LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today hailed Governor Brown and the State Legislature for making the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act permanent in California. Feuer authored the Shriver Act in 2009 as a pilot project to test new models of providing access to justice for low-income residents on such critical issues as housing, custody, conservatorship, and guardianship. The Act has gained national attention in the effort to establish a right to counsel in key civil cases.
“The Shriver Act already has provided tens of thousands of low-income Californians invaluable free legal representation, preventing homelessness and supporting families,” said Feuer. “Now this landmark program will be permanent. I want especially to thank Governor Brown for his vision in signing this significant measure, and Senator Mark Leno and Assembly member Phil Ting for their terrific leadership in shepherding this proposal through the legislative budget process.”
“As the former Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus, I’ve seen first-hand the importance of legal representation for low-income Californians who are fighting eviction, defending their employment rights, and working to stay in our country,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “By making the Shriver Program permanent, we are leading the nation in recognizing this right to representation.”
The extension of the Shriver Counsel Act was lauded by the ACLU of California. “We applaud Mike Feuer for authoring the original groundbreaking legislation, and for helping to build safe and vibrant communities by ensuring equal access to justice regardless of income,” said ACLU Legislative Director, Kevin Baker.
A report by the Judicial Counsel found that Shriver services are improving the administration of justice and balancing the playing filed by offering legal representation in key cases, and preventing the loss of important legal rights. Preliminary analysis of court data suggests that, compared to cases without Shriver representation, Shriver housing cases may involve more dismissals, more settlements, and fewer trials.
Shriver projects have provided legal representation to low-income Californians at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In these kinds of disputes, low-income litigants are, for the most part, unrepresented—and often unaware of the various options open to them. They target cases in which one side is represented by a lawyer and the other is not. When selecting cases, such as limited English proficiency, illiteracy, or disabilities they also review how serious the case is and whether the client has a good chance of prevailing.