Chief Justice Speech - July 16, 2001

NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURTS CONFERENCE
REMARKS OF CHIEF JUSTICE RONALD M. GEORGE
JULY 16, 2001
MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA

GOOD MORNING. IT IS A PLEASURE TO BE HERE TO WELCOME THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURT JUDGES TO CALIFORNIA. YOUR ORGANIZATION HAS PLAYED A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN JUDICIAL EDUCATION — PARTICULARLY IN THE AREAS OF JUVENILE COURT, FAMILY COURT, AND FAMILY VIOLENCE — WHICH HAVE BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF MANY OF CALIFORNIA'S ONGOING EFFORTS TO IMPROVE THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN OUR STATE.

I WANT TO WELCOME JUDGE PAUL WOHLFORD FROM TENNESSEE, YOUR PRESIDENT, AND JUDGE ERNESTINE GRAY FROM NEW ORLEANS, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL. I ALSO WANT TO RECOGNIZE OUR OWN JUDGE LEN EDWARDS, WHO HAS BEEN A LEADER NOT ONLY IN CALIFORNIA, BUT IN THE NATION, IN CHANGING HOW WE APPROACH FAMILY AND JUVENILE ISSUES IN THE COURTS.

DURING THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, CALIFORNIA'S COURT SYSTEM — WHICH, WITH 1,611 JUDGES PLUS HUNDREDS OF COURT COMMISSIONERS AND REFEREES, IS DESCRIBED AS THE SINGLE LARGEST COURT SYSTEM ANYWHERE — HAS EXPERIENCED SWEEPING CHANGES IN ITS FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE. WHEN I BECAME CHIEF JUSTICE OF CALIFORNIA IN 1996, I EMBARKED UPON A YEAR-LONG SERIES OF VISITS TO THE COURTS IN EACH OF CALIFORNIA'S 58 COUNTIES. I SOON LEARNED THAT CALIFORNIA COURTS FACED A MAJOR BUDGET CRISIS. STAFF WERE BEING CUT BACK, AS WERE HOURS AND SERVICES, AND THE SPECTER OF COURTS CLOSING LOOMED LARGE ACROSS THE STATE, PARTICULARLY IN SMALLER COUNTIES. AT THE TIME, CALIFORNIA'S TRIAL COURTS LABORED UNDER A HYBRID FUNDING SYSTEM, SPLIT BETWEEN THE 58 COUNTIES AND THE STATE, WITH NEITHER TAKING ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY, AND NECESSARY FUNDING HAD BEEN ERODING FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS WITH NO RELIEF IN SIGHT.

AFTER DECADES OF EFFORTS, WE SUCCEEDED IN 1997 IN PERSUADING THE CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR TO MAKE STATE FUNDING OF THE TRIAL COURTS A REALITY. AS A RESULT, OUR COURT SYSTEM IS UNDERGOING A FUNDAMENTAL TRANSFORMATION. PREVIOUSLY, DISPARITIES IN RESOURCES AND SERVICES WERE COMMON ACROSS THE STATE. COURTS COULD NOT PLAN BECAUSE OF INADEQUATE FUNDING. AND JUDGES AND STAFF ALL TOO OFTEN FOUND THEMSELVES UNABLE TO RESPOND TO REASONABLE PUBLIC NEEDS AND REQUESTS.

WITH THE ADVENT OF STATE FUNDING, HOWEVER, COURTS OBTAINED A MORE RELIABLE AND STABLE SOURCE OF FUNDING. AND THAT IN TURN HAS AFFORDED THEM INCREASED FREEDOM TO BE MORE RESPONSIVE TO THE PUBLIC AND TO PLAN HOW BEST TO MEET FUTURE CHALLENGES. BY WORKING TOGETHER AND VIEWING PROBLEMS FROM A STATEWIDE PERSPECTIVE, COURTS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAKE BETTER USE OF WHAT IS AVAILABLE, AND TO LEARN MORE FROM EACH OTHER ABOUT INNOVATIVE AND EFFECTIVE METHODS OF ADMINISTERING JUSTICE.

