Monday, May 20, 2013
L.A. City Council Criticizes Court Consolidation Plan
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Los Angeles City Council Friday passed a resolution urging the Los Angeles Superior Court to solicit public input and reconsider the consolidation of cases at a small number of court “hubs” as a solution to its budget troubles.
By a vote of 10-0, the council approved Resolution 13-0002-S66, by council members Paul Koretz and Joe Buscaino.
The resolution notes that “concerned community members and courthouse workers have collected thousands of petitions opposing the recent reduction plan as Los Angeles residents raise concerns about longer lines outside the courthouses that remain open, delays in case hearing and trial dates, and force residents to travel longer distances at greater personal cost.”
It states that the city “hereby includes in its 2013-2014 State Legislative Program SUPPORT for legislation and/or administrative action which would urge the Executive Committee of the Los Angeles County Superior Court to stop the reduction and consolidation process at all courthouses in the City of Los Angeles so that any court reduction plan and any sound alternatives can be properly discussed and vetted in a public forum with hearings and with ample notice at each impacted courthouse in the City of Los Angeles before June 1,2013, including consultation with the City Council and all public stakeholders in order to achieve a more sensible approach for streamlining court operations that would minimize the negative impact on our communities.”
Adoption of that resolution follows Wednesday’s approval—also by a 10-0 vote—of a resolution offered by council member Jan Perry, criticizing the hub approach, specifically with regard to unlawful detainer cases. Perry’s Resolution 13-0002-S31 notes that “the 20-25 miles from the Van Nuys Courthouse to Santa Monica, where more than 7,000 cases will be transferred, can translate to more than 5 hours round-trip on public transportation requiring multiple buses —creating an insurmountable barrier to the courts for thousands of poor, low-income, disabled, elderly and limited English speaking City residents, who are most often the UD respondents.”
The resolution goes on to say that “the proposed UD changes will inevitably rob the San Fernando Valley, where a large proportion of the City’s residents live, of critical judicial resources and will leave thousands of individuals and families in the Valley, especially poor and low-income households, without access to justice for cases where basic human needs are at stake” and complained that “the communities in the San Fernando Valley to be affected by the transference of these UDs have not been notified, nor given the opportunity for public comment at a public hearing/meeting before any changes are finalized.”
The resolution states that the city “hereby includes in its 2013-2014 State Legislative Program, OPPOSITION to legislation, administrative action, and/or funding reductions, which would eliminate Unlawful Detainer (eviction) cases/hearings and associated filings at the three courthouses in the San Fernando Valley, and would transfer said cases to the Santa Monica and Pasadena Courthouses.”
Under the consolidation plan, implementation of which began in March, small claims cases are heard only at the Alhambra, Stanley Mosk (downtown Los Angeles), Michael D. Antonovich (Lancaster), Downey, Inglewood, and Van Nuys East courthouses, while evictions are heard only at the Pasadena, Long Beach, Antonovich, Mosk and Santa Monica courthouses.
All unlimited jurisdiction personal injury cases are being filed and heard, at least initially, at the Mosk courthouse; limited jurisdiction collections cases at either Chatsworth or Norwalk; and non-collections limited jurisdiction cases at Mosk. Probate cases are being consolidated at the Mosk and Antonovich courthouses.
The two council resolutions were backed by a coalition of groups that have also filed suit in federal court, claiming that forcing poor citizens to travel long distances to have their cases heard violates their civil rights.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company