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Suits Filed as 21 Courtrooms Close to Landlord Disputes

Disabled Northridge plaintiff has to travel to Pasadena to fight eviction.

Several legal aid groups are suing the state over cost-cutting measures under which 21 courtrooms across Los Angeles County will no longer handle landlord disputes, which the plaintiffs say will unfairly force low-income tenants and people with disabilities to travel long distances to the remaining five locations hearing eviction cases.

In a declaration filed with the lawsuit, disabled plaintiff Brenda Miles, 58, of Northridge said she will now be forced to travel 30 miles to the Pasadena courthouse to fight eviction from her apartment, a trip she says may be physically impossible due to her spinal cord injury and need for pain medication.

"The idea of traveling to Pasadena makes me nervous, anxious and sad because of the extreme pain I know it would cause me," Miles stated. "The car ride and the thought of having to stand in line is overwhelming. ... I am not sure whether I will be able to physically make it to Pasadena."

"These changes will leave countless individuals and families without access to justice in cases where basic human needs are at stake," said Neal Dudovitz, executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, one of four legal aid organizations bringing the complaint in federal court against Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials.

"For these families -- any of whom depend on public transport -- the prospect of traveling so far outside their own community to have their day in court is tantamount to having the door to justice slammed in their face," he said.

The plaintiffs, including two disabled people facing eviction, are attempting to halt the plan before it goes into effect Monday. County officials are making cuts in the judicial system in order to close a budget shortfall of $50 million to $80 million.

Under the plan, landlord disputes are to be heard only in Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster.

The court's cost-cutting plan will eliminate all eviction hearings in the San Fernando Valley -- home to more than 1.75 million people -- "and home to more individuals with disabilities than any other part of the county," according to the lawsuit, which cites violations of the Fair Housing Act and due process.

"A low-income tenant who lives in Whittier or Pico Rivera will have to be on a bus by 6 a.m. to reach the Long Beach court by 8:30 a.m.," said Barbara Schultz, an attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

"She will have to transfer buses and get to a city she may have no familiarity with," the attorney said. "Imagine this tenant is living with disabilities that will make this even more difficult, if not impossible. As our California Supreme Court chief justice recently said of court closures, we are facing a civil rights crisis. And it starts here in Los Angeles County, where low-income tenants will be unable to access their neighborhood courts when they most need them."

The lawsuit was announced this week outside the Los Angeles federal courthouse. At the same time, a union-organized rally protesting the cuts took place a few blocks away at the Mosk courthouse.

"The proposed court consolidation puts a staggering burden on people with disabilities and low-income persons whose homes are threatened," said Silvia Argueta, executive director of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. "There's no question that, for them, justice will be denied. "

Jock March 16, 2013 at 04:05 PM
It may be only tenants rights groups who are suing, BUT this closure will effect all cases in branch courts. That means when you need to sue the Escrow company that financially ruined you, the doctor who maimed you, the neighbor who wronged you, when Wendy in her Mercedes SUV runs a light while on her cell phone and hits you on Rodeo Drive leaving you paralyzed, you will not be going to Beverly Hills Court for your trial. you will not get resolution in months or years (absent the other side caving and settling, and now with such mammoth delays why should they ?). You will be going to Downtown and you will get in a very long line. You may well be dead of your injuries by the time your case comes to trial. 5 years is a reasonable estimate to complete at this time. It will have an effect on the Criminal courts too. Every one wants justice when they are the aggrieved party. if no one pays the Courts bills the only justice you will get will be very long in coming if at all.
Zookeeper91326 March 16, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Where did you find your info, Jock? I understand there may be more delays (no wonder - our sanctuary city policies and unions have drained the city coffers). But, they aren't closing all courthouses to all cases. "... under which 21 courtrooms across Los Angeles County will no longer handle landlord disputes..."
Jock March 16, 2013 at 09:12 PM
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/03/los-angeles-superior-court-to-eliminate-511-positions.html That is one shot at it..The presiding Judge doesn't say they are necessary because they are wasteful, it's to keep any lights on. Anyone involved in the legal business in Los Angeles will tell you that in the last few years, Court room and court house hours have already shortened, staffs have been cut, lines are longer and documents take months that used to take days to process. These are facts
Saul Daniels March 16, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Jock, Zookeeper: You may also find this Patch story from November to be of interest http://patch.com/A-z68B .
Jock March 16, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Thanks Saul
Zookeeper91326 March 16, 2013 at 10:22 PM
Thank you for the info.
Zookeeper91326 March 16, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Decades of overspending, compounded by unemployment (less revenue), and the real estate market bust (less revenue), has pushed L.A., to the brink of bankruptcy. These cuts illuminate the current deficits. Where else would you make cuts?
Leigh Datzker March 17, 2013 at 12:56 AM
The LA Superior Court is transitioning into a hub based system with Chatsworth being one of the collection hub courts. Most personal injury actions of value will be filed downtown for later distribution to the remaining courts. Eviction cases will be moved to L.A. and Santa Monica. Cases which will remain are real estate centric cases as well as most contract cases. They expect over 40,000 collection cases to add to an already congested docket of 800 cases per judge in the North Valley. All probate cases will go downtown as well. All of these changes were occasioned by a 100+ million dollar budget shortfall. This does not count delays in getting Writs of Possession or Writs to collect your money. Sheriff's civil office is 4 months behind on their work as well. Expect 3-4 years to resolve civil matters in LASC.

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