Who We Serve
County Law Libraries are inclusive institutions created equally for everyone in the community. Everyone is welcome at the Law Library. While we do serve the legal community, the majority of the people we see at the law library are self-represented litigants.
The California Judicial Council has reported that 75% of civil cases nationally, and more than 80% of family law cases in California, involve at least one self-represented litigant.
Many self-represented litigants in California cannot afford representation. The cost of hiring a private attorney is simply prohibitive for the majority of Californians. Legal aid, pro bono organizations and court-based self-help centers do wonderful work, but they can only address a very small portion of the need (and only a small portion of those in need are even eligible, because of income, legal status, and subject matter limitations). Indeed, many referrals to County Law Libraries come from these very organizations.
What We Do
We provide access to justice for thousands of people, who without us would have no other reliable source for accessing legal information.
The cost of legal materials is so prohibitive that most self-represented litigants and even most attorneys cannot afford to access all the information we provide on their own.
For FREE, we provide:
- reliable information
- current laws
- specialized legal databases & books
- sample forms & templates for taking court action or making contracts
- friendly & knowledgeable staff
- classes / workshops / clinics
- information available 24/7 via our website
The assistance people receive is more than can be found in a book or on a website; it is personal assistance, legal research classes for non-lawyers, hands-on workshops, free consultations with lawyers and a safe, friendly, helpful place to ask questions and find help. Even a small amount of help provides relief from stress and anxiety, a sense of confidence and community, and hope.
Why We Need Support
In the past 7 years, a decrease in the number of case filings combined with an increase in the number of fee waivers granted, changes to jurisdictional limits and new exemptions adopted into law, have caused law library revenue to drop precipitously. Since 2008 income from filing fees has DECREASED 40% and the cost of legal materials has INCREASED 60%.
This decrease in revenue has caused the Law Library to:
- Close branches
- Cut services & reduce hours
- Cut print & electronic materials
- Cut staffing & outreach programs
In short, the current system is leaving thousands of San Diegans without adequate support to effectively represent themselves. Without the Law Library, most people have no access to current and reliable legal information and therefore no access to justice.
Although the word “county” appears in our official name, we are state-created agencies and the state controls our funding. We receive no general or special fund appropriations from the State. County Law Libraries are not county agencies and are not funded by county governments. By California law, the County of San Diego maintains our buildings and the County Board of Supervisors must approve borrowing charges for attorneys. Up until 2005, the County could adjust the revenue we received from filing fees. Although we serve San Diego County residents, we receive no operational funds from the County.
Over 90% of funding comes from a small portion of County civil filing fees; we do not receive any money from criminal filings or federal court filings.
The Uniform Civil Fee and Standard Fees Schedule Act of 2005 established a schedule for trial courts across the state and provided a sunset to the authority of counties to adjust filing fees. Since that time our revenue from filing fees has plummeted.
What You Can Do
Talk to your State Representatives and tell them how much access to the Law Library means to you and your community.
- Ask the State Legislature to include funds for public Law Libraries in the budget proposal.
- Tell your family and friends – spread the word about our value to the community.
- Volunteer your time to help at clinics, classes, and events.
- Donate money to the San Diego Law Library Justice Foundation.