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Hours and Locations

Law Library
Hall of Justice, Third Floor (Room 300)
600 Union Avenue
Fairfield, CA 94533

Monday - Friday8:00 AM - 4:30 PM
Saturday - SundayClosed

Holiday Schedule

Solano County Law Library
The Law Library is open to the public, and provides access to books and electronic resources that help people research their legal questions. The collection includes basic and specialized legal materials that address California and federal case law, civil law, criminal law, family law, and other legal areas. During operating hours, staff can assist customers with their research. Customers may even print or photocopy materials for a cost. Law Library staff does not give legal advice.

If the Law Library is closed, the public can still find self-help resources on the internet. If you are representing yourself, explore our listing of legal self-help links and legal self-help videos. Also, the Solano County Library branches possess Nolo Press books that have information on legal procedures and forms. Please call 1-866-57ASKUS to find out what the library closest to you has.

Ask the Law Librarian @ Solano County

Special Collections

The Law Library has many resources to offer its customers. Everyone may visit Solano County Law Library. Although checkout is restricted to attorneys and judges, subject to copyright laws, the public may photocopy limited information from our books. The collection encompasses all aspects of California (civil, family, criminal, etc.) and federal (U.S.C.A., etc.) law. Statutory law books and practice titles are available. There are materials especially for the public, such as the Nolo Press series.

You can always call the Law Library at (707) 421-6520 for more details. Or you can explore the catalog for other Nolo and law-related titles available at the Law Library and Solano County Library.

Online services

Solano County Law Library subscribes to several databases, making the attainment of legal information cost-effective for legal professionals and the public. All the databases below are free to use when visiting the Law Library.

  • CEB OnLAW—provides electronic access to Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) titles; chapters from over 140 books (Available only at Solano County Law Library)
  • Legal Information Reference Center (NOLO Press)—Access 100+ Nolo Press titles online. Subject matter includes family law, real estate law, and other legal topics. You can download and email chapters and forms at no cost. (Available at Solano County Law Library and Solano County Library)
  • LexisNexis —contains California and federal case/statutory laws; access to more than 200 form templates. (Available only at Solano County Law Library)
  • VerdictSearch—online version of a publication; spotlights specific cases and the monetary amounts that were requested. (Available only at Solano County Law Library)
  • Westlaw (Free Access)—contains California and federal case/statutory laws; chapters from over 50 legal books; articles from over 100 law reviews. (Available only at Solano County Law Library)

If you have not used the databases listed above, Law Library staff members can show you how. We can also direct you to legal self-help links  and foreclosure assistance or within the community.


  • The RecorderDaily Journal, law reviews from prestigious law schools, and California Lawyer.

Conference Room

The Law Library has a conference room available for public use. Please read our booking details before calling to make a reservation.

Finding Attorneys and Legal Professionals

According to California Business & Professions Code §6125, you may not practice law in California unless you are an active member of the California State Bar. Unfortunately, despite the statute, there are still individuals who fraudulently pose as attorneys or other legal professionals. Even if you have hired someone, it would not hurt to double-check their credentials. Visit the State Bar of California to ensure that you are indeed working with an attorney who is registered to practice law. Visit the Treasurer-Tax Collector-County Clerk’s office to determine if a legal document assistant, unlawful detainer assistant or paralegal is registered to provide services in Solano County. If you have been a victim of someone unlawfully practicing law, visit the State Bar of California and Solano County District Attorney’s Consumer and Environmental Crimes Unit for more information.

All devices are color printers/copiers with scanning function (can scan to USB flash drive and/or print from USB)

Each branch has one printer/copier that accepts credit cards (Visa, MC, AMEX, Disc), Apple Pay and Android Pay.


