneys (about 80%), so it is no surprise that one of the more popular questions is along the lines of “how can I talk to an attorney for free?”   We do not have attorneys on staff at ACLL but we provide information on legal aid organizations, area clinics, and FAQs written by attorneys.  ACLL currently administers the countywide program, Lawyers in the Library.  It is a legal aid program that provides 20-minute free consultations with volunteer members of the CA State Bar.

At ACLL, questions involving civil law and court procedures are asked at about a 4 to 1 ratio in comparison to criminal law questions.  Questions range from the basic “How do I file a lawsuit?” to “I need the form to complete something called a writ of mandate.”  In the law library, as in life, some simple questions do not have simple answers.  Family law comes next on the list of frequently asked about topics.  Family law covers marriage, divorce, child custody, and financial support.  Modern families come in many varieties.  The law is constantly adapting to the realities of our societal units and interactions.  Facebook posts used as evidence in a contested marital dissolution matter would be a case in point.  We have patrons on both sides of the issues for landlord-tenant cases (which include unlawful detainer actions and evictions.)  Real estate or real property ownership questions are popular, whether it is adding a person’s name to property or an issue with a neighbor’s fence.

Much staff effort is directed at trying to sort out the issues from the facts and emotions during the reference interview to allow staff to direct patrons to the most helpful resource.  Families can have other types of issues between members that are outside the area of “family law” as the courts and codes define it.  Patrons might need to be directed towards probate or trusts and estates materials.  (Fold family emotional issues into real property matters then mix well with trusts and estates procedures.  Careful, it is combustible.)

Reference librarians love an interesting question – one that makes them say – “That’s a new one on me.”  There are too many of these interesting topics handled by the ACLL librarians to list them all but the chart below summarizes the topics most frequently asked over the past few years here at ACLL.