In 2015, Manatt began working with Children’s Law Center of California (CLC), along with various statewide allies, to increase state funding aimed at reducing extremely high caseloads for attorneys who represent children and parents in California’s dependency courts. That year, the firm helped CLC lobby for an $11 million increase in the state budget allocated for dependency counsel, and successfully lobbied for the approval of a separate line item for funding dependency counsel in future state budgets. Before these efforts, the state appropriation for dependency counsel had not been increased for a decade.
Over the next four years, Manatt continuously supported CLC and the statewide coalition’s successful efforts to annually increase support for dependency counsel in the state budget. These efforts culminated in the signing of the 2019-20 state budget by Governor Newsom on June 27, which provided a significant investment of an additional $20 million to further reduce caseloads for dependency counsel.
With the increase from both state and federal sources, it is estimated it will be possible—now and ongoing—to provide enough money to finally reduce attorney caseloads to the long-sought target of a maximum 141 clients per attorney, including investigative and social work assistance for every attorney. For Los Angeles County alone, state funding for dependency counsel has increased by about 213% since 2015, which is expected to result in caseload reductions per attorney from 325 to 141, or about 56%.
CLC represents children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned and who come under the protection of the Los Angeles, Sacramento or Placer County Juvenile Dependency Court systems. The organization was created by the Superior Court in 1990 to serve as appointed counsel for these Los Angeles-area youth.
The Manatt team included managing director Steve Coony, legislative and regulatory advisor Delilah Clay, and administrative assistant Karen Blackwell.