Jan 21, 2019
by Debra Newby, Newby Law
Legal issues…we all eventually bump up against them. Perhaps a dispute with your neighbor regarding Fido, the constantly barking dog. Perhaps you got busted for petty theft, and now want to clear that criminal record so you get an apartment or a job. Ideally, one would retain the services of a competent attorney. But not everyone can afford an attorney. Where do you go? What do you do?
One local and valuable resource is the Sonoma County Public Law Library. Yes, a law library dedicated to legal topics. You probably won’t find “Estate Planning for Dummies”, but you will find over 26,000 books, CD’s and other legal resource materials available and free to the public (Note: You must be a member of the Law Library to check out the materials or you can use the available copy machine — bring your sock of quarters.)
When you walk through their door at 2604 Ventura Boulevard, Santa Rosa (just north of the County Accessor’s office in the county complex near Administration Drive), you will likely be greeted by Douglas, Dorian, or Verlin... three friendly and very helpful staff. Our little Law Library is the largest one north of San Francisco.
After the retirement of Kimberly Tucker, who was our Law Librarian for 17 years, Nikolaos Pelekis was appointed as our Director. And what a cadre of talents he offers, having practiced law in Greece for seven years, he has an innate understanding of legal principles.
“It is incredible how many people walk into the library who can’t afford a lawyer,” says Nikolaos. “We can’t give legal advice, but we can point them in the right direction to a resource that can help clarify the issue for them.”
There is one very narrow opportunity for the public to receive free legal guidance/advice, thanks to a fairly new program called “Lawyers in the Library”, which rotates every other month among the multiple branches of the public libraries and the Law Library. On Monday, February 11th from 6-8 pm the Guerneville Public Libraryis hosting “Lawyers in the Library.” On Saturday, March 2 from 1-3 pm the Sonoma County Law Library on Ventura is hosting. For more details and the 2019 schedule, check out www.sonomalibrary.org/events/programs/lawyers-in-the-library.
The Law Library offers other public services, such as being an official Passport Acceptance Facility. You can apply for or renew your passport at our Law Library. No long lines. No hassles. Free parking. The Law Library also offers rental of conference rooms, with very competitive rates (ranging from $20-$35 per hour). Check out their website at http://sonomacountylawlibrary.org for more details.
The Law Library has weathered multiple financial struggles. Frankly, a couple of years ago they almost closed their doors due to lack of funding. Over 90% of its funding comes from a portion of the civil filing fees, which have decreased for a multitude of reasons.
How can you help? Well, two simple actions come to mind:
1) Go to the Law Library website and make a donation. Or, if you are a frequent Amazon shopper, join Amazon Smile and chose the Amicus Law Library as your charitable organization. A percentage of your Amazon charges will be donated to Amicus Law Library, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization; and
2) Check out their Facebook page for current events and join/follow as a friend: www.facebook.com/SonomaCountyLawLibrary.
The Law Library is more than stacks of books and CD’s, perfectly ordered by legal topic. It is more than a comfy reading area, where one is embraced by a soft red chair, fireplace nearby. It is a symbol of Access to Justice..keeping its doors open no matter the struggle so that the light of justice is available to all, especially the ordinary person who may not be able to afford an attorney.
In closing, I’d like to give a “shout-out” to one of my mentors, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who stated, “We have the oldest written constitution still in force in the world, and it starts out with the words, ‘We, the people.’ ” Our Sonoma County Public Law Library serves “the people”. Go visit. Join their Facebook page. And don’t forget Amazon Smile.
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