ANOTHER OUTGROWTH OF THESE COURT VISITS ACROSS THE STATE WAS OUR SUCCESS IN PERSUADING THE LEGISLATURE TO PLACE ON THE BALLOT A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PERMITTING A MAJOR STRUCTURAL REORGANIZATION OF CALIFORNIA'S COURT SYSTEM. A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE OCCURRED WHEN THE PEOPLE OF OUR STATE VOTED BY AN OVERWHELMING MARGIN JUST THREE YEARS AGO TO PERMIT OUR MUNICIPAL AND SUPERIOR COURTS TO UNIFY INTO A SINGLE LEVEL OF TRIAL COURT ON A COUNTY-BY-COUNTY VOTE OF THE AFFECTED JUDGES.

THIS PAST FEBRUARY, I PRESIDED OVER THE SWEARING-IN CEREMONY FOR THE LAST 4 MUNICIPAL COURT JUDGES IN THE STATE AS THEY TOOK OFFICE AS JUDGES OF THE SUPERIOR COURT IN THE LAST COUNTY TO UNIFY. WE NOW HAVE 58 TRIAL COURTS (ONE IN EACH COUNTY) INSTEAD OF 210. IT TOOK ALMOST A CENTURY FOR CALIFORNIA TO FOLLOW THE LEAD OF ROSCOE POUND WHO IN AN ESSAY PUBLISHED IN 1906 URGED COURT UNIFICATION. NEVERTHELESS, ONCE THE COURTS FINALLY WERE GRANTED THE OPTION TO UNIFY, THEY MOVED WITH REMARKABLE SPEED TO DO JUST THAT.

THE REASONS TO SELECT UNIFICATION WERE OBVIOUS. IT PERMITS COURTS TO FAR MORE EFFECTIVELY AND FLEXIBLY USE AVAILABLE JUDICIAL AND STAFF RESOURCES TO MEET PUBLIC NEEDS AND AVOID DUPLICATION IN FACILITIES, SERVICES, AND PURCHASING, OFTEN AT GREAT SAVINGS TO THE TAXPAYERS OF THE STATE.

THE IMPLEMENTATION OF UNIFICATION HAS BEEN FOLLOWED BY A FLOWERING OF NEW INITIATIVES IN COURTS ACROSS CALIFORNIA. NEW DEDICATED DRUG AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COURTS WERE BEGUN IN LOCATIONS ACROSS THE STATE. MORE COURTS WERE ABLE TO OFFER MORE SERVICES AT MORE LOCATIONS, AND INNOVATIONS, SUCH AS THE FIRST JUVENILE MENTAL HEALTH CALENDAR IN THE NATION, HELD IN JUDGE EDWARDS' OWN COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA LAST FEBRUARY, BECAME THE RULE RATHER THAN THE EXCEPTION.

AT THE SAME TIME, INCREASED ASSISTANCE FOR PRO PERS, FAMILY COURT COORDINATORS, CERTIFICATION SYSTEMS FOR INTERPRETERS, AND THE IMPROVED USE OF TECHNOLOGY ALL BECAME POSSIBLE, ALONG WITH MAJOR JURY REFORM EFFORTS. THE PROCESS IS FAR FROM FINISHED, AND WE ARE STILL EAGERLY EXPLORING THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS THAT UNIFICATION HAS BROUGHT.

UNIFICATION AND STATE FUNDING HAVE BEEN THE TWIN BUILDING BLOCKS OF A STRONGER FOUNDATION FOR CALIFORNIA'S COURT SYSTEM. IN ADDITION, OVER THE PAST DECADE, THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL, ASSISTED BY ITS STAFF ARM, THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS, HAS TAKEN A FAR MORE ACTIVE ROLE IN FULFILLING THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR SETTING POLICY FOR THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN OUR STATE. AFTER THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL, WHICH, AS CHIEF JUSTICE, I NOW CHAIR, FIRST EXPRESSLY ARTICULATED ITS GOALS AND PRIORITIES IN THE EARLY 90'S, IMPROVING ACCESS AND FAIRNESS IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE HAS BEEN THE PRIMARY AIM OF THE COUNCIL'S EFFORTS. AND IMPROVING OUR SYSTEM'S ABILITY TO MEET THE NEEDS OF FAMILIES AND CHILDREN HAS BEEN A MAJOR COMPONENT OF THOSE EFFORTS.

