California courts’ reopening guidelines require all court appearances to be remote – via telephone or video call. Before the pandemic courtrooms were impossible places for social distancing of any sort. It was not uncommon to have “standing room only” in the small, cramped courtrooms in the three counties in which I regularly practice—San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara (north and south) and Ventura. Almost two weeks before our courts announced a shut down in early March, I informed our civil court presiding judge that both I and the three lawyers I employed were not going to make in-person court appearances.
In immigrant communities, language and poverty can create significant barriers to justice. This new model removes those barriers, allowing lawyers to assist more potential clients