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What We’re Working On

IT’S NOW THE LAW

E-File for Restraining Orders 

Assembly bill 887 would give victims of domestic abuse an important option to ensure safe and timely access to the courts by giving the option to e-file restraining order. AB 887 would give greater access to the courts by victims of domestic abuse by requiring all court facilities to process TROs and DVROs petitions electronically during and after business hours. The bill also requires the courts to prominently display the link to file the petitions on court’s website. For victims, the process for obtaining a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a domestic violence restraining order (DTRO) has been complicated by the closure and limited access to the courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially during a pandemic, timely access to the courts is necessary to protect the most vulnerable people in our community and prevent harm to victims of domestic abuse. Without alternatives to file a TRO or a DVRO, victims of domestic abuse will continue to be exposed to harm with limited opportunities to escape the dangerous and often life threatening cycle of violence. The need extends beyond the pandemic. Transportation, childcare, poverty, and paid jobs all present hurdles for individuals seeking restraining orders. Furthermore, in the case of domestic violence victims many have indicated that the courthouse is the most anxiety-inducing place they must go while pursuing safety for themselves, their children, and their family members. Petitioners can become confused or frustrated by the unfamiliar process; they see their perpetrator at the courthouse, or they are harassed or intimidated or by the abuser. These issues deprive access to safety and justice for domestic violence victims and their families. The ability for a victim to receive relief from the courts in the form of a restraining order could mean the difference between life and death for them.

View Recent AB-887
IT’S NOW THE LAW

Shortened Divorce Waiting Period for Domestic Abuse Victims 

Senate Bill 536 allows victims of domestic abuse to dissolve their marriage in less than the current mandatory six-month waiting period.

The rationale was to allow for a “cooling off” period to ensure that couples have the time to fully think through whether they truly want to end the marriage.  While this may make sense in many situations, “cooling off” in a domestic violence situation is an antiquated concept, as it presumes that such violence is merely the result of a heated moment that can be dismissed.  Requiring a victim of domestic violence to wait could mean prolonged abuse, or worse, the difference between life and death.

The six-month period also allows the abusing spouse to weaponize the system.  It provides more opportunity for the abuser to continue to exert control through financial and custody matters, as well as continued emotional abuse.  Judges and attorneys alike say that giving judges more discretion to stop the gaming of the system would be a helpful tool.  When they see the abuser taking advantage of the system, they have little choice but to let the tactic play out for the sixth-month waiting period. This is especially detrimental when almost 90% of family law cases involve unrepresented litigants, which includes contested custody and domestic violence cases.  The more time that passes in the divorce process means the victim spouse will have to spend more money and endure continuing abuse.

View Recent SB-536
IT’S NOW THE LAW

E-Filing for Domestic Violence and Gun Violence Restraining Orders

SB 538 would require a court or court facility that receives petitions for domestic violence restraining orders or gun violence restraining orders to permit those petitions to be filed electronically. The bill would also permit parties and witnesses to appear remotely at a hearing on a petition for a gun violence restraining order or domestic violence restraining order. To make access to e-filing easier, the bill would require the superior court of each county to provide telephone numbers for the public to call to obtain information regarding electronic filing and remote appearances. The bill would also require the superior court of each county to develop and to post on its internet website, local rules and instructions for electronic filing and remote appearances.

View Recent SB-538
IT’S NOW THE LAW

Police Reform: Limits Immunity & Decertifies Bad Cops

Senate Bill 2 (SB2) is a police reform bill that limits immunity for police officers and provides a process for the decertification of law enforcement officers convicted of serious crimes or who are fired for misconduct. The bill would make it more difficult for officers who are fired for misconduct in one department to simply move and resume their law enforcement career at another police department. Under this legislation, the state of California would set up an advisory board made up of law enforcement members and the general public to review allegations of misconduct. This new board would work in conjunction with the existing Peace Officer Standards Accountability Advisory Board to decide if officers should be decertified. They would have the ability to make all of the related records open to the public. The bill also effectively lowers the standard for the burden of proof needed to secure wrongful death charges against peace officers.

View Recent SB-2
IT’S NOW THE LAW

Protection for Peaceful Protests: New Standards for Police and Rubber Bullets

Assembly Bill 48 would prohibit any law enforcement agency from using kinetic projectiles such as rubber bullets and bean bags, and chemical agents such as tear gas to disperse peaceful protests or demonstrations. In recent social justice demonstrations in California law enforcement agencies have deployed so-called “less lethal” weapons like kinetic projectiles (rubber bullets, beanbags, and foam rounds), and chemical agents (tear gas, pepper balls, and OC spray) to control crowds. Projectiles weapons used by officers have caused serious bodily harm, including broken jaws, blindness and traumatic brain injury.

