New California law provides free legal services for poor in custody cases
© WikiMedia (Nancy Wong)

New California law provides free legal services for poor in custody cases

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed into law a bill that requires free legal counsel to be appointed to low-income Californians for any level of legal or physical child custody matters, probate conservatorships and housing-related issues including eviction.

The new law requires the California Judicial Council to develop and provide grants, which could be donations from public or private entities, for programs in selected courts that provide legal counsel to the poor. Child custody cases would receive the highest priority for funding, regardless of whether one side is represented and the other is not.

The program would be funded by a $15 fee increase for various court services, including writs of attachment, mandate, execution, sale, possession, prohibition, or any other writ for the enforcement of any order or judgment, issuance of an abstract of judgment and certificate of a satisfaction of judgment that has been recorded in a court’s register of actions.

The new law also requires those funds to be used by the Judicial Council to implement and administer the civil representation programs, thereby imposing a tax. The new law’s change in state statute results in a taxpayer paying a higher tax within the meaning of Section 3 of Article XIII A of the California Constitution.