When you are blind, the difference between 4 miles and 27 miles in Los Angeles can be dramatic. Here is Mr. Collins’ story.
ORIGINAL REPORTING: CCM publisher Sara Warner profiles Mr. Femi Collins, a disabled engineer who has become one of the L.A. County citizens impacted directly by closing of local courthouses.
Femi Collins came to the United States from Nigeria in 1973. He was seeking a better life for himself, his future American wife, and his future nine children. To Mr. Collins the United States offered a future free of political instability and equality for all under the law.
After graduating with a BS and MS from Cal Poly Pomona University, Mr. Collins pursued a career in Engineering. With an advancing career as an engineer and a growing, supportive family, Mr. Collins personified the “American Dream” – until a disability changed his life.
Femi woke up one morning with his vision completely gone in one eye, and this came after contending with glaucoma in the other for some time. To compound his hardship, the Collins family had to fight a foreclosure attempt they strongly felt included questionable circumstances (they feel some payments made under an agreement were not credited, among other things.)
Ah, but at least the Collins family could count on their local courthouse right? Well, access to justice pretty much closed down in Pomona for many when the local courthouse did.
When Pomona North courthouse closed, one of 10 closed in L.A. County alone after years of cutbacks, Femi’s access to justice became greatly impaired. What was a 4-mile commute expanded to 27 miles. Femi had grown accustomed to having his wife transport him to Pomona North. As Femi is legally blind, his access to transportation immediately impacted his ability to file the many motions, writs, and appeals associated with his complex case. He now needed to travel to Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles.
You might ask: What kind of justice system assigns additional burdens to those whose ability to defend themselves is limited due to a disability? Let me answer: An under-funded system where people at the bottom of the political power system are the ones out of luck.
To compound the hardship of this matter, Mr. Collins’ defense now relies on the timetable of the Silver Streak Bus. Last week a violent altercation erupted on the bus and the police were called. He was headed home, but had this been a filing or motion deadline, Mr. Collins would have been recorded as a no show.
Who could dream that, after some 30 years, Mr. Collins would be a sort of “poster child” of sorts for those concerned about ongoing civil court cutbacks that challenge equality and access to justice? But the fact is that Mr. Collins has been showing up since he began his American Dream. But our once-local justice system, especially in L.A. Superior Court and especially for people like Mr. Collins, is the real no-show.