LET ME GIVE YOU SOME BACKGROUND. CALIFORNIA IS A FERTILE PLACE FOR EXPERIMENTATION AND FOR LEARNING ABOUT WHAT CAN BEST SERVE ALL ASPECTS OF OUR COMMUNITIES. OURS IS THE MOST DIVERSE AND POPULOUS STATE IN THE NATION, WITH A POPULATION THAT HAS GROWN ALMOST 14% IN THE PAST DECADE TO APPROXIMATELY 34 MILLION PEOPLE. OUR ECONOMY IS THE 5TH LARGEST IN THE WORLD. AND AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS YEAR, WE BECAME THE FIRST STATE IN THE COUNTRY WITHOUT A MAJORITY RACIAL OR ETHNIC GROUP.

THIS SPURT IN THE GROWTH AND DIVERSITY OF OUR POPULATION HAS PRESENTED SOME DAUNTING CHALLENGES FOR OUR JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURT SYSTEMS, AS WELL AS TO OUR SYSTEM AS A WHOLE. THE PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN IS GROWING AT A FASTER RATE THAN THE GENERAL POPULATION — AND CALIFORNIA HAS RACKED UP SOME NUMBERS THAT WE ARE NOT PROUD OF. IN 1997, WE RANKED 48TH OUT OF THE 50 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA IN THE RATE OF INCARCERATED JUVENILES IN DETENTION — WE HAVE SOME 20,000 OF THEM. AT THE SAME TIME, WE HAVE MORE THAN 100,000 CHILDREN IN OUT-OF-HOME CARE, APPROXIMATELY 20% OF THE TOTAL IN THE ENTIRE NATION. IMPROVEMENTS IN CALIFORNIA'S ABILITY TO DEAL SUCCESSFULLY WITH JUVENILE AND FAMILY LAW ISSUES NECESSARILY WILL BE CRUCIAL TO PROGRESS IN THE UNITED STATES AS A WHOLE.

THE CHALLENGES THAT CONFRONT CALIFORNIA'S JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURTS LIKELY ARE ALL TOO FAMILIAR TO MANY OF YOU FROM ACROSS THE UNITED STATES. IT IS TRUE THAT OUR SIZE AND DIVERSITY OFTEN MAKE THESE PROBLEMS SEEM MORE DIFFICULT TO SOLVE. BUT IN CALIFORNIA WE KNOW THAT OUR BEST CHANCE FOR SUCCESS LIES IN CONTINUING TO LEARN FROM AND COOPERATE WITH EACH OTHER, EXCHANGING INFORMATION AND STRATEGIES FOR MEETING CRITICAL NEEDS AND PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE.

MANY OF OUR MOST PRESSING CHALLENGES ARISE IN MULTIPLE JURISDICTIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURTS OFTEN ARE CONSIDERED OF LOWER STATUS THAN OTHER COURT ASSIGNMENTS. CALENDARS IN THOSE COURTS FREQUENTLY ARE OVERCROWDED AND EMOTIONALLY TAXING, AND THE USE OF NOVICE JUDGES COMBINED WITH THE RAPID TURNOVER OF THOSE WHO DO SERVE IN THOSE ASSIGNMENTS OFTEN CREATES PROBLEMS OF LACK OF EXPERTISE AND CONTINUITY.

