Profile of Court Fees Increases Amid Budget Crisis

Just in time for the increasing discussion of special court fees, like the ones for accessing public documents that is effectively shelved for the time being, a Sacramento Bee story outlines that any “temporary” fees tend to become permanent, and cites a court fee as the oldest example.
Jim Sanders, who wrote the Bee report, says that 13 of of 21 “temporary” fees received extensions, cumulatively raising more than $70 million annually for programs ranging from a missing persons database to an effort to fight auto insurance fraud.” He then notes that “… perhaps the oddest Capitol trail left by a single fee involved five bills over the past decade to raise millions for California courts. What is now a $40 court fee tacked onto all criminal convictions, including traffic violations, began as a $20 charge in 2003. It later was raised to $30, then to $40, then expiration dates were eliminated, leaving the charge permanent.”

Allowed uses also shift. That court fee, for example, was initially earmarked for security but can now be used for administration. It will be an important issue in the upcoming crunch-time debates over what funding the legislature actually finds to address the growing courts crisis.

Read the full story here.