- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

California’s court system is still trying to recover from $1 billion in budget cuts during the recession that forced layoffs and courthouse closures across the state. During that time, as people were forced to wait longer for their day in court, several court administrators and judges established innovative measures to improve access or make courts more efficient.

Here’s a sampling of what some counties have done:


Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, Solano and Fresno started one-day divorce programs that provide help to work through the complex paperwork and get a judge to grant a divorce the same day in cases where the breakup wasn’t contested.

Several courts, including Sacramento Family Law and San Diego Probate, began issuing orders electronically, so the parties in a dispute can leave court with a judge’s order instead of waiting weeks for lawyers to draft the order, get a judge’s signature and have a clerk process it.

Los Angeles allowed divorced parties to order judgments online.

Santa Clara sends automated reminder phone messages to self-represented litigants a week before hearings and offers mediation services by Skype.


Los Angeles jurors can respond to jury summons online, reschedule jury service and take a web orientation that allows them to report for jury duty two hours later than those who don’t.

Yolo County bought a series of computerized kiosks that let jurors scan the bar code on their summons to check in for service and change any information on file.

Marin Superior Court scans juror questionnaires that lawyers can view at a password-protected webpage instead of providing paper copies.


In response to closing its courthouse in Coalinga, Fresno County started holding remote traffic hearings through video one day a week to save residents in the western part of the county a 60-mile drive each way. They offer a similar program in Mendota City Hall, some 30 miles away. About 650 people have been served over two years, and court officials hope to expand the program to the eastern part of the county.

San Diego has an outside window for people to pay traffic fines without having to enter the courthouse. They can also set up online payment and scheduling options.

Los Angeles sends automated phone reminders of court dates and offers the option of paying the citation instead of appearing in court.

Orange and San Mateo counties offer online scheduling for traffic hearings.


Los Angeles schedules legal proceedings online in personal injury cases. It has been expanded to other courts in the county.


San Diego used college students to encourage people with small claims to go through mediation, reducing the number of people who go to trial and cutting the workload on staff.


Remote video is used to provide foreign-language interpreters in Fresno County when one isn’t locally available. Stanislaus County uses a similar system for American Sign Language interpreters.


Butte County Superior Court agreed to provide technology support to the courts of its smaller neighbor, Glenn County.


Riverside Superior Court offers an option to be notified by text message or email two weeks before payments are due in criminal, traffic, and juvenile delinquency cases. It also allows fines to be paid through private companies or by online banking.

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