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2 Concil. Cts. Rev. 1 (1964)

handle is hein.journals/fmlcr2 and id is 1 raw text is: 


(Following is the major portion of an address by the Honorable
Roger Alton Pfaff, Presiding Judge, Conciliation Court, Los
Angeles, given before the Fresno Bar Association January 31,
1964. It provides a concise summary of the mechanics and goals
of the ConciliationCourt on its 25th anniversary year. - Editor.)

       The  Conciliation  Court of Los  Angeles  County
celebrates~its 25th Anniversary this year.
       For  the first 15 years after its establishment in
1939  the court operated with  slight success, receiving
lukewarm  support by both bench and bar, and in some  in-
stances, open antagonism.
       In 1955  the Legislature, at the Court's request,
made  sweeping amendments   to the Conciliation Court Act,
established high  professional standards for the Court's
marriage counselors,  and deleted certain mandatory pro-
visions which were  objectionable to the legal profession.
Since  that time  the  Conciliation Court  has  received
national recognition for its outstanding record in marital
        An unexpected   dividend which  no one  ever en-
visaged or contemplated when  the Conciliation Court was
created  is that it is perhaps one  of the finest public
relations programs that the bench  and bar has ever had.
We  all know that the losing party in litigation is unhappy,
and the successful party feels he has been put to unnec-
essary  expense to achieve  justice. However, couples in
the Conciliation Court feel grateful and voice their praise
of both the court and  lawyers if a reconciliation is ef-
fected, and even if reconciliation fails, they are grateful
to their attorney and to the Judge that someone has taken
a personal interest in them and their problems.

                  Reasons  for Success
        There are a number of reasons for the success of
the progress  of the Los Angeles  Conciliation Court: In
the  first place, the Los  Angeles  Conciliation Court's
procedures  are noncompulsory.  We  are not saddled with
each  and every  divorce case  with minor children under
the ages of 14 or 16 whether  there is a chance of recon-
ciliation or not. Our  counselors  and  attaches are not
swamped   with a constant and unending  deluge of cases,
many  of which are completely  fruitless and should never
be  the subject  of.a professional  marriage counselor's
time. Of the over 4,300 petitions filed in 1963, they came
principally from the following sources:
        (a) Attorney  referrals, where the  lawyer, after
 consultation with his client, felt that there was no real
 cause for divorce. Over 50% of the petitions filed in our
 court were from attorneys.

       (b)  Referrals  from Judges   and  Commissioners
during a hearing for temporary pendente lite orders. Over
200  referrals every month come  from this source, where
the Judge  or Commissioner  feels that there is a chance
to  save the  marriage. Over  one-half of  such  referred
couples voluntarily file a petition.
       (c) A  pamphlet informing the parties to a divorce
action is mailed out promptly after the divorce complaint
has been  filed, where there are children under 18 years of
age, informing the parties of the problems of divorce and
the availability of the Conciliation Court. Since 1959 this
little pamphlet  has  resulted in hundreds  of  petitions
being filed with the Conciliation Court each year.
        (d) Clergymen,  doctors  and  other professional
people, who  recommend  that their patient or client solicit
the Conciliation Court's services.
        (e) Family service agencies, which advise a party
desiring reconciliation to file a petition in the Concilia-
tion Court, since  the noncourt agency  has no power  to
force the recalcitrant spouse into a conference.
        (f) Legal Aid, Bureau of Public Assistance, Dis-
trict Attorney's Failure to Provide, and other such com-
munity agencies.
        All of the above factors indicate that the couples
who  are counseled in the Conciliation Court are a selec-
tive group and  in many  instances those  where at least
one party has an urgent desire to effect a reconciliation.
        Our startling statistics, therefore, are the product
of this noncompulsory, partially selective, reconciliation-
prone group  of couples. Under  a compulsory system  the
statistics inevitably are much lower and more discouraging.

               High  Counselor Standards
        Another factor which  should not  be overlooked,
which  contributes to our high percentage  of reconcilia-
tions, is the fact that the standards for counselors in the
Los  Angeles  Conciliation Court  are extremely high, to
wit, a master's degree in one of the behavioral sciences,
and  at  least ten  years  prior counseling  experience.
Equally  important is the personality factor involved in
selecting a counselor for our court. Degrees are important
but  short-term counseling requires  a counselor  with a
warm,  outgoing,  friendly personality who can  get into
immediate  rapport with the client.

        Finally, it has been  characteristic of the Los
Angeles  Court to adopt a trial and error method as to its
procedures,  and  a  willingness to  discard unworkable
practices and to develop new ones. This  has been a con-
tributing factor in securing the enthusiastic approval and
support of the bench, bar, clergy, social agencies, Board
of Supervisors, and the general public.

        It is highly essential and of vital importance to
all of us interested in reconciliation procedures to ana-
lyze and understand the basic reasons for the outstanding
success  of reconciliation processes in some jurisdictions
and their tragic failures in others.


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