Brown looks to fee hikes to fund courts


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California residents who want to fight a traffic ticket from home or get copies of legal paperwork would have to shell out more money under Gov. Jerry Brown’s ‘austerity’ budget plan for state courts next year.

The governor’s spending plan adopts 11 recommendations for increased costs or reduced services that were recommended last month to the state Judicial Council. They help offset some $200 million in cuts Brown warns the state’s trial court system will have to make starting the 2014-15 fiscal year. Brown proposes borrowing $200 million from courthouse construction accounts to get the system through the next year.


The fee to oppose a traffic ticket by mail in your home county would go to $50, bringing in $3.2 million more to the state.

The cost for clerks to search and retrieve multiple case files would go to $10 for every record searched. Clerks blame ‘data mining’ companies for the need to charge more, but the bill would be footed by everyone.

The price for a paper copy of a court record would double, to $1 per page.

Courts would cut costs by eliminating some procedures, such as not collecting Social Security numbers on court orders for debt collection, not destroying records relating to marijuana possession, and providing transcripts of preliminary hearings only in homicide cases.

The Judicial Council notes that as of October, six out of 10 counties in California have had to reduce hours, close offices or courtrooms, even as it calculates the state needs 264 more judges to handle the state’s growing caseload.


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--Paige St. John in Sacramento