MANY OF THESE CONDITIONS ARE LONG-STANDING. IN 1949, THE CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE REQUESTED THAT THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL UNDERTAKE A STUDY OF THE JUVENILE COURT, AND AFTER A MULTI-YEAR STUDY IT WAS REPORTED IN 1954: "[T]HERE IS AN URGENT NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT IN THE PROCESSING, TREATMENT, CARE AND TRAINING OF JUVENILES, BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER THE COURT HEARINGS. THE LOCAL DETENTION FACILITIES ARE GENERALLY OVER-TAXED OR OTHERWISE DEFICIENT." UNFORTUNATELY, NOT ENOUGH HAS CHANGED SINCE THAT DISMAL EVALUATION ALMOST 50 YEARS AGO — EXCEPT THAT THERE NOW IS A GROWING AWARENESS AND DESIRE TO IMPROVE HOW WE DEAL WITH JUVENILES.

A RELATED PROBLEM IS THAT JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURTS FREQUENTLY ARE THE LAST TO RECEIVE UPGRADED FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT. A RECENT STATEWIDE STUDY BY THE TASK FORCE ON COURT FACILITIES HIGHLIGHTS THE SAD STATE OF THESE STRUCTURES IN MANY COUNTIES ACROSS CALIFORNIA — AND IT IS OUR HOPE THAT STATE FUNDING AND UNIFICATION, COMBINED WITH THIS RECENT SURVEY AND RELATED RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTION, WILL ALLOW US TO MITIGATE SOME OF THE DISPARITIES THAT HAVE DEVELOPED AMONG COUNTIES OVER THE YEARS AND GENERALLY TO PROVIDE FACILITIES THAT MEET THE UNIQUE NEEDS OF FAMILY AND JUVENILE PROCEEDINGS. SOME COUNTIES ALREADY HAVE LOCATIONS DEDICATED TO THESE CASES, COMBINING CHILDREN'S' WAITING ROOMS, EFFECTIVE SECURITY, AND USER-FRIENDLY DESIGN IN A SETTING IN WHICH RELATED CASES AFFECTING A FAMILY MAY BE HANDLED IN A COORDINATED AND COMPREHENSIVE FASHION. THIS IS A MODEL WE HOPE TO EXPAND.

OUR FAMILY COURTS ALSO HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY AFFECTED BY THE INCREASING NUMBER OF SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS. IN SOME COUNTIES, IN AS MANY AS 60 PERCENT OF FAMILY LAW CASES, ONE PARTY LACKS LEGAL REPRESENTATION, AND IN AN ADDITIONAL 30 PERCENT NEITHER SIDE HAS COUNSEL. THESE SELF-REPRESENTED INDIVIDUALS TYPICALLY ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH THEIR RIGHTS AND WITH COURT PROCEDURES, LEAVING THEM AT A DISADVANTAGE — WHILE REQUIRING COURTS TO EXPEND AN INORDINATE AMOUNT OF RESOURCES ON THEIR BASIC NEEDS. LOCAL AND STATEWIDE EFFORTS ARE INCREASING DRAMATICALLY TO ASSIST THESE INDIVIDUALS TO NAVIGATE THE LEGAL SYSTEM.

AND THE DIVERSITY IN CALIFORNIA'S POPULATION THAT I MENTIONED EARLIER IS SIGNIFICANT, BECAUSE MEANINGFUL ACCESS TO THE COURTS REQUIRES THAT COMPETENT TRANSLATION SERVICE BE AVAILABLE WHEN NEEDED. ON ANY GIVEN DAY, MORE THAT 100 LANGUAGES ARE INTERPRETED IN CALIFORNIA'S COURTS. RECOGNIZING THAT WE MUST ENSURE ADEQUATE COMPETENT INTERPRETER SERVICES, WE HAVE MADE GREAT PROGRESS BY CREATING A CERTIFICATION PROGRAM TO ENSURE COMPETENCY AND BY SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASING PAY TO ATTRACT MORE INTERPRETERS.

