Dear Family Law Attorneys -
I’m writing to ask for your support of AB 251, a pending bill that I worked on through the BASF delegation to the Conference of Delegates. This bill would amend the Government Code to permit electronic reporting in family law cases. This is critical to preserve the right to appeal and other due process rights of parties who are unable to afford to pay for a private shorthand reporter.
While many agree that it is ideal to have a live court reporter in every courtroom, recently courts have begun removing reporters from civil courtrooms including family law, due to budget constraints. In San Francisco, no reporters are provided for family law long cause hearings and trials.
The absence of court reporters has a disproportionate impact in family law, because the vast majority of family law litigants represent themselves without counsel, and would not always be aware of the need for a record, or how to hire a reporter. Many family law litigants also are without the means to pay for a private reporter. Added to this, family law often involves fundamental rights. Trials involving termination of parental rights, requests for permanent restraining orders, custody, support, and property are routinely taking place with no record. This creates difficulty preparing orders, ensuring accountability for the judiciary, and most importantly, preserving the right to appeal. It is axiomatic that “there can be no equal justice where the kind of an appeal a man [or woman] enjoys depends on the amount of money he [or she] has.” (Douglas v. People of the State of California (1963) 372 U.S. 353, 355.)
AB 251 would make it an option and permit, but not mandate, family courts to use electronic reporting. This will help to ensure that a record is created in every case, and due process rights are protected.
Here is a link to the bill: http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-
14/bill/asm/ab_0251-0300/ab_ 251_bill_20130306_amended_asm_ v98.html
This bill is being opposed by the court reporters’ unions and other labor representatives. This means that without strong support by those concerned with the due process rights of litigants and access to justice, the bill will likely not pass. Please consider sending a letter to support AB 251. Letters should be sent before the hearing date of April 9th. A sample letter is below (if you’d like a Word version just e-mail me at MI@Sucherman-Insalaco.com).
Please forward this letter to anyone you believe would want to support AB 251.
Thank you for your consideration!
Michelene Insalaco***************************************************************************************************SAMPLE LETTER:March 20, 2013
The Honorable Bob Wieckowski
Chair, Assembly Judiciary Committee
State Capitol, Room 4016
Sacramento, CA 94249-0025
Via email to: Heather.firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: AB 251 (Wagner), as Amended
Dear Assemblyman Wieckowski:
I’m writing to urge you to support AB 251, which, as amended, would permit courts to use electronic reporting in family law to ensure that there is an official record of court proceedings.
Due to budgetary restraints, many family law hearings and trials are taking place without any record at all. Without a record there can be no meaningful appellate review, nor oversight of the family law judiciary. This situation also complicates the preparation of written orders.
This situation has a special impact in family law because these cases routinely involve fundamental constitutional rights; the vast majority of family law litigants represent themselves without counsel; and a large proportion of family law litigants are indigent.
To ensure equal access to justice, please support AB 251.
cc: Hon Donald P. Wagner, Author (Vance.email@example.com)
Drew Liebert, Chief Counsel Assembly Judiciary Committee (Drew.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Larry Doyle, Legislative Representative, CCBA (Larry@larrydoylelaw.com)
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