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Judicial Council to Consider Allocating $25 Million to Address Case Delays Due to COVID-19

Council will also receive reports on the branch’s ability-to-pay program, self-help centers, and voice-to-text language services

VIA WEB CONFERENCE—The Judicial Council at its Jan. 22 meeting will consider a plan to distribute the second half of the one-time $50 million included in the 2020 Budget Act to help address case delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report recommends allocating the remaining $25 million based on backlog, measured by each court’s workload that was not disposed of during the pandemic period compared to the same period in 2019. The committee also recommends trial courts report at least quarterly on their progress in reducing their COVID-19 backlogs and on how they spend the funding.

At its July meeting last year, the council voted to use its pre-COVID-19-established workload formula to immediately provide each trial court a pro rata distribution for half ($25 million) of the $50 million in one-time funding for COVID-19-related backlogs. The council also decided at that July meeting the remaining $25 million would be reserved for trial courts still experiencing pandemic-related backlogs after the initial round of funding.

Other items on the council meeting agenda include:

Ability-to-Pay Program: The council will hear about a pilot program that allows qualified litigants to request reductions in traffic infraction fines and fees remotely without coming to the courthouse. Since its launch on Nov. 1, a total of 10,935 ability-to-pay requests have been submitted by 6,865 litigants across five pilot courts, resulting in more than $2.8 million in reduced fines and fees.

Report on California Courts’ Self-Help Centers: The council will receive a report finding that funding for court self-help services substantially increases access to justice for the public. Courts increased access for litigants to both attorney and nonattorney assistance, as well as to bilingual staff. Courts also expanded self-help services to more case types such as landlord-tenant, consumer debt, and guardianship cases.

Voice-to-Text Language Services Outside the Courtroom: The council will hear a report on the use of voice-to-text technology at locations outside the courtroom, such as court filing and service counters and in self-help centers. The presentation will also preview a pilot project anticipated to include one appellate court and six trial courts to help test and expand these services for the public.

Legislative Priorities: The council will consider its legislative priorities for the upcoming year. Proposed priorities include improving court efficiency, investments in the judicial branch, and securing needed judgeships.

The complete meeting agenda and council reports are posted to the California Courts Meeting Information Center. A link to a live webcast of the meeting will be on the California Courts website on the day of the meeting.

You may locate the complete article by clicking here.

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