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From the President

A call to action

By Patrick Kelly
President, State Bar of California

Partick KellyIn my first address as president, I stated that California attorneys would be moving to the front lines in the pursuit of full funding for our courts. I also noted that continued cuts to our judicial funding not only impact our citizens directly, they destroy businesses, particularly small businesses, the backbone of the California economy. This, in turn, impacts the very health of our economy nationwide. One such example is Los Angeles, which recently announced the closing of 10 courthouses. I also noted it was our duty as officers of the court to address this funding requirement and issued a call to action for all California attorneys to join with me and other groups such as the Open Courts Coalition in seeking that funding.

In the past year, we in the legal community have made significant progress. We unified the voice of the legal community regarding judicial branch funding. Through the leadership of the Open Courts Coalition, we reached out and unified the 280-plus bar associations across the state. From county bars to specialty bars to ethnic bars, we have become one voice. This accomplishment is tremendous. But it isn't nearly enough. The next step is to secure the aid of all California attorneys and business representatives in pursuing that objective by educating and persuading our legislators to recognize the cataclysmic effect of these funding cuts. To that end I'd like to give you a brief update on our efforts.

Working with the Open Courts Coalition we have begun to explore all available options in greater depth. While litigation and the initiative process are under consideration by some in the legal profession, it is important to recognize that we are partners with the executive and legislative branches in addressing the need for restoration of court funding. Thus, it is critical that we work with, not against, the other branches in individually and aggressively addressing our concerns to our legislative representatives and the public. It is also important to recognize that this crisis in not limited to California. Inadequate court funding is a crisis that affects virtually every state.

To raise awareness of the crisis and its potential negative impact on businesses and our citizens, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye invited me to join her at a press conference organized by the National Center for State Courts in Washington, D.C. The conference was led by attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson and the immediate past president of the American Bar Association Bill Robinson. Chief justices from four states, including the chief justice of California, and legislators from Vermont and Utah discussed the national court funding crisis. It was an excellent conference and will certainly accomplish its mission of raising awareness of the court funding crisis.

One thing I learned at the conference is that in states that are making progress on the funding issue, courts and attorneys are making their legislators partners in finding a solution to the funding issue through candid information exchange and education as to the importance of the courts in the daily lives of their constituents. We in California can learn from this experience. So in answer to the question I often hear — "What can we do to address the funding crisis?" — an immediate course of action is for every California attorney and business representative to join with their legislators as partners and educate them through mail, email and phone calls as to the importance of meeting the judiciary’s funding requests and the consequences to access to justice in our community if they fail to do so.

For further information on the current funding cuts and what you can do, please email Joseph Dunn, CEO of the State Bar, at, Paul Kiesel, co-chair of the open OCC at or me at Also, many local bars are forming local coalitions so you might wish to contact your local bar as well to learn how you can get involved.