BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 917  


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          Date of Hearing:  August 3, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                               Lorena Gonzalez, Chair


          SB 917  
          (Jackson) - As Amended June 23, 2016


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:  This bill requires courts, beginning July 1, 2017, to  
          provide family law litigants with copies of court orders.   
          Specifically, this bill:  


          1)Requires the court, beginning July 1, 2017, within two days  
            after the conclusion of a hearing under the Family Code, to  








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            make available to each party who is present at the hearing a  
            written, detailed, official order setting forth the basic  
            terms of any orders that were made at the hearing.  Allows the  
            provision of the order to be done electronically.  Provides  
            that, to the extent practicable, the court must provide the  
            order, in writing, to each party who is present at the  
            hearing, prior to that party leaving the court that day.


          2)Requires the Judicial Council, by July 1, 2017, to adopt a  
            rule of court and any forms necessary to implement these  
            provisions.


          FISCAL EFFECT:


          Major costs, potentially in the millions of dollars (GF - Trial  
          Court Trust Fund) for case management systems and system  
          upgrades in order to enable the trial courts to provide a  
          written order at the conclusion of each family law hearing.  
          Although a few courts provide access to a copy of orders within  
          one day, it is not known if there are any courts that currently  
          comply with the requirements specified in this the bill. Given  
          the 58 counties likely employ different systems for conducting  
          family law proceedings, costs for compliance could vary widely.


          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose. According to the author, "The absence of court  
            reporters in family law actions leaves many litigants,  
            especially self-represented ones, without a clear idea of what  
            the court ordered, or of the obligations imposed on the  
            parties by the court.  Further, the lack of a record makes  
            enforcement of orders difficult, appeals difficult, and any  
            sort of evaluation of judicial performance all but  
            impossible."








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            This bill would require the court to provide parties with  
            written orders at the conclusion of a hearing setting forth  
            the basic terms of any orders that were made at the hearing.  
            This requirement would ensure that litigants have specifics of  
            any orders made so that they may begin following the order  
            immediately, as generally required by law.





          2)Background.  Court orders are typically made verbally in a  
            family law proceeding, and parties often must begin following  
            that order immediately.  With many litigants appearing without  
            lawyers, many non-English speakers in court, and complex legal  
            and factual matters at issue, the challenges of achieving  
            understanding are significant. Current law creates a framework  
            that courts may adopt for the preparation, service, and  
            submission of orders after hearing.  The process can take up  
            to a month (or more) before parties receive a written copy of  
            any orders made in the courtroom.  Courts may also create  
            their own process for creating orders after hearing.  Thus,  
            the amount of time it takes for a litigant to receive an  
            actual written order varies from county to county.  For  
            example, in Sacramento and Fresno counties, litigants receive  
            the order that day, but in San Diego and Los Angeles Counties  
            it may take a few weeks, or longer, before the litigants  
            receive the order in the mail.  



            By most estimates, at least 70 percent of family law litigants  
            appear in court without an attorney.  These unrepresented  
            litigants are disproportionately affected by delays in  
            receiving orders from the court or the failure to receive a  
            written order at all. Moreover, unrepresented parties on  








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            opposite sides of a dispute often have different  
            understandings as to what the judge ordered, and written  
            orders are often received weeks later in the mail.  When  
            unrepresented parties disagree with an order, whether because  
            of clerical error or disagreement with a judge's assessment of  
            the case, they generally lack the procedural expertise to seek  
            clarification from the court or timely appeal.   This  
            potentially requires additional court hearings to straighten  
            out the confusion and can cause more strife for the parties  
            involved.  











          


          Analysis Prepared by:Jennifer Swenson / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081