LA Superior Court Announces New Judgment Day Assistance Pilot Program in Family Law

Los Angeles County Presiding Judge Eric C Taylor announced that parents and divorcing couples without attorneys will be able to get much-needed help from volunteer attorneys in finalizing their paperwork to get judgments through a pilot “Judgment Day Assistance” program.

“With the help of the family law sections of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) and the Beverly Hills Bar Association (BHBA), the Court is offering a pilot program at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to help self-represented litigants (SRLs) prepare the crucial last document to conclude their dissolution or parentage actions,” Presiding Judge Taylor said. “I would like to thank Assistant Supervising Family Law Judge Amy M. Pellman for developing this program, and to thank Family Law Supervising Judge Lawrence P. Riff for his support of this effort. This program would not be possible without all the pro bono attorneys who will help these litigants obtain their judgments, which also will assist the Court to resolve these cases.”

Previously, Judge Pellman had organized “Judgment Assistance Programs” based on smaller programs established throughout the Los Angeles Superior Court system.

Prior to Covid 19, the Court’s self-help unit had a self-represented litigants judgment program completing judgment cases with settlement agreements.  The pandemic caused the program to be temporarily discontinued.  However, even with the program, many SRLs failed preparing their last concluding document for their contested or settled parentage or dissolution actions.  Obviously, this documentation would be critical to conclude the action.  Although these documents are usually simple and routine to complete if the issues involved were adjudicated and not complex, if the SRLs do not have guidance to finish the forms, judicial officers were forced to continue “Entry of Judgment” dates multiple times.

Carrie Holmes of Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law and Ron Reitshtein of Youngman Reitshtein, PLC, co-chairs of the Family Law Section of the BHBA, said, “As a proud justice partner of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, the Family Law Section of the Beverly Hills Bar Association is incredibly excited to support and participate in the Self-Represented Litigant Judgment Assistance Day Program.  We actively engage with the Family Law community at large through pro bono and other volunteer opportunities. Helping SRLs 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. We thank the Court for this opportunity to help.”

And, attorney Paula Kane, Chair of LACBA’s Family Law Section, said, “The Family Law Section of the LACBA is honored to partner with the Superior Court to establish the Self-Represented Litigant Judgment Assistance Day Program at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, which will provide a great service to parties who can be overwhelmed by the paperwork and procedure necessary to finalize their case. In addition to freeing up court time, a benefit to all, the program is also a terrific opportunity for our section members to work hand-in-hand with the Family Law judges and judicial assistants toward the common goal of providing legal access to all. I have no doubt the program will be a role model for Family Law courts in other jurisdictions.”

The small pilot program was launched for two months, on April 30, with the first “Judgment Assistance Day” in Department 87, presided by Judge Pellman and in Department 83 by Judge Joseph Lipner Starting in June of 2021, the program hopes to expand to all 15 trial court departments with half the courts participating in even months and the other half in odd months.

According the Los Angeles Superior Court, the “…program will take place in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, 111 N. Hill St., Los Angeles. The courts will identify the cases ready for judgments, and then send them electronically to the pro bono groups who will disperse the cases to the volunteer attorneys. The cases will be delivered back to the courts for the court signature on ‘Judgment Assistance Day’ which will be the fourth Friday of every month.

“The Court will continue to seek ways to help Angelenos and our communities resolve their disputes and move forward with their lives,” Presiding Judge Taylor said. “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.”

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