All about California's Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel pilot projects

06/30/2020, Pilot, Housing - Evictions

UPDATE: Shriver 2020 data released


The Shriver projects have released their latest report.  Some of the key findings:


    • Across the pilots, 67 percent of cases were settled, 3 percent resolved via trial, and 8 percent ended by default, compared to non-Shriver cases where 34 percent were settled, 14 percent resolved via trial, and 26 percent ended by default.
    • For housing cases:
      • The default rate dropped from 40% to near zero. 
      • While representation did not have a major impact on a tenant’s ability to stay in the home, only 3% of Shriver cases ended with a formal eviction being entered, and 83% moved as part of a negotiated settlement, compared to only 44% of non-Shriver cases. 
      • 91% of Shriver cases ended with the eviction record sealed, 81% with the eviction not reported to a credit agency, and 71% with a neutral reference provided by the landlord.
      • Shriver tenants saved nearly $800 more in reduced rent and other fees while paying holdover damages or attorney’s fees only half as often.
      • This is really key: one year later, 71% of Shriver clients had obtained a new rental unit, compared to 43% of non-Shriver tenants.


UPDATE: Shriver funding doubled!

AB 330, enacted in 2019, increased the funding for the Shriver projects by almost twofold.


UPDATE: Report on Shriver projects shows may positive results of representation


On July 28, 2017, the first report on the Shriver projects was released (check out the California Judicial Council's press release and a brief story in SFGate), and the California Judicial Council unanimously approved a third round of 3-year grants totaling $7.2 million.

Update: Shriver "pilots" are now permanent projects


The Shriver pilots were originally set to sunset after six years.  However, in June 2016 the Governor signed legislation making the Shriver pilots permanent.



In October 2009, the Governor signed the "Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act", which created pilot programs (Cal.Gov.Code § 68650) for the right to counsel in cases affecting basic human needs (such as domestic violence, deprivation of child custody, housing, and elder abuse). The bill's findings stated that "Due to insufficient funding from all sources, existing programs providing free services in civil matters to indigent and disadvantaged persons, especially underserved groups such as elderly, disabled, children, and non-English-speaking persons, are not adequate to meet existing needs."  It then stated that "Legal counsel shall be appointed to represent low-income parties in civil matters involving critical issues affecting basic human needs in those specified courts selected by the Judicial Council as provided in this section."


The pilots, which cover housing, custody, and guardianship in eight different sites, began operation in 2012 and were subsequently featured in a New York Times article about the civil right to counsel movement.

To see more about the pilots, check out the NCCRC's comprehensive bibliography section.