THE PROBLEMS AFFECTING JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURTS DID NOT DEVELOP OVERNIGHT — BUT THE INCREASED COSTS OF LITIGATION, CUTBACKS IN FUNDING FOR MANY LEGAL SERVICES PROVIDERS, DIMINUTION OF PRO BONO SERVICES BY MANY FIRMS, AND OTHER SIMILAR FACTORS HAVE EXACERBATED EXISTING DIFFICULTIES. IT BECAME INCREASINGLY CLEAR THAT COMPREHENSIVE EFFORTS WERE NEEDED TO PERMIT COURTS TO SUCCESSFULLY MEET THE SPECIAL NEEDS OF MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC WHO APPEAR BEFORE THE FAMILY AND JUVENILE COURTS — AND THAT THE COURTS THEMSELVES WOULD HAVE TO TAKE THE LEADERSHIP ROLE IN DEVELOPING, PROMOTING, AND IMPLEMENTING THESE CHANGES.

CALIFORNIA'S JUDICIAL COUNCIL HAS TAKEN A KEY ROLE IN THIS ENDEAVOR, USING A VARIETY OF MEASURES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. THE COUNCIL IS ASSISTED BY A STANDING FAMILY AND JUVENILE LAW ADVISORY COMMITTEE, ABLY CHAIRED BY JUDGES MICHAEL NASH FROM LOS ANGELES COUNTY AND MARY ANN GRILLI FROM SANTA CLARA COUNTY. IN ADDITION, WE HAVE CREATED A UNIQUE ENTITY WITHIN OUR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS.

THIS ENTITY, THE CENTER FOR FAMILIES, CHILDREN, AND THE COURTS, IS ONE OF THE LARGEST AND MOST ACTIVE DIVISIONS WITH THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS. ITS MISSION IS TO EMPLOY A MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH TO ENSURE THAT THE WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND FAMILIES REMAINS A HIGH PRIORITY WITH THE COURT SYSTEM, AND TO ENCOURAGE POSITIVE CHANGE AT EVERY LEVEL OF THE COURTS. LED BY THE TIRELESS AND CREATIVE DIANE NUNN, THE CENTER HAS BEEN A MAJOR FORCE IN BRINGING ISSUES CONCERNING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES TO THE FOREFRONT IN CALIFORNIA. THE JUVENILE COURT JUDGES OF CALIFORNIA, ORGANIZED UNDER THE CALIFORNIA JUDGES ASSOCIATION AND LED BY JUDGE TERRY FRIEDMAN FROM LOS ANGELES, ARE ANOTHER POSITIVE FACTOR IN HIGHLIGHTING THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE EFFORTS.

THIS HEIGHTENED AWARENESS HAS LED TO A VARIETY OF APPROACHES DEVELOPED OVER THE PAST DECADE — AND STILL GROWING — THAT WE BELIEVE OFFERS A RANGE OF EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES. FOR EXAMPLE, IN 1989 THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL ADOPTED A STANDARD OF JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION, RECOMMENDED FOR USE BY THE COURTS, THAT SPECIFICALLY ACKNOWLEDGED THE UNIQUE NATURE OF THE JUVENILE COURT, OUTLINED IN DETAIL THE ROLE AND DUTIES OF THE JUVENILE COURT JUDGE, AND RECOMMENDED A MINIMUM TERM OF SERVICE IN SUCH AN ASSIGNMENT. THE STANDARD WAS TAKEN TO HEART IN MANY COUNTIES, AND JUVENILE COURT ASSIGNMENTS HAVE INCREASED IN LENGTH TO AT LEAST 3 YEARS AND OFTEN 5 YEARS OR MORE IN MANY COURTS. AT THE SAME TIME, JUVENILE COURT JUDGES HAVE BEEN ACTIVE IN IMPLEMENTING PROGRAMS TARGETED AT IMPROVING THEIR ABILITY TO DELIVER MUCH NEEDED SERVICES.