Black & white print/copy – 25 cents per page

Color print/copy – 50 cents per page

Scan to USB – free


  • 6 public computers with printers attached (all provide internet access); not reservable.
  • Wi-Fi is available (ask staff for details)
  • State-of-the-art photocopier
  • FAX machine
    • Send a Fax
      • $1 per page for “707” and “1-800” numbers, $2 per page for long distance
    • Receive a Fax
      • $1.60 per page
  • Dissomaster terminal—allows customers to calculate child or spousal support. Printouts are free at this terminal only.


Customers may use the Hall of Justice elevators to reach our library. The Branch has an adaptive keyboard and optical trackball available.  We possess magnifying tools, and some reading glasses. Please ask library staff for more information.

Branch History

Solano County Law Library has been in existence since 1891. As established by California Business and Professions Code §6340, a county law library must be located in the county seat. Since the 1970s, the Law Library has been located on the third floor of the Hall of Justice. We are open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Get assistance with legal research by filling out our form or calling the law library at (707) 421-6520.

You can interact with the Solano County Law Library via social media!

Nolo Press Titles Available at the Law Library

101 Law Forms for Personal Use
8 Ways to Avoid Probate
Building a Parenting Agreement That Works
Business Loans From Family & Friends
California Landlord’s Law Book: Evictions
California Landlord’s Law Book: Rights & Responsibilities
California Marriage Laws
California Power of Attorney Handbook
California Tenants’ Rights
California Workers’ Comp
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Complete Guide to Buying a Business
Conservatorship Book for California
Contractors’ & Homeowners’ Guide to Mechanics Liens
Contracts: The Essential Desk Reference
Copyright Handbook
Copyright Your Software
Credit Repair
Criminal Law Handbook
Deeds for California Real Estate
Divorce & Money
Divorce Without Court
Do Your Own Adoption
Employer’s Legal Handbook
Essential Guide to Family & Medical Leave
Essential Guide to Federal Employment Laws
Estate Planning for Blended Families
Every Dog’s Legal Guide
Every Nonprofit’s Guide to Publishing
Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court in California
Executor’s Guide
Fight Your Ticket & Win in California
Foreclosure Survival Guide
Form a Partnership
Guardianship Book for California
Homestead Your House
How to Do Your Own Divorce in California
How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in California
How to Form Your Own California Corporation
How to Manage a Contested Divorce in California
How to Probate an Estate in California
How to Raise or Lower Child Support in California
How to Seal Your Juvenile and Criminal Records in California
How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim
Independent Paralegal’s Handbook
Judge’s Guide to Divorce
Lawsuit Survival Guide
Leases & Rental Agreements
Legal Essentials for California Couples
Legal Forms for Starting and Running a Small Business
Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples
Legal Guide for Starting and Running a Small Business
Legal Guide to Web & Software Development
Legal Research
Living Together: A Guide for Unmarried Couples
Living Wills & Powers of Attorney for California
Long-Term Care
Mad At Your Lawyer
Make Any Divorce Better!
Make Your Own Living Trust
Mediate, Don’t Litigate
Music Law
Neighbor Law
New Bankruptcy
Nolo’s Depostion Handbook
Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law
Nolo’s Essential Guide to Divorce
Nolo’s Essential Retirement Tax Guide
Nolo’s Guide to California Law
Nolo’s Guide to Social Security Disability
Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
Nolo’s Pocket Guide to Consumer’s Rights
Nolo’s Pocket Guide to Family & Divorce Law
Nolo’s Simple Will Book
Nondisclosure Agreements
Patent, Copyright & Trademark
Plan Your Estate
Prenuptial Agreements
Public Domain
Quick & Legal Will Book
Renter’s Rights: The Basics
Safe Homes, Safe Neighborhoods
Save Your Small Business
Sexual Harassment on the Job
Social Security, Medicare & Government Pensions
Solve Your Money Troubles
Special Needs Trusts
Stand Up to the IRS
Stopping Identity Theft
Trustee’s Legal Companion
U.S. Immigration Made Easy
Using Divorce Mediation
Win Your Lawsuit
Your Little Legal Companion
Your Rights in the Workplace

