Thursday, March 12, 2009
Superior Court Opens Self-Help Legal Center in Pasadena Courthouse
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday celebrated the grand opening of its 12th self-help legal access center, located at the Pasadena Courthouse.
Northeast District Supervising Judge Candace J. Beason hailed the event as “a fabulous, fabulous occasion.”
Beason said she had been looking forward to the opening of the clinic—housed in what had been the courthouse’s law library, which was moved across the street to the public library—because, as a member of the bench, she had seen a “significant number of people with questions and misconceptions of the legal system.”
Neal S. Dudovitz, the executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los
Angeles opined that “it’s been quite a journey” since the first self-help center opened at the Van Nuys courthouse in 2000.
Over the years, Dudovitz said the self-help centers have helped over 500,000 people, and assisted over 91,000 in the last year alone.
These clinics “are about core values of out democracy,” he insisted. “Everybody has to be able to walk through the doors of the courthouse, everybody has to be able to be heard…or our justice system will not survive.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Civil Supervising Judge Elihu M. Berle echoed Dudovitz’s concern and opined the Pasadena clinic “could not have come at a better time.”
Noting the “devastating effect of the economy on our community,” Berle suggested a growing number of people with legal problems do not qualify for legal aid, cannot afford an attorney, but still require assistance navigating the court system.
With the Pasadena location, Berle said self-help centers are now available at each of the largest civil courthouses in each geographic area of the county, providing a “quantum leap in service” for self-represented litigants.
The Pasadena facility was funded by the court, the Judicial Council of California, the Administrative Office of the Courts and through grants from the State Bar to Neighborhood Legal Services and to Bet Tzedek Legal Services.
It will be staffed by court employees, legal aid partners and Justice Corps student interns, court officials said. Services will also be available in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese.
Janice Shurlow, a family law attorney based at the Pasadena center, said that the new facility is one of the largest centers available, and boasts two rooms for hosting workshops and clinics. The largest self-help center is at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.
She said that the Pasadena location will be offering workshops and clinics on divorce, paternity, domestic violence, unlawful detainer and elder law.
The resource center is located on the third floor of the courthouse, in room 300. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays.
Other courthouse-based, self-help legal access centers are located in Antelope Valley-Lancaster, Compton, Inglewood, Long Beach, Pomona, San Fernando, Santa Monica, Torrance and Van Nuys.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company