FOR EXAMPLE, CALIFORNIA HAS 2 OF THE 24 MODEL COURTS DEVELOPED BY THE NATIONAL COUNCIL'S PERMANENCY PLANNING DEPARTMENT. SANTA CLARA COUNTY, LED BY JUDGE LEN EDWARDS, HAS PROVIDED TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO MANY JURISDICTIONS ACROSS THE NATION IN INNOVATIVE PROGRAMS SUCH AS JUVENILE DEPENDENCY MEDIATION AND FAMILY GROUP CONFERENCING. UNDER JUDGE MICHAEL NASH'S LEADERSHIP, LOS ANGELES COUNTY INSTITUTED ADOPTION SATURDAY, A WONDERFUL PROGRAM THAT BRINGS TOGETHER ON A SATURDAY ALL THE ENTITIES AND INDIVIDUALS NEEDED TO COMPLETE AN ADOPTION AND CREATE A PERMANENT HOME FOR A CHILD. LAWYERS, JUDGES, AND COURT PERSONNEL ALL CONTRIBUTE THEIR TIME AND EXPERTISE.

I WAS VERY PLEASED TO BE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS PROGRAM RECENTLY, ASSIGNING MYSELF TO BE A JUDGE OF THE LOS ANGELES JUVENILE COURT FOR THE DAY AND PRESIDING OVER 10 OF THE 400 ADOPTION HEARINGS THAT WERE HANDLED THAT DAY. I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS PROGRAM HAS BEEN REPLICATED AROUND THE COUNTRY.

CALIFORNIA ALSO HAS RECEIVED 2 OF 6 FEDERAL GRANTS TO IMPLEMENT THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL'S REPORT ON "EFFECTIVE INTERVENTION IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILD MALTREATMENT CASES: POLICY AND PRACTICE." AND AS I MENTIONED, WE OPENED THE FIRST JUVENILE MENTAL HEALTH COURT IN FEBRUARY OF THIS YEAR. THIS NEW COURT SHOULD HELP US BETTER ADDRESS THE DIFFICULT OVERLAP BETWEEN JUVENILE DELINQUENCY AND MENTAL ILLNESS.

WE ALSO HAVE MADE RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PRINCIPLES AN INTEGRAL PART OF MANY OF OUR DELINQUENCY SYSTEMS, AND MANY COUNTIES NOW HAVE NEIGHBORHOOD ACCOUNTABILITY BOARDS AND VICTIM OFFENDER MEDIATION PROGRAMS. OUR NEW STANDARD OF JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION DID NOT DIRECTLY BRING ABOUT ALL OF THESE INNOVATIONS — BUT IT SET THE STAGE FOR A SYSTEM IN WHICH THEY BECAME NOT ONLY POSSIBLE BUT SOUGHT AFTER.

ONGOING ARE A HOST OF OTHER JUDICIAL COUNCIL INITIATIVES THAT IN GREATER OR LESSER DEGREE AFFECT OUR JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURTS. FOR EXAMPLE, WE GENERALLY HAVE BEEN REVIEWING THE USE IN OUR COURTS OF SUBORDINATE JUDICIAL OFFICERS, CALLED IN OUR STATE COMMISSIONERS AND REFEREES. MANY JUDICIAL OFFICERS HEARING FAMILY AND JUVENILE CASES ARE SUBORDINATE JUDICIAL OFFICERS, AND THEY DO AN EXCELLENT JOB STATEWIDE. NEVERTHELESS, THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL IS OF THE VIEW THAT THE COURTS SHOULD HAVE A SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF JUDGES TO HANDLE THESE AND OTHER MATTERS ENTRUSTED TO THEM BY THE LAW, AND WE ARE ACTIVELY SEEKING THE NECESSARY RESOURCES TO BRING THIS ABOUT.

ANOTHER GENERAL AREA OF CONCERN, AS I MENTIONED, IS THE NUMBER OF LITIGANTS WITHOUT COUNSEL, PARTICULARLY IN FAMILY LAW MATTERS. LOCAL COURTS ACROSS THE STATE ARE USING A VARIETY OF TOOLS TO ASSIST THESE INDIVIDUALS. FOR EXAMPLE, IN A COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL AND THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, EACH COURT HAS BEEN PROVIDED FUNDING FOR AN "OFFICE OF THE FAMILY LAW FACILITATOR," WHO PROVIDES FREE EDUCATION, INFORMATION, AND ASSISTANCE TO PRO PER LITIGANTS WITH CHILD SUPPORT ISSUES. OTHER COURTS, SOME WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF GRANTS JOINTLY ADMINISTERED BY THE COUNCIL AND THE STATE BAR FROM THE NEW STATE BUDGET ALLOCATION AIMED AT IMPROVING LEGAL SERVICES TO THE INDIGENT, HAVE ENTERED INTO AGREEMENTS WITH LOCAL BAR ASSOCIATIONS TO PROVIDE TARGETED, LIMITED ASSISTANCE TO PRO PER FAMILY LAW LITIGANTS AT THE COURT HOUSE.