Online Legal Resources

Legal Sources on the Internet

Legal Self-Help Resources

Victims’ Rights (including COVID-19)

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2021
Crime Victim Assistance (Solano County)
Office of Victim & Survivor Rights & Services (California Department of Corrections)
COVID-19 Resources for Legal Services and Victims’ Rights (National Crime Victim Law Institute)
Coronavirus Response (COVID-19 Fraud) (U.S. Department of Justice)
Victims of Crime Resource Center (UOP, McGeorge School of Law)
Housing Discrimination (211-Solano County)


Bankruptcy Guide (U.S. Courts)
Information & Forms (Ch. 7, Ch. 11, et. al.)

Civil Law

Civil Disputes
Cases for $25,000 or Less (California Courts)
Cases for $25,000 or More (California Courts)
Civil Forms—Solano County Superior Court’s Local Forms
Answering a Civil Complaint for Breach of Contract (San Mateo County Law Library)
Answering a Civil Complaint for Personal Injury, Property Damage or Wrongful Death (San Mateo County Law Library)
“Equal Access Project” Guides
Peremptory Challenge / “Removing a Judge from Your Case” (SCPLL guides)
Requesting an Extension or Continuance (Civil; SCPLL guides)
Requesting a Continuance (Civil; San Mateo County Law Library)
Requesting an Extension or Continuance (Small Claims)
How to Fight a Credit Card Debt Collection Lawsuit
Filing a Writ of Administrative Mandamus (San Mateo County Law Library)
How to Subpoena Business Records (San Mateo County Law Library)

Civil Appeals ($25,000 or less; California Courts)
Civil Appeals ($25,000 or more; California Courts)
Collecting/Paying/Appealing Judgment (Small Claims)
Collecting a Civil Judgment ($25,000 or less; California Courts)
Collecting a Civil Judgment ($25,000 or more; California Courts)
Enforcing a Civil Judgment (SCPLL guides)
Vacate a Default Judgment (San Mateo County Law Library)

Name Change
Gender Change Only / Gender and Name Change

Personal Injury
“Equal Access Center” Guides
Demand Letter (California Courts)

Small Claims
Information & Forms
Self-Help Videos
Small Claims Forms—Solano County Superior Court’s Local Forms
“Using the Small Claims Court” (California Dept. of Consumer Affairs)

Conservatorship, Guardianship & Power of Attorney

Categories & Forms
“Handbook for Conservators”

Categories & Forms
Probate Forms (e.g., Declaration of Due Diligence)—Solano County Superior Court’s Local Forms
Self-Help Video

Power of Attorney
Information (Nolo Press site)

Court Cases

Federal Cases
PACER (must have account)
Supreme Court of the United States
U.S. District Courts (California & Other Locations)

State Cases (Appellate/Supreme Court)
California Court of Appeals
California Supreme Court
Published/Unpublished Opinions

Local Cases (e.g., Solano)
Solano County Superior Court—Court Connect
Other California Superior Courts

Criminal Law/Traffic (Infractions)

Appeal Process
Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon
Criminal Forms/Juvenile Delinquency Forms—Solano County Superior Court’s Local Forms
Expungement Guide (“Clean Your Criminal Record”-Public Defender, Solano)
Expungement Guide (“Clean Your Criminal Record”-SCPLL) Review the guide carefully, as it features local forms for Sacramento. The samples & instructions might not fully correspond with CR-180 & CR-181.
Expungement Guide (San Mateo County Law Library)
How to Replace an Attorney in a Criminal Case (Marsden/Faretta Motion; San Mateo County Law Library)
Juvenile Delinquency
“Parolee Rights Manual
“Prison Law Office” Manuals
Request for Criminal Record (California Dept. of Justice)
Restitution / Victim’s Rights (Information & Forms)
State Habeas Corpus / Federal Habeas Corpus