AB 48 requires officers to be trained on the safe use of kinetic projectiles and chemical agents for situations where any person’s life is threatened or they are at risk of serious injury. In these instances, officers would be required to use other de-escalation techniques before using projectile weapons and they must provide prompt medical assistance to any person injured. AB 48 prohibits aiming these weapons at the head, neck or other vital organs.

View Recent AB-48
IT’S NOW THE LAW

Professional Visitation Monitor Reform

AB 1165 would prevent anyone from serving as a paid visitation monitor for children if they are convicted of a sex crime as well as other violent or serious felonies. The bill would require monitor candidates to obtain a LiveScan background check at the time of their initial employment and annually thereafter. LiveScans are currently required for teachers, childcare workers and even school volunteers.

The bill clarifies that 12 of the required 24 hours of training for professional monitors must be done in-person to ensure the training has been done.

View Recent AB-1165
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IT’S NOW THE LAW

No Firearms: Out-of-State Domestic Abuse Suspects (or restraining order holders)

AB 164 would close a loophole and help protect domestic abuse survivors by allowing California courts to enforce firearm prohibitions that are part of court orders issued in other states. Currently, California recognizes domestic violence protective orders issued by other states. However, California law does not permit a law enforcement official or court to recognize a firearm prohibition issued by another state for domestic abuse or any other violation. That leaves California officials unable to enforce a valid prohibition of the possession or purchase of a firearm issued in another state. AB 164 prevents someone from skirting a valid firearm prohibition issued in another state by crossing the state line in to California.

View Recent AB-164
IT’S NOW THE LAW

Rape Kit Testing Reform

SB 22 would require that law enforcement agencies submit sexual assault forensic evidence to a crime lab for processing in a timely manner.

View Recent SB-22
IT’S NOW THE LAW

Screening For Sexually Violent Predators

AB 141 would require that sexually violent predators serving an indeterminate prison sentence be evaluated less than 6 months from the inmates scheduled release date.

View Recent SB-141

Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation: No Communication With A Minor

AB 135 would make it a felony to contact a minor with the intent to engage in human trafficking.

View Recent AB-135

Passed Legislation

Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 117

Key Elkins’ Recommendations for Family Law Courts

Develop Streamline Procedures for Uncontested Cases & Defaults

The research by the Elkins Report indicates there is a high percentage of divorce cases that could be settled without the people involved appearing before a judicial officer.  Developing streamline procedures for uncontested cases and defaults could help eliminate unnecessary court appearance and reduce the cost and time commitment from the people involved in those case as well as speed up the process dramatically.

Simple Forms for Motions, Discovery, and Couples in Agreement

The number and complexity of forms used for motions, discovery and even agreements have grown over the years often making it difficult to tell which forms are needed or even how they should be used. Frequently used forms should be reviewed to make them clear and easy to use by attorneys and by people representing themselves. These forms should also be easy to find.

Assess and Improve Mechanisms to Handle Perjury

Finding a timely and fair resolution to marriage dissolution cases depends on factual information being presented to the courts, but many litigants feel far too often the information submitted to the courts is false. To combat this problem, the types of sanctions available to judges should be expanded for both attorneys and the parties in the case who intentionally file false statements and information.

Set Time Standards for Divorce Completion

Even though other states have time standards for completion of the dissolution of marriage, California family courts do not.  Rules are needed to set out a framework for timely disposition of family law cases. The Elkins Report set the following time standards as realistic goals for case completion.

  • 20% resolved within 9 months
  • 75% resolved within 18 months
  • 90% resolved within 24 months

*Currently the average time for a marriage dissolution case in California is 11.7 months without children and 18.2 months for families with children

Provide Culturally Competent Mediation Services

California is an ethnically and culturally diverse state, but current mediation services are not always trained or equipped to consider the social norms from a variety of cultures and sexual orientations.

Source: mediation.com

The Elkins Family Law Task Force Final Reports

For more than a decade, improvements have been recommended through independent reviews by the Judicial Council via the Elkins Family Law Task Force Final Report, as well as legislators, attorneys, judges and the very people using the system. Unfortunately, few of those recommendations have been put into practice. FJAIA is committed to keeping those needed changes in the forefront and advocating for the people who use the family law courts.

The Elkins Family Law Task Force Final Reports

For more than a decade, improvements have been recommended through independent reviews by the Judicial Council via the Elkins Family Law Task Force Final Report, as well as legislators, attorneys, judges and the very people using the system. Unfortunately, few of those recommendations have been put into practice. FJAIA is committed to keeping those needed changes in the forefront and advocating for the people who use the family law courts.