The Council of California County Law Librarians (CCCLL) is thrilled to report that the California Legislature included a supplemental funding allocation of $16.5 million for California County Law Libraries in the 2018-19 state budget. CCCLL had intensely advocated for several years on behalf of Californians desperately in need of legal support and resources. The Governor signed off on the budget, including the supplemental allocation, on June 27.
The need in California is tremendous, if not overwhelming. The additional $16.5 million will ensure that Californians retain access to legal information and therefore access to justice.
County Law Libraries that were on the brink of closure will now be able to remain open. All California County Law Libraries will continue to serve the public, particularly those who are facing legal challenges but cannot afford counsel.
These new funds will allow the libraries to serve vulnerable populations and rural communities and address disaster preparedness and response. Additionally, they will be able to provide service for non-English speakers, especially in areas of immigration, workforce-reentry, and housing. In these and many other areas, Californians desperately need help.
The supplemental funding from the State was critically needed because the civil filing fee revenue that County Law Libraries depend on had dropped by nearly 40% (or $16.5 million) since 2009. Over 90% of County Law Library funding comes from a small portion of civil filing fees. The portion is $2 to $50 per case, depending on the county and type of case.
Recently, the amount libraries received fluctuated unpredictably. Law library revenue dropped precipitously over the past 9 years because of a decrease in the number of case filings, an increase in the number of fee waivers granted, changes to jurisdictional limits, and new exemptions adopted into law. Until this allocation, County Law Libraries had not received any general fund or special fund appropriations from the State.
CCCLL is profoundly grateful to the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees, the Latino Caucus, the 30+ individual legislators who wrote on behalf of County Law Libraries and access to justice, each of the California chapters of AALL (SCALL, NOCALL and SANDALL) who wrote to voice support, and the many other individuals and elected officials who helped make this happen.
CCCLL will continue to advocate for ongoing funding so that Californians can continue to receive legal assistance and support.