Appeals Process
Ex-Parte Application to Dismiss Non-Felony Citations (VC §41500 Motion)
General Information on Traffic Law
Traffic Forms—Solano County Superior Court’s Local Forms
Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules (via Solano’s Traffic Division)

Debt Collection

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (

Evictions/Real Estate

Assessor/Recorder Forms—Solano County

Evictions (Unlawful Detainer)
Guide for Landlords
Guide for Tenants
Stay of Eviction (Tenants; Solano’s UD Clinic)
Video: “Resolving Your Eviction Case in the California Courts

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (

Information & Forms

Family Law – Children & Adoption


Child Custody / Visitation
Grandparent Visitation
Grandparent Visitation—Petitions (FCLL)
Online Orientation for CCRC (Parent Orientation/Education—Solano)
Obtain Custody

Emancipation of Minor
Information & Forms

Juvenile Immigration Law
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Juvenile Dependency
Information & Forms
Video:  “Juvenile Dependency Court Orientation”

Peremptory Challenge
Peremptory Challenge / “Removing a Judge from Your Case” (SCPLL guides)

Family Law – Partnership & Divorce

Information & Forms

Divorce (Dissolution of Marriage), etc.
Information and Forms
Summary Dissolution

Domestic Partnership
California Secretary of State Information

Legal Separation
Information & Forms

Name Change
Divorce / Marriage

Peremptory Challenge
Peremptory Challenge / “Removing a Judge from Your Case” (SCPLL guides)

Spousal Support
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)

Fee Waiver

Fee Waiver
Information & Forms
“Ask the Court to Waive or Lower Court Fees” (SCPLL guides)

Laws & Regulations

Federal Law and Court Rules
Code of Federal Regulations
Federal Rules (Civil Procedure, et. al.)
United States Codes
Requesting an Apostille

California Law, Jury Instructions, and Court Rules
California Codes
California Code of Regulations
California Jury Instructions (Civil, Criminal)
California Rules of Court

Immigration Law
Legal Services Resources for Immigrants: Solano County
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Provides Protections for Immigrant Women and Victims of Crime (American Immigration Council)
Family Preparedness Plan” (ILRC brochure)
Immigration Advocates Network
Immigration Resource Directory (California Courts website)
Immigration Services Fraud” (OAG brochure)
Web Resources (AILA webpage)

Local Law (County / Municipal Codes) and Court Rules
City of Benicia
City of Dixon
City of Fairfield
City of Rio Vista
City of Suisun
City of Vacaville
City of Vallejo
Solano County Code
Solano County Local Rules of Court

Restraining Orders

Restraining Orders
Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault (Solano County)
Resource Guide for Family Violence Victims (Solano County)
Civil Harassment
Requesting a Civil Harassment Restraining Order  (San Mateo County Law Library)
Domestic Violence (Information & Forms)
Domestic Violence (Self-Help Videos; Petitioner)
Domestic Violence (Self-Help Videos; Respondent)
Elder/Dependent Adult Abuse
Injunction (Restraining Order) Against DMV
Victim Assistance
Workplace Violence

Wills & Estates

Wills and Estates
Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property (Small Estate Affidavit)
Living Trust (State Bar of California)
Transferring Property without Probate (Form Content)
Will Form (State Bar of California)

Legal Assistance: Free or Low-Cost Services

Representing yourself? Visit the Law Library for information or click below for our Legal Assistance, Low Cost Services brochure.

Legal Assistance Free or Low Cost Services (English) brochure August 2023 DRAFTAsk the Law Librarian @ Solano County


Corte Local

Formularios de la Corte

Glossario Legal en Español

Quejas Contra Abogados




Disputas Civiles



Cambio de nombre

Daños corporales

Reclamos menores


Tutela de adultos

Tutela de un menor

Poder legal






Desalojo (Retención ilícita de vivienda)

Ejecución hipotecaria




Custodia y visitación


La Ley de Inmigración de Menores

Dependencia de menores



Divorcio (Disolución del matrimonio), etc.

