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Home | Access to Justice

Western Center works to expand access to justice by ensuring that Californians with low incomes are treated fairly when engaged with criminal or civil courts.

  • We lead the battle to make sure low-income Californians get their day in court.
    • We sued to enforce legislation we sponsored to ensure litigants living in poverty don’t pay court fees.
    • We are monitoring implementation of the Jameson decision, which guaranteed court reporters for litigants too poor to pay for one.
    • We fight for more translators and interpreters so litigants who speak limited English have equal justice.
    • We monitor legislation that could create barriers for Californians with low incomes to get access to court.
  • We passed legislation to reduce the impact of judicially ordered wage garnishments, eliminated the practice of requiring traffic court defendants to pay the entire amount of a fine before getting a hearing, and repealed a state law that automatically suspended driver’s licenses when people couldn’t afford to pay traffic tickets.
  • In conjunction with legal service partners, we successfully sued the state DMV to restore driver’s licenses to those with license suspensions for failure to pay tickets. We also sued local courts to develop fair treatment for people who can’t afford the cost of tickets.
  • We successfully sponsored legislation to repeal all juvenile fines and fees due to criminal convictions, and worked with grassroots groups to get counties to forgive past juvenile fines. We also co-sponsored a successful bill to repeal requirements for bail payments to be made prior to release after arrest.
  • We are currently working on legislative efforts to eliminate adult criminal justice fines and fees, and to reduce the number of cars towed by local governments over minor debts.

We also advocate for increased funding for legal services so low-income clients have representation when faced with eviction, or when they have trouble obtaining medical care or getting access to public benefits, and we help local legal services programs secure attorneys’ fees to ensure adequate and fair funding for their work.