Mindy Morton, President
My year as President of the SCCBA is now a quarter through, and the efforts to restore court funding continue to take center stage. This month, I would like to highlight two upcoming events that I encourage all of you to attend: the Stand Up For Justice Rally in San Francisco on April 18, and Law Day on May 1. It is critical that we continue to remind the community why open and accessible courts are fundamental to our democracy. Court funding is not just relevant to lawyers and judges--courts benefit those who have never been in a courtroom. John Adams once observed that we should have "a government of laws and not of men." If we are to have such a government, we must have open access to courts, for the courts enforce our laws and ensure justice for all.
American Bar Association President Bill Robinson III recently stated, "That courtrooms must be open to protect families. That courtrooms must be open to validate and protect contracts for business. That courtrooms must be open to keep the wheels of justice turning. That courtrooms must be open to defend our individual rights and to prove again and again that we continue to be a free society. All of that takes more money...not less and less money for our courts."
This problem is so fundamental that in 2011, the ABA launched the nonpartisan Task Force on the Preservation of the Justice System and held hearings across the country. The Task Force's findings were presented to the ABA House of Delegates at the 2011 Annual Meeting in a report titled, "Crisis in the Courts: Defining the Problem." The report notes that "Given their historic role as the protectors of the least advantaged in our nation, the courts have rightly been called 'Society's Emergency Room.' And never is that title so warranted as in times of economic distress. The same recession that has led legislatures to reduce access to our justice system has obviously increased the numbers of people who need it." The report concludes: "Strong, effective and independent justice systems are a core element of our democracy. Even the most eloquent constitution is worthless with no one to enforce it."
Here in California, the effects of the budget cuts are being felt throughout the justice system. In Santa Clara County, the clerks’ offices were forced to reduce hours. Courts across the state are experiencing delays and backlogs in civil and family matters. To add to the backlogs, the courts are busier than ever, as the recession-related cases such as foreclosures, bankruptcies and evictions are crowding dockets. We need to stand together and demand adequate funding, otherwise justice will simply be unavailable to many of California's citizens.
STAND UP FOR JUSTICE RALLY
To that end, I invite you to join me at the Stand Up For Justice Rally on April 18 to stand together with the legal community to protect the courts and access to justice for all Californians. The rally will be held on the Polk Street steps of San Francisco City Hall from 12:00-1:30. There will be a number of speakers, including special guest Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, as well as John Streeter, the President of the State Bar, Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco, Judge LaDoris H. Cordell (Ret.) of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, Justice Carlos Moreno (Ret.) of the California Supreme Court, Ramon Arias, the Executive Director of Bay Area Legal Aid, Julie Ramsey from the Service Employees International Union, and many more. The SCCBA is a co-sponsor of the rally, and we hope to see many of our members standing up and demanding adequate funding for our courts to ensure our citizen’s access to justice.
Of course, Law Day is also coming up on May 1. Law Day is a national event held each year on May 1. Conceived in 1957 by ABA President Charles S. Rhyne, it was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 to honor the country's commitment to the rule of law. Congress issued a joint resolution in 1961 officially designating May 1 as Law Day (codified at 36 U.S.C. 113). Every year, the ABA designates a theme for law day, and courts, bar associations and community groups around the country plan events centered on that theme. This year, the Law Day theme is "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom." The SCCBA, in conjunction with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, is planning an event on May 1, from 4:00-5:30 pm. The event will include a panel discussion of the consequences of impaired access to courts, and will also showcase student artwork. Santa Clara County students have been invited to create a 30 second video or an art piece centered on the theme of "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom, and the winners will be announced at the event. I invite you all to join us at the Santa Clara County Office of Education at 1290 Ridder Park Drive in San Jose for this important event.
I hope to see you at the rally and Law Day, and I hope that you will all join with me in continuing to ensure that Californians do not forget that access to justice is fundamental to our society.