Parejas de Hecho (Disolución)

Separación legal

Cambio de nombre

Manutención del cónyuge o pareja de hecho


Exención de cuotas


Ley Federal y Reglamento de la Corte


Orden de restricción


Testamentos y casos testamentarios


Formularios del Consejo Judicial en Español


Divorcio o Separación

Cómo finalizar su divorcio o separación legal

Manutención del cónyuge o pareja de hecho

Delincuencia de menores

Orden de restricción

Violencia en el hogar

Acoso civil

Órdenes de restricción de violencia armada

Detención de focas y registros relacionados

Intérprete judicial

Other Law Libraries In The Area

Alameda County Law Library, Oakland, CA, (510) 208-4832,

Boalt Hall Library (U.C. Berkeley), Berkeley, CA, (510) 642-0900,

Colusa County Law Library, Colusa, CA, (530) 458-5149

Contra Costa County Public Law Library, Martinez, CA, (925) 646-2783,

El Dorado County Law Library, Placerville, CA, (530) 626-1932,

Golden Gate University Law Library, San Francisco, CA, (415) 442-6692,

Humphreys College: Laurence Drivon School of Law, Stockton, CA, (209) 478-0800 x143; Modesto location: (209) 543-9411,

John F. Kennedy University Law Library, Pleasant Hill, CA, (925) 969-3120; Pleasant Hill location: (510) 647-2065,

Mabie Law Library (U.C. Davis), Davis, CA, (530) 752-3327,

Marin County Law Library, San Rafael, CA, (415) 472-3733,

Napa County Law Library, Napa, CA, (707) 299-1201,

Pacific McGeorge School of Law Library, Sacramento, CA, (916) 739-7164,

Placer County Law Library, Auburn, CA, (530) 823-2573,

Sacramento County Public Law Library, Sacramento, CA, (916) 874-6012,

San Francisco Law Library, San Francisco, CA, (415) 554-1772,

San Joaquin County Law Library, Stockton, CA, (209) 468-3920

San Mateo County Law Library, (650) 363-4913,

Santa Clara County Law Library, San Jose, CA, (408) 299-3567,

Sonoma County Public Law Library, Santa Rosa, CA, (707) 565-2668,

U.C. Hastings Law Library, San Francisco, CA, (415) 565-4751,

University of Santa Clara School of Law Library, Santa Clara, CA, (408) 554-4767,

Witkin State Law Library of California, Sacramento, CA, (916) 654-0185,

Yolo County Law Library, Woodland, CA, (530) 666-8918,

Fall/Winter 2023, Topic of the Quarter

“Restraining Orders and the LGBT Community” by Jonathan Watson

Although this may sound like a bizarre question, I would like to start this posting by asking readers “who do you envision as an ‘ideal victim’ in a domestic violence situation?” Your thoughts might’ve gone immediately towards a heterosexual couple, so let’s expand our perceptions to include LGBT couples. With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and LGBT History Month, this might be a great opportunity to do so.

According to “When Intimate Partner Violence Meets Same Sex Couples: A Review of Same Sex Intimate Partner Violence” (2018), the rate of domestic violence amongst the LGBT population may be just as underreported as in heterosexual households in the United States. The following figures regarding the LGBT population were mentioned in the piece:

“…almost one-third of sexual minority males and one-half of sexual minority women…affirmed they were victims of physical or psychological abuse in a romantic relationship. In addition, over 50% of gay men and almost 75% of lesbian women reported that they were victims of psychological IPV [intimate partner violence] (Breiding et al., 2013). Breiding et al. (2013) identified that 4.1 million people of the LGB community have experienced IPV in their lifetime in the United States.”

