All about California's Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel pilot projects

07/28/2017, Pilot, Custody Disputes - Parents

In October 2009, the Governor signed the "Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act", which created pilot programs (Cal.Gov.Code § 68650) for the right to counsel in cases affecting basic human needs (such as domestic violence, deprivation of child custody, housing, and elder abuse). The bill's findings stated that "Due to insufficient funding from all sources, existing programs providing free services in civil matters to indigent and disadvantaged persons, especially underserved groups such as elderly, disabled, children, and non-English-speaking persons, are not adequate to meet existing needs."  It then stated that "Legal counsel shall be appointed to represent low-income parties in civil matters involving critical issues affecting basic human needs in those specified courts selected by the Judicial Council as provided in this section."


The pilots, which cover housing, custody, and guardianship in eight different sites, began operation in 2012 and were subsequently featured in a New York Times article about the civil right to counsel movement.  The pilots were originally set to sunset after six years.  However, in June 2016 the Governor signed legislation making the Shriver pilots permanent.

On July 28, 2017, the first report on the pilots was released (check out the California Judicial Council's press release and a brief story in SFGate), and the California Judicial Council unanimously approved a third round of 3-year grants totaling $7.2 million.

To see more about the pilots, check out the NCCRC's comprehensive bibliography section.