OTHER COURTS HAVE INSTALLED USER-FRIENDLY COMPUTERS TO ASSIST LITIGANTS IN FILLING OUT NECESSARY FORMS. ONE COURT HAS A MOBILE CENTER THAT VISITS REMOTE PARTS OF THE COUNTY TO PROVIDE BASIC LEGAL INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE. IN OTHER COURTS, SATURDAY SESSIONS FOCUS ON RESOLVING PROBLEMS FOR VETERANS OR THE HOMELESS, ALSO ALLOWING THESE INDIVIDUALS TO CLEAR CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS AND OUTSTANDING WARRANTS, AND PROVIDING SOCIAL SERVICES ASSISTANCE REGARDING SUBSTANCE ABUSE, HOUSING, JOB PLACEMENT, AND OTHER OUTSTANDING NEEDS.

IN FURTHERANCE OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL'S FOCUS ON CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, OUR CENTER ALSO IS SPEARHEADING A VARIETY OF OTHER PROJECTS FOCUSED ON IMPROVING SERVICES FOR SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS. FOR EXAMPLE, THE CENTER HAS DEVELOPED AND DISTRIBUTED A VIDEO AND WRITTEN MATERIALS, IN BOTH ENGLISH AND SPANISH, TO HELP UNREPRESENTED LITIGANTS APPLY FOR OR RESPOND TO A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDER.

AND FINALLY, I RECENTLY APPOINTED 19 MEMBERS TO A NEW JUDICIAL COUNCIL TASK FORCE ON SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS WHOSE CHARGE IS TO DEVELOP A STATEWIDE ACTION PLAN TO ADDRESS THE CONCERNS OF SELF-REPRESENTED PARTIES. THIS IS A SERIOUS ISSUE THAT WE ARE DETERMINED TO ADDRESS WITH AS MANY TOOLS AS WE CAN.

IN OTHER AREAS, THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL LAST FALL ESTABLISHED A PROBATION SERVICES TASK FORCE, CHARGED WITH ASSESSING PROGRAMS, SERVICES, ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES, AND FUNDING RELATING TO PROBATION SERVICES PROVIDED BY COUNTIES TO THE COURTS, PROBATIONERS, AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC. WE ANTICIPATE THAT THE TASK FORCE WILL PROVIDE THE COUNCIL WITH A REPORT BY THE END OF THE YEAR.

OUR CALIFORNIA JUDICIAL COUNCIL HAS LONG BEEN A STRONG SUPPORTER OF THE COURT-APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE, OR CASA, PROGRAM, AND FOR SEVERAL YEARS HAS ADMINISTERED A GRANT PROGRAM TO LOCAL CASA PROGRAMS TO ENCOURAGE THEIR GROWTH. A DECADE AGO, IN 1991-1992, FUNDING FOR THE CASA GRANT PROGRAM WAS $100,000 FOR A HANDFUL OF PROGRAMS. TODAY, 37 CALIFORNIA COUNTIES HAVE A CASA PROGRAM, AND WE HAVE REQUESTED A $675,000 INCREASE NEXT YEAR TO OUR EXISTING $1 MILLION 350 THOUSAND BUDGET TO FURTHER OUR GOAL OF HAVING A CASA PROGRAM IN EACH OF OUR 58 COUNTIES BY 2003.