Other studies such as “Addressing Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Patients” (Ard & Makadon, 2011), The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2013) and “INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ABUSE AMONG LGBT PEOPLE” (Brown & Herman, 2015) offer comparative statistical data. Padgett (2023) wrote about the rise in such cases post-pandemic. Comparatively, Frankis and Maxwell (2023) assert that “one in four gay and bisexual men (GBM) in Scotland have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) in the past year” in their study conducted at the Glasgow Caledonian University. As stated in a posting by JD Law Firm (2022), battered same sex individuals might not report the domestic violence for the following reasons: potential homophobia from domestic violence service providers, the risk of rejection from family and friends if they are “outed”, and the lack of resources tailored specifically for LGBT victims.

What could happen when domestic violence is reported by an LGBT individual? In her article “The Disproportionate Effect of Mutual Restraining Orders on Same-Sex Domestic Violence Victims”, Jacquie Andreano (2020) discusses how common it is for dual arrest to be executed in such situations. When discussing the concept of “battered women’s syndrome,” Andreano describes how LGBT victims “do not often fit the traditional stereotypes of dependent or weak females” or as being “meek, helpless and feminine”. She mentions how mutual restraining orders are often issued by judicial officers despite one not being requested by the respondent—perhaps in part to avoid a trial in which the aggressor and victim must be proven.

While this might be perceived as a litigious benefit, Andreano mentions the difficulty faced when a mutual restraining order is violated and the difficulty that law enforcement has when determining who the violator is. In the case of a same-sex couple, there might be the perception that the abuse is mutual or consensual because it is not occurring between people of the opposite sex. You might consider reading “’It happens in gay relationships too’: the story behind a domestic violence cabaret” or Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir In the Dream House for insight into how domestic violence can start regardless of the individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. You might also check out Mayo Clinic’s article about domestic violence against men.

Whether you are a pro per litigant or a legal expert, be sure to visit Solano County Law Library for your legal reference needs. We possess materials that address procedures and the paperwork involved in the four main types of restraining orders. If you are seeking restraining order assistance, you might try the services listed on our “Legal Assistance: Free or Low-Cost Legal Services” brochure.

This blog posting is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. Please consult with a legal expert for the best guidance.

Spring/Summer 2023, Topic of the Quarter

“The Works of Poet Lawyer Reginald Dwayne Betts” by Jonathan Watson

In honor of April’s National Poetry Month, this posting will focus on activist, playwright, performer and self-described “lawyer poet” Reginald Dwayne Betts. Maryland-native Betts was a high school honor student when—at the age of 16—he was tried as an adult for participating in a carjacking (Lim, 2022). It was during his nine-year incarceration that Betts began reading and writing poetry.

In “Finding Freedom In Words: Lawyer Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts Receives MacArthur Fellowship” (Mosely & McMahon, 2021), Betts mentions how he was influenced by poets Etheridge Knight and Lucille Clifton. In a 2016 PBS News Hour segment, Betts shared how poetry “…was my idea of how to be somebody. Being a poet…gave me something to pursue, and I could easily tell when I was doing it right by people’s response.” You might view the following lines from his poem “A Postmodern Two-Step” as a peek into his thoughts while imprisoned:

Some people say prison is the country

where life is cheaper than anywhere else;

you wouldn’t think that watching us take leave,

our caravan three deep and black against

the wine-dark asphalt, and two of three

are nothing but escorts: four uniformed

shotguns (off safety) leading and flanking

our coffle, all intent to keep us here…

After serving his time, Betts attended Prince George’s Community College. He earned his B.A. degree in English from the University of Maryland, MFA from Warren Wilson College, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Yale Law School. In 2021, Betts began working on his PhD in Law at Yale University (Maryland Today, 2021). His other accomplishments include serving as a member of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and having founded Freedom Reads (an organization devoted to providing access to literature in prisons).

