City Ignores 70 Law Library Supporters
Who Testified at City Budget Hearing
March 27, 2013
Despite the impassioned testimony of more than 70 supporters at the Board of Supervisors’ budget subcommittee hearing last Wednesday, March 27, 2013, the subcommittee did not adopt the speakers’ recommendations and eloquent entreaties to provide the full amount of space required for the Library to operate, but passed a resolution for a grossly deficient amount of space. Supervisors Farrell, Avalos and Mar were the budget subcommittee members.
The comments at the hearing were incredibly moving, brilliant and a testimony of Library supporters' passion for access to justice for all. Many others have sent letters, emails or contacted the Supervisors as well. Bar associations, solo practitioners, large, medium-sized and small firm representatives testified, members of the public, a former U. S. District Court Judge and Deputy Attorney General of the United States testified in support of the Law Library. Law Librarians and legal advocacy groups also testified. The hearing may be viewed online here.
The Resolution was approved by the full board at its April 2nd meeting in 10-1 vote, with Supervisor David Campos dissenting.
The Law Library and its Board of Trustees convey their deepest thanks and appreciation to all of those who supported the Library at the budget hearing last Wednesday, and to those of you who sent letters, called or visited supervisors and who have supported the Library during this past year.
The Law Library will continue its effort to obtain justice for the Law Library through its pending litigation.
San Francisco Law Library Seeks Court Order to Avoid City Eviction Action
March 13, 2013
Counsel for the San Francisco Law Library filed this morning a motion asking the Superior Court to compel the City to provide adequate housing for the Library, along with a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to block the City of San Francisco from evicting the Library from its current location until a permanent and adequate space is identified.
The motion for issuance of a writ of mandate details the refusal by city officials to fund 30,000-square-feet of space at 1200 Van Ness Avenue – a site the Library had identified as available. After the Law Library filed its suit, the City has now come forward with a proposed resolution to support rental of 20,000 square feet for the Law Library, but according to papers filed by the Library today, the Library requires at least 30,000-35,000 square feet to house the essential collections, facilities and services of a full service county public law library. That amount of space is currently available at 1200 Van Ness.
“The City has abused its discretion in refusing to fund even this bare minimum amount of space,” according to the motion filed by Arnold & Porter, LLP. “The City has also abused its discretion in refusing to pay for the cost of necessary furniture, fixtures and equipment, moving expenses and the like. The Court should issue a writ of mandate to correct these abuses of discretion and allow the Library to move into an appropriate permanent location instead of being closed down through eviction. ”
California’s oldest public county law library sued the City and County of San Francisco last month, citing a failure by city officials for nearly 20 years to adequately provide space for the Library as required by the City Charter. The Library is facing eviction by the City from its current location at the Veterans Building. That structure is scheduled to close in May for retrofitting and renovation.
“While we continue to work to find a solution and a consensus with the city that can end this litigation, we nevertheless must take the appropriate legal steps to see that the Library is not displaced and that the public continues to have access to our collection and resources,” said Kurt Melchior, a partner at Nossaman, LLP, and President of the Law Library Board of Directors. “So many of our city officials have gone to law school and worked as lawyers – from our Mayor to numerous members of the Board of Supervisors. The value of our Library should be obvious to the City of San Francisco.”
As court papers filed by the Library today note, in 2004 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution declaring that a “full-service law library and justice center facility would promote access to justice by bringing together in one facility the legal resources and services needed by the people of San Francisco to enable them to preserve their rights and adjudicate their claims.”
The Board further stated that the Library is “necessary to serve the people of San Francisco by providing access to local, state and federal legal information resources and services in order that they may preserve their rights and conduct their legal affairs.”
If the Library is successful in its motion for a preliminary injunction, one consequence may be the delay of the retrofit of the Veterans Building. A hearing on both motions is scheduled for April 5, 2013.
“The record clearly shows the City of San Francisco understood in 2004 the need for and public benefit from the Library,” said Mr. Melchior. “That same understanding is lacking today. City officials are on the wrong side of the law and now they are needlessly jeopardizing the rebuild of another city institution – the Veterans Building. We have proposed an adequate solution and a compromise – it’s time for the City to live up to its obligations.”
The Law Library has a space crisis. It is housed in the Veterans building, which closes down for renovations in 2013. The City and County is legally obligated to provide and fund the Library’s space. There are strong indications that the City proposes to save space costs by further reducing the collection, seating, staffing and other resources, and a perception on the part of some City officials that the Law Library is not needed at all “because legal information is available on the Internet.” The Board of Supervisors must authorize the expenditure of funds to acquire, improve, and lease a space and for ongoing facilities costs.
In May 2013, a Letter of Support and Call for Action on behalf of the Law Library was sent to City officials from 700 supporters, including local law firms and attorneys, the President and Past Presidents of the State Bar, the Bar Association of San Francisco, students, pro se litigants, and many others who rely on our services and believe in our mission to promote access to justice and the availability of legal research resources. Read the letter and see a list of all of our supporters here.
What Library customers say about the Law Library:
"Today I needed a copy of certain sections of California [laws], which were repealed in 1994. Online sources have only a few years of full text of statutes... I could not find the [laws] I needed, except at the San Francisco Law Library. For everyone who works in the legal field it is important to have current information, and it remains equally important to have historical information, a lot of which is only available in print. Therefore it is imperative to have a local Law Library to... keep the non-online legal information." -M.C.
"A general law library—not biased towards a specialized practice, not loaded for history or theory alone, collected not strictly for laymen nor strictly for professionals—is a resource that can’t be mimicked by online resources… a physical library, not a virtual one, remains an essential tool." -A.T
"[A]s a sole practitioner, I use the library three to four times per week. Without it, I would not be able to continue to practice and provide pro bono services for the less fortunate. Not only does it contain invaluable written material but it provides me with access to Lexis and Westlaw which I am unable to afford on my own." -B.B.
"It’s unfortunate that such a prominent and progressive city as San Francisco [may] lose such a valuable resource….It is laughable that a world renowned city such as ours should be deprived of a proper law library and the tools to do our most important work, whether for education alone or our livelihood…. I hope our city officials will be able to push forward for the preservation and improvement to what our current library has been with a vision of what could be." -J.E.
"This library is an absolute treasure in San Francisco. Having access in hard copy to important and expensive legal treatises is an invaluable resource. Additionally, the staff librarians are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and understanding of the resources and complex legal questions requiring research." -Y.L.
“The practice materials that the Law Library maintains have been through editorial review and are among the best that are available to lawyers. Finding comparable information on the Internet without paid subscriptions is not possible. The electronic subscriptions and subscriptions for physical materials that the librarians maintain ensure that the information is current and accurate which is crucial to performing legal research.” -J.S.
"[M]any times when I, or another attorney at my firm, find ourselves at a complete loss of where to begin we turn to the San Francisco law library not only for its outstanding resources but also for its extraordinary staff." -Anon.