California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George (center)
SACRAMENTO -- California should extend a service that provides lawyers to the poor in criminal cases to civil cases, according to California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George. George said, in his annual address to state Supreme Court reporters, that he had proposed to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launching a pilot project in three unidentified Californian counties. He said that in some counties 60-90 percent of plaintiffs and defendants in lawsuits arrive in court without a lawyer. He admitted that the governor was not enthusiastic about a new program while the state battles a $5.5 billion budget deficit, despite George's offer to name the program for Schwarzenegger's father-in-law, Sargent Shriver. Undeterred, George said he would also push for another three-county pilot project to pay for court interpreters in civil cases over basic rights. Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation in October that would have provided interpreters for civil cases in all counties, citing costs of up to $10 million a year. George has been working on both issues with Democratic state representative, Dave Jones of Sacramento, a former Legal Aid attorney.