In 2023, Betts and artist Titus Kaphar released the book Redaction. As described by Griffiths (2019), the work started off as an exhibition and “…draws on source material from lawsuits filed on behalf of people incarcerated because of an inability to pay court fines and fees”. On “All Things Considered” (NPR; 2023), Betts hoped that “…when you read the poems and when you look at the images, you see that it runs the gamut…of the American experience in America.” Fellow interviewee Kaphar expressed how “…as artists, we can somehow get people to feel, that’s a powerful gesture in itself…”

Solano County Library carries Betts’ poetry collection Felon at Solano County Library. You can request a copy of Redaction via the LINK+ system. LINK+ also allows you to request other Betts titles such as his memoir A Question of Freedom. Be sure to also visit his Poetry Foundation profile to read more of his poetical works. You might also check out Betts’ interview with the Library Journal (January 2023).

This blog posting is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. Please consult with a legal expert for the best guidance.

Fall/Winter 2022, Topic of the Quarter

Lawsuits and Mental Health – Part II by Jonathan Watson

The advent of 2023 means the end of our series on mental health and wellness. To review, our first posting in the series dealt with workplace bullying and hostile work environments. The second focused on how lawsuits affected the mental health of litigants, their attorneys, and even organizations such as law libraries that aim to best serve pro per customers. This final posting will focus on the wellness aspects of dealing with a lawsuit.

How might wellness be defined? The UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services devised the following “Eight Dimensions of Wellness”: emotional, occupational, intellectual, environmental, financial, physical, social and spiritual. Although you might be put off by the title, if we adapt the model devised by UC Davis, you could say that the 2010 edition of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Lawsuits primarily encourages emotional and physical wellness. Some of the stress-relieving methods that the book proposes include mild exercise, adhering to a sleep schedule, seeking support groups or therapists, and closely communicating with counsel.   

What about wellness for counsel? In her article “How Law Firms Can Help Litigators Foster Mental Wellness”, Ortega (2022) mentions how law firms have adopted work environments that emphasize teamwork and systems in which litigators can communicate their mental health needs. Abella (2022) wrote how the pandemic affected the work life balance of attorneys and paraprofessionals (e.g., older/single attorneys struggling with loneliness, working parents juggling the care of children and elderly family members, etc.). Abella mentions the Lawyers Assistance Program that is available to California attorneys, which offers short-term counseling sessions.

While the above materials address maintaining one’s mental health and wellness during a lawsuit, what about after the case concludes? Returning to Strasburger’s “The Litigant-Patient: Mental Health Consequences of Civil Litigation” (1999), he mentioned that stress can persist even after a case’s conclusion. In his 2008 article “Lessons from Losing…Defeat”, Gwilliam specifically wrestles with what might be feared most: being the defeated party. He addresses how the concepts of justice and ambition can be harmful when neither prevails, and counsel is left unsatisfied. In which case, is losing supposed to teach a person about humility and perseverance as Gwilliam asserts?

Even though Gwilliam is speaking from the perspective of an attorney, his personal lessons might still be worth reading as a layperson. You might have some legal recourse if you lose depending upon the nature of your case, but will that be wise if your mental health and wellness is dwindling?  More so, rather than seeing it as a sign of weakness, could accepting litigious defeat be liberating? This, of course, is something to be decided by the litigant and having a support system (as described by the articles in this posting) could be useful to gain a better standpoint.

As a reminder, be sure to check out Solano County Library’s mental health kits. If you are unable to check out the kits, you can explore similar materials by using Solano County Library’s databases. Whether you are a pro per litigant or a legal expert, be sure to visit Solano County Law Library for your legal reference needs!  

This blog posting is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. Please consult with a legal expert for the best guidance.

Spring/Summer 2022, Topic of the Quarter

Lawsuits and Mental Health – Part I by Jonathan Watson

Our last blog posting addressed workplace bullying and hostile work environments. This entry will take a broader approach in tying mental health to law. It is said that a divorce is one of the most stressful life events for a person. What about other types of litigation that fall under, say, civil or criminal law?

