The presiding judge of Los Angeles County’s courts Tuesday announced a pilot program that will allow parents and couples with pending divorce and paternity cases to receive help from volunteer attorneys to finalize necessary paperwork to get judgments.
“With the help of the family law sections of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the court is offering a pilot program at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to help self-represented litigants prepare the crucial last document to conclude their dissolution or parentage actions,” Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor said in a statement.
He said the Judgment Assistance Day program “would not be possible without all the pro bono attorneys who help these litigants obtain their judgments, which will also assist the court to resolve these cases.”
The court’s self-help unit had an expedited judgment program to complete judgments in cases with settlement agreements, but that has been temporarily discontinued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the court.
Many self-represented litigants failed to prepare the crucial final document to conclude their settled or contested dissolution or parentage actions, even with the program, and judicial officers were forced to continue “entry of judgment” dates multiple times, according to the court.
Ron Reitshtein and Carrie Holmes, co-chairs of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, said in the statement that helping self-represented litigants and the court to “bring finality to cases that are lingering due to technical deficiencies is the perfect opportunity for our members to put their knowledge to power.”
Paula Kane, chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s family law section, said she believes the pilot program will “provide a great service to parties who can be overwhelmed by the paperwork and procedure necessary to finalize their case.” She added that she has no doubt that the program will be a role model for family law courts in other jurisdictions.
The court will launch the small pilot program for two months, beginning April 30 at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Officials hope to expand the program to all 15 trial court departments beginning in June, with half of the courts participating in odd moths and the other half in even months.
The court will identify the cases ready for judgments and send them electronically to pro bono groups that will disperse the cases to the volunteer attorneys, with the cases set to be delivered back to the courts for approval on “Judgment Assistance Day,” which will be the fourth Friday of every month.
“We are fortunate in Los Angeles County to have creative, dedicated jurists and attorneys working together to help people who can’t afford legal representation while resolving vexing delays that clog court dockets in the nation’s largest trial court,” Taylor said.
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