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Saving the Law Library

Law Library Expert Discusses the Modern Public Law Library

Click on this link to read the Declaration of Law Library Expert Marcia K. Koslov
 Law Library Expert

 

How Did Law Library End Up with Such a Small Space?
May 2013

Last fall on its own the Library located a space at 1200 Van Ness Avenue and proposed to the city that it would be appropriate for new quarters for the Library when the Veterans building closed in May/June 2013. The Library's experts determined that the Library required 30,000-35,000 square feet to accommodate its services, collection, and public access computers, and that amount of space was available for lease at 1200 Van Ness. The city refused to provide that amount of space to the Law Library, and passed a resolution in April authorizing rental of no more than 15,633 net square feet at 1200 Van Ness and no more than 20,000 square feet total in the future. (See article below.)

After the Board of Supervisors passed the April resolution a San Francisco judge rejected our legal argument that the Board of Supervisors had abused its discretion in deciding that a 20,000 square foot space would be suitable for the Library. We continue to assert that State statutes and the City Charter mandate proper funding and adequate space for our facility and we will continue to advance this position in the courts and elsewhere.

Shortly after the court hearing, the city lost the opportunity to rent 1200 Van Ness for the Law Library. Now city officials are planning to move the Library to an even smaller space at 1145 Market Street.

 

Board of Supervisors’ Vote Fails to Provide
Sufficient Law Library Space
April 2, 2013

At the Board of Supervisors’ meeting today, the board approved a resolution 10-1, authorizing the City to enter into a lease to house the Law Library in only 15,633 net square feet. Supervisor David Campos voted against the resolution, and noted that there was no need to rush this resolution through today, three days before a hearing and ruling in San Francisco Superior Court and on the Library’s Motion for Writ of Mandate and Preliminary Injunction.

Unfortunately, at the meeting, the Supervisors relied solely on representations made by the City, and did not ask, consider or discuss any
of the Library’s extensive documentation and evidence which factually and legally contradicted the City’s representations. The Law Library’s three experts determined that the Library requires at least 30,000 square feet at minimum to serve its users. The Law Library has been housed in 14,000 square feet for 18 years, which is grossly inadequate and there has been insufficient room for the Library’s collection and services. Two thirds of its collection was placed in inaccessible storage by the City 18 years ago. The City previously acknowledged that the current location is deficient, although at today’s hearing the Director of the Department of Real Estate represented to the supervisors that the current location has been sufficient and adequate to meet the Law Library’s needs for the past 18 years.

A deeply disappointing day at the Board of Supervisors.

 

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.”

 

Law Library Press Release March 13, 2013

San Francisco Law Library Seeks Court Order to Avoid City Eviction Action 
Motion Seeks to Keep Library in Current Location until New Space Secured 

San Francisco, Calif. (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."

For more information, visit www.sflawlibrary.org.

 

Law Library Press Release February 6, 2013
Law Library Sues San Francisco for Breach of City Charter
City Neglects California’s Oldest County Law Library, Fails to Provide Adequate Space

San Francisco, Calif. (February 6, 2013) – The San Francisco Law Library filed a lawsuit today against the City and County of San Francisco, alleging that since 1995 the city has violated a City Charter provision that requires it to provide proper funding and adequate space for the Law Library. For decades, the Library shared part of the fourth floor of City Hall with the Superior Courts and had additional space in the building. There it served its mission by providing free and public legal resources to the courts, lawyers and self-represented litigants alike. Following the 1989 earthquake, when City Hall closed in 1995 for retrofitting, the city moved the Library to a temporary space designed for the two year retrofit period at the Veterans War Memorial building that was and continues to be insufficient. After the retrofit, the Law Library was not moved back to its City Hall quarters as originally planned.
Currently, the Library is allotted just 14,310 square feet – an amount that cannot accommodate the Library’s collection, staff and patrons. “For nearly two decades, we have tried to work with city officials to identify the appropriate space and facilities for the San Francisco Law Library,” said Kurt Melchior, a partner at Nossaman, LLP, and President of the Law Library Board of Directors. “Our library serves thousands of people a year who otherwise would lack access to important legal research and texts. In 1870, the California State
Legislature recognized the importance of a law library for the legal community and the public at large by creating this, the first law library in California. Now, every county in the state is required by law to maintain a law library. In 2013, it is beyond belief that San Francisco – a city which routinely seeks to protect its most vulnerable populations – is set to abandon such a vital public benefit.”

The lawsuit, case number CPF-13-512769 filed in San Francisco Superior Court, details how a succession of city officials have failed to live up to their obligations to provide suitable housing for the Law Library, which is the oldest of its type in California and holds one of the most valuable collections of legal books in the country. Since 1995, the Library has been housed in a cramped, leaky and damaged upper room of the San Francisco Veterans War Memorial building. The Veterans building is set to close for renovation in May 2013, meaning that if the city continues to violate the Charter and fail to meet its obligations, the Law Library will then be homeless. Under City Charter section 8.103 and pursuant to state law, the City and County of San Francisco is required to “provide suitable and sufficient quarters for the Law Library.” The Law Library is not a city agency but rather a non-profit public corporation chartered under state law, and is largely funded by court filing fees. The Charter provision requires San Francisco to not only provide and furnish a suitable space, but also to fund utilities and at a minimum the positions of Librarian and Assistant Librarian.

Currently, the Library has been forced by lack of space to place two-thirds of its collection – more than 165,000 volumes – into inaccessible and environmentally unsafe storage.
“The city is damaging an important resource,” said Mr. Melchior. “City officials are on the wrong side of the law, violating the city charter and abusing the public trust.” Since 1995, a variety of administrations and a rotation of city officials have pledged to identify and provide suitable space for the Law Library. Those promises remain unfulfilled. “Our Board has sought consensus and compromise with the City of San Francisco for nearly 18 years,” said Mr. Melchior. “And during that time, we have seen the city fail time and time again to
provide an appropriate space. Even at this late hour, the city still has not proposed any viable plan to permanently and properly locate the San Francisco Law Library, and has rejected a suitable option recently submitted by the Library.”

More than 700 attorneys and judges – including five past presidents of the California Bar Association – have signed a letter asking the City to fulfill its obligations under state law. The Library is seeking a writ of mandate from the Superior Court to order San Francisco to provide suitable space. The Library is being represented in this case by the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP.
For more information, visit www.sflawlibrary.org.

 

Crisis:  Law Library Has No Place to Move
Spring 2012

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 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.

 

 

 

 

Last updated: 6/10/2013 6:21:06 PM