JUDICIAL AND STAFF EDUCATION ARE CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL TO IMPROVING THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE — AND WE HAVE EXPANDED OUR OPPORTUNITIES FOR EDUCATION RELATING TO FAMILIES AND CHILDREN. THE CENTER FOR JUDICIAL EDUCATION AND RESEARCH, THE EDUCATION ARM OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL, AND THE CENTER FOR FAMILIES, CHILDREN, AND THE COURTS EACH PROVIDE A LARGE NUMBER OF TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES TOUCHING ON EVERYTHING FROM RELEVANT SUBSTANTIVE LAW TO PROCEDURAL ISSUES TO SPECIAL PROBLEMS IN THE FAMILY AND JUVENILE COURT SETTING. ANNUAL STATEWIDE CONFERENCES DEVOTED TO CHILD WELFARE, DELINQUENCY, FAMILY LAW, AND CHILD SUPPORT BRING TOGETHER JUDGES, LAWYERS, SOCIAL WORKERS, PROBATION OFFICERS, AND OTHERS TO LEARN ABOUT NEW APPROACHES AND DEVELOPMENTS.

I COULD CONTINUE — BUT I HOPE I ALREADY HAVE GIVEN YOU A SENSE OF THE ACTIVITY AND CREATIVITY AT PLAY IN IMPROVING THE WAYS IN WHICH OUR COURT SYSTEM ADMINISTERS JUSTICE FOR THE FAMILIES AND CHILDREN OF OUR STATE. WE KNOW OUR EFFORTS ARE PART OF A NATIONWIDE FOCUS ON THESE ISSUES — AND THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURT JUDGES HAS PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN EDUCATION AND IN PROMOTING BETTER PRACTICES IN OUR STATE.

CALIFORNIA IS A LARGE STATE — AND OUR PROBLEMS OFTEN SEEM MAGNIFIED. BUT WE ARE VERY FORTUNATE AS WELL IN HAVING A TREMENDOUS RESOURCE OF TALENT AND DEDICATION TO DRAW UPON IN CRAFTING EFFECTIVE RESPONSES TO THE CHALLENGES THAT CONFRONT US. OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH YOU AND OUR ABILITY TO LEARN FROM THE EFFORTS OF OTHER STATES HAS BEEN A CRUCIAL COMPONENT IN THE INROADS WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAKE.

OUR CHILDREN AND OUR FAMILIES ARE OUR FUTURE. HOW WE TREAT THEM SAYS MUCH ABOUT US AS A SOCIETY — AND WILL DETERMINE WHAT OUR SOCIETY WILL LOOK LIKE IN THE FUTURE. IT IS SAFE TO SAY THAT NO FAMILY TRULY WISHES TO FIND ITSELF BEFORE THE COURTS — AFTER ALL, MARITAL DISSOLUTION, CHILD CUSTODY, CHILD NEGLECT, DELINQUENCY, AND CRIMINAL CONDUCT TYPICALLY ARE THE REASONS THAT BRING THEM THERE. WHAT WE DO FOR THESE FAMILIES IN TROUBLE — HOW WE TREAT THEM AND THE RESOURCES WE CAN BRING TO BEAR TO ASSIST THEM, CAN HAVE PROFOUND CONSEQUENCES NOT ONLY FOR EACH AFFECTED INDIVIDUAL BUT ALSO FOR OUR SOCIETY AS A WHOLE.

THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURTS HAS BEEN A MAJOR FORCE IN EXPANDING AND ENHANCING THE MANNER IN WHICH WE ADDRESS THESE MATTERS, AND YOUR EFFORTS ARE BEARING FRUIT IN COURTS ACROSS OUR NATION. WE IN CALIFORNIA ARE DETERMINED TO BRING ABOUT THE CHANGES THAT WILL MAKE A BENEFICIAL DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF THE FAMILIES AND CHILDREN WHO COME BEFORE OUR COURTS. WE LOOK FORWARD TO CONTINUING TO WORK WITH YOU IN THIS VERY CRUCIAL AREA.

THANK YOU AGAIN FOR INVITING ME TO JOIN YOU TODAY.

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