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The Elder Court

In California, the Contra Costa County Superior Court, located in Martinez, runs a unique program, The Elder Court. This is such a brilliant and important idea that you should know about it.

The Honorable Joyce Cram has presided over the court, which is in session every Tuesday, since it was established in 2008, and handles every possible kind of elder-related case – criminal, conservatorships, probate, financial abuse, physical abuse, civil cases, restraining orders, small claims and more.

The Elder Court program goes further than familiar formal courts. It also provides a Senior Peer Counseling program, volunteers who are available during every court session to support petitioners through the process and when necessary, work with the District Attorney's Victims Assistance Program.

Judge Cram explains further:

“They will meet with the seniors before the hearing and tell them where they’re going to sit before they are called, what papers to show the judge and when to speak.

“After the hearing, they will make reassurance calls to make sure the elder understood what happened. A lot of times if you are self-represented, senior or not, you have no idea what just happened when you got the order. So there are reassurance components before and afterward.”

Another service, the Senior Self-Help Center, is staffed by experienced attorneys, providing free assistance and referrals for a wide variety of legal claims and helps prepare elders for hearings. There is also a free Spanish translation service.

The court also recognizes that, as Judge Cram notes, “elders have special physical, mental and psychological needs that traditional courtrooms were poorly equipped to address." An example:

”At 10:00AM is the restraining order calendar. We calendared those at 10:00 on purpose,” says Judge Cram. “It is difficult for someone who may be old and frail to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, take their medications and be alert by 8:30AM. There is evidence that 10:00AM is an optimal time for alertness for seniors.

“We have evidentiary hearings at 10:30AM, and those might be the preliminary examinations with the elderly victim, or even to preserve testimony if there is a risk that the victim will die before trial.”

Next week, The Elder Court will receive the State of California's highest award, the Ralph N. Kleps Award for Improvement in Administration.

It is, as far as I can determine, the only court of its kind in the U.S. But others are beginning to take notice. According to the judge, she has met so far with interested representatives of court systems around northern and southern California, from Buffalo and Chicago.

This is an excellent beginning. Now, there should be Elder Courts in every state of the land. You can read more here and here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Stuff


WOW. I am impressed!

Absolutely fantastic. I hope this idea catches on everywhere.

This is an excellent idea and I hope the Elder Court spreads to every State in the Union.

Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

What a clever idea. I suppose some people think elders are like juveniles?

What a wonderful service. I wish an Elder Court was available everyplace.

I knew of an 80 year old woman in Tucson who was being abused by her youngest son who lived with her. Out of fear, she finally sold her home and moved in with her older son and his family. She still drove and was able to care for herself.

It was a sad story and if this kind of help had been available to her she may have been able to stay in her own home.

There are days when I am very proud of California, which often leads the way in this kind of thing! Plus, it's a great place to live ;-)

Wonderful. Thanks!

I agree that this should be in every state. It would reduce the docket overload on the court systems there and provide a fair hearing for the needs of the elder.

California may be an earthquake away from slipping into the Pacific but I wouldn't mind living there for such public services, including legal use of medicinal marijuana. :-)

Innovation at its finest. I hope the idea spreads.

What a great idea! I, too hope it spreads. Today my husband and I took a step that we hope will minimize our chances of ending up being victimized or in court. We had 2-hour conference with a geriatric consultant. She reviewed all our documents (which were prepared by an attorney about 8 years ago and we thought were in pretty good order), assessed our home for aging-in-place and gave us a general idea of what our options would be if we were forced to move. They're more limited than we'd like, but that's real-world information we need to have.

Since we aren't wealthy, we can forget about the so-called continuing care retirement communities with all the amenities plus medical care if/when it's needed. (Those glossy promotional materials they send out should be a clue--millionaires only need apply!)

Although the results weren't exactly what we wanted to hear, they were very helpful. I've already started researching elder law attorneys to revise our living wills and durable powers of attorney. Although we're fine in our 2BR townhome for the foreseeable future, she confirmed what I already suspected: that it would be very difficult to cope if one or both of us becomes too disabled to deal with stairs. She suggested visiting at least 3 care facilities each year so we'll have some idea of what's out there before we need it. Not my idea of fun but a very wise suggestion.

I live in Contra Costa County and had no idea this existed! Wow! Thanks for the info

Great idea put into action. And Elizabeth Rogers mentioned another service I did not know existed--a geriatric consultant!

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