Shriver Civil Counsel Act Implementation Committee

Makes recommendations on which pilot projects will be selected and provides input into the design of the pilot projects evaluations, which are required by the authorizing legislation.

Date Established: September 1, 2010

Key projects of this advisory body are outlined in the annual agenda.

There are no meetings currently scheduled.

Past Shriver Civil Counsel Act Implementation Committee Meetings

The 15-member advisory committee is Chaired by Justice Earl Johnson, Jr. (Ret.), the committee includes a sitting or retired Judge, representatives from the judiciary, legal services providers, family law facilitator or self-help center office, law school, the Chamber of Commerce, State Bar, and business community. Liaisons from Presiding Judges, Court Executives, Access and Fairness, Civil and Small Claims, Probate, Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committees and the Domestic Violence Practice and Procedures and Self Represented Task Forces.

Download the Committee Roster


  • Hon. Earl Johnson, Jr. (Ret.), Chair
  • Hon. Laurie D. Zelon, Vice-chair, Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Seven
  • Mr. Kevin G. Baker, Legislative Director, ACLU California Center for Advocacy and Policy
  • Ms. Salena Copeland, Executive Director, Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC)
  • Ms. Erika Frank, General Counsel, California Chamber of Commerce
  • Hon. Terry B. Friedman (Ret.)
  • Ms. Pauline W. Gee, Attorney
  • Ms. Luz E. Herrera, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Experiential Education, Texas A&M School of Law
  • Ms. Donna Hershkowitz, Acting Deputy Chief Trial Counsel and Assistant Chief Trial Counsel, Office of Chief Trial Counsel, The State Bar of California
  • Hon. James R. Lambden (Ret.)
  • Ms. Shirley Sanematsu, Senior Health Attorney, Western Center on Law and Poverty
  • Mr. John F. O'Toole, Attorney
  • Ms. Clare Pastore, Professor of the Practice of Law, University of Southern California Gould School of Law
  • Mr. Thomas Smegal, Administrative Patent Judge, Patent Trial and Appeal Board, United States Patent and Trademark Office
  • Ms. Julia R. Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, One Justice

Judicial Council Lead Committee Staff

  • Ms. Bonnie Rose Hough, Principal Managing Attorney, Center for Families, Children & the Courts, Judicial Council of California
  • Mr. Don Will, Deputy Director, Center for Families, Children & the Courts, Judicial Council of California
  • Mr. Patrick O’Donnell, Managing Attorney, Legal Services Office, Judicial Council of California

Judicial Council Staff to the Committee

  • Ms. Laural Ayala, Administrative Coordinator, Center for Families, Children & the Courts, Judicial Council of California


The Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act (Assem. Bill 590 [Feuer]; Stats. 2009 ch. 457) provides that commencing in fiscal year 2011–2012, one or more pilot projects selected by the Judicial Council will be funded to provide legal representation to low-income parties on critical legal issues affecting basic human needs. The pilot projects are operated by legal services nonprofit corporations working in collaboration with their local superior courts.

The purpose of the pilot projects is to improve timely and effective access to justice in civil cases and thereby avoid undue risk of erroneous court decisions resulting from the nature and complexity of the law in the specific proceeding or the disparities between parties in legal representation, education, sophistication, language proficiency, and access to self-help or alternative dispute resolution services.

Selected legal services agencies provide representation to low-income Californians who are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and need representation in one or more of the following areas:

  • Housing-related matters;
  • Domestic violence and civil harassment restraining orders;
  • Elder abuse;
  • Guardianship of the person;
  • Probate conservatorship; or
  • Child custody actions by a parent seeking sole legal or physical custody of a child, particularly where the opposing side is represented.

To the extent practical, legal services agencies must make use of pro bono services from attorneys.

Selected court partners implement improved court procedures, training, case management and administration methods, and best practices to ensure that unrepresented parties in the proposed case types have meaningful access to court, to guard against the involuntary waiver of rights or the disposition of cases by default, and to encourage fair and expeditious voluntary dispute resolution consistent with principles of judicial neutrality.

The statute provides that “the participating projects shall be selected by a committee appointed by the Judicial Council with representation from key stakeholder groups including judicial officers, legal services providers, and others, as appropriate. The committee shall assess the applicants’ capacity for success, innovation and efficiency, including, but not limited to, the likelihood that the project would deliver quality representation in an effective manner that would meet critical needs in the community and address the needs of the court with regard to access to justice and calendar management, and the unique local unmet needs for representation in the community.”

The Shriver Civil Counsel Act Implementation Committee was appointed by the Judicial Council to review applications and make recommendations about funding.

The Judicial Council conducted a study to demonstrate the effectiveness and continued need for the pilot program.  A preliminary report was submitted to the Governor and the Legislature on January 31, 2016. A final report was submitted August 2017 to the Legislature and Governor that showed improved outcomes for those who received legal services.  Here is a short summary of findings of the report submitted to the Legislature.

Three chapters of the report are attached here.  One reports on the housing projects, one on the child custody projects, and the other on the probate guardianship and conservatorship project.  These chapters are contained in the full report.

Contact Information

Center for Families, Children & the Courts
Operations & Programs


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