Please be aware that this posting is not a substitute for mental health advice or support. Nor is this posting intended to discourage an individual from pursuing justice. Rather, it is intended to highlight how one’s health (especially mental) can be affected due to legal proceedings. As summarized by Strasburger in “The Litigant-Patient: Mental Health Consequences of Civil Litigation” (1999),

“…civil litigation is stressful for plaintiffs and for defendants. There is an inherent irony in the judicial system in that individuals who bring suit may endure injury from the very process through which they seek redress. The legal process itself is often a trauma. Although many hope-and some find-that it is ultimately restorative, no one brings a lawsuit for his or her health…”

It might be thought that the end of a case will prove cathartic. We always see the courtroom erupting in jubilation when the judge rules in favor of the protagonist in films and television. However, Strasburger goes on to state that the feelings of stress for both parties reverberate even after the case’s conclusion. More so, the nature of the case can especially have adverse effects—as a personal injury lawsuit was cited as further affecting the overall health of an ailing party. After all, will the judgment make the ongoing pain and mounting medical costs suddenly vanish?

In the 2017 article “Anticipating and Managing the Psychological Cost of Civil Litigation”, Keet, Heavin and Sparrow discuss the impact of litigation stress and how it can be amplified based on the perceived level of stakes. More so, the stress can prove detrimental for individuals with ongoing mental or emotional vulnerabilities. The authors describe how an individual suffering from PTSD after witnessing a violent event might be further triggered by repeated interviews about the incident. As the litigation stress mounts, the authors describe scenarios in which the litigant might exhaust their support system, or the attorney-client meetings start growing increasingly difficult.  

If represented by an attorney, it might seem like the litigant is experiencing the bulk of the stress—as they are relying on an expert to guide them through the legal process. Yet, as with other professions, attorneys are only human and cope with litigation stress in their own ways. According to a study conducted by Krill, Johnson, and Albert (2016), American attorneys experience their fair share of substance abuse and mental health concerns. Their sample revealed that the surveyed attorneys experienced high degrees of depression and anxiety, and significant rates of alcoholism.

In 2021, the Los Angeles Times reported on a 2020 study that included the participation of the California Lawyers Association and the D.C. Bar. The study entitled “Stress, Drink, Leave: An Examination of Gender-Specific Risk Factors for Mental Health Problems and Attrition Among Licensed Attorneys” included similar findings to the one conducted by Krill, Johnson, and Albert. The 2020 study reaffirmed that female attorneys experienced more mental stress (compounded by work-life balance challenges) than their male counterparts. As a result, the 2020 study showed that 1 in 4 female attorneys contemplated leaving the profession. The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession has produced valuable literature on female attorneys, such as conducting its own study on how women of color fare in the legal field.

While they are neither litigants nor attorneys, law library staff can also experience their fair share of stress as outlined in AALL’s 2018 resource “Legal Ease: Self-Care for Library Staff”. Although it is expected that customers will be distressed, it can be a trying task for employees if there is a demand for legal advice or assistance that goes beyond the scope of a law library’s reference services. As quoted, “The very nature of library work predisposes us to burnout. A normal library workday can be described as a continuous round of interruptions”. Some of the stressors mentioned include unmet needs for pro per litigants that cannot afford an attorney, limited resources and staff, and the increasing costs of legal materials. Other factors addressed in the resource include lack of established boundaries between employees, coworkers, and management. Moreover, although the resource does not mention it, there could be the argument that a toxic work environment and workplace bullying could further contribute to a library worker’s stress and burnout.

For information on mental health services in Solano County, you might start your research by viewing this brochure produced by Solano County Behavioral Health. As a reminder, be sure to check out Solano County Library’s mental health kits. You might also consider checking out the social justice book kits, as they address topics such as Native American rights, disability rights, and immigration. If you are unable to check out the kits, you can explore similar materials by using Solano County Library’s databases.

Whether you are a pro per litigant or a legal expert, be sure to visit Solano County Law Library for your legal reference needs!  This blog posting is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. Please consult with a legal expert for the best guidance.

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