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Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office announces collaborative launch of Community Outreach Court (COC)

Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office announces collaborative launch of Community Outreach Court (COC) 480 149 COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES

March 21, 2024

Media Relations

Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office announces collaborative launch of Community Outreach Court (COC)

Today, the Los Angeles County Office of the Public Defender, in partnership with the Alternate Public Defender’s Office, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, and Mayor Karen Bass’ Office of Community Safety announced the official launch of the Community Outreach Court (COC) to assist individuals experiencing homelessness in resolving various legal matters, effectively removing obstacles hindering access to housing, employment and social services.

“Today we celebrate the launch of the Community Outreach Court. This comes out of years of prior work listening to our houseless neighbors, understanding the challenges they face, and wanting to lift every barrier and obstacle out of the way so they can get an equitable chance to do better and more,” said LA County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First District. “This is a great example of what happens when there is teamwork, collaboration, and a unified goal between community and government to increase access to justice for all.”

“As public defenders, we understand that housing instability further complicates existing legal challenges for our most vulnerable neighbors. Community Outreach Court builds on our commitment to addressing systemic barriers and ensuring equitable access to justice,” said LA County Public Defender Ricardo D. Garcia“By offering legal assistance and facilitating connections to essential community-based services, we’re providing the necessary tools to help individuals rebuild their lives with the goal of preventing further contact with the criminal legal system. This is especially true for people who otherwise do not have the means to come to a court building to request assistance.”

Over the initial three-month pilot phase, COC has successfully aided more than 90 persons experiencing homelessness with record clearance, ticket relief, warrant resolution, and housing assistance.

“The Superior Court of Los Angeles County appreciates our ongoing partnership with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, as well as the Los Angeles County Office of the Public Defender and the Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender, to offer the Community Outreach Court as an important tool that provides an accessible forum to resolve minor legal issues that impede access to critical services to our unhoused population,” Presiding Judge Samantha P. Jessner said. “The Community Outreach Court serves as another example of the Court’s efforts to meet court users where they are. Whether it’s the Redondo Beach Homeless Court, the Shelter, Treatment, and Empowerment Program (STEP) Court in Santa Monica, the Homeless Court in the City of Long Beach, or the Community Outreach Court on Skid Row, our Court is committed to thinking expansively and strategically about removing barriers that may otherwise inhibit the success and stability of those attempting to resolve cases in the justice system and change their lives.”

COC convenes every third Thursday of the month at the Skid Row Community Refresh Spot, a 24/7 public safe space offering essential amenities such as showers, restrooms, laundry facilities, phone charging, drinking water, access to social services, and pet supplies.

The primary objective of COC is to facilitate the housing of individuals experiencing homelessness while alleviating the complexities associated with navigating the criminal legal system. Key services provided by COC include the clearance of eligible bench warrants, expungement of eligible convictions, resolution of eligible misdemeanor cases and citations, addressing outstanding fines and fees, and connecting participants with reentry and job opportunities.

More information regarding Community Outreach Court can be found at pubdef.lacounty.gov/COC.

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