An empty Superior Court of California courthouse is seen on January 30, 2005 in Santa Maria, California.
Courtrooms in downtown L.A., Hollywood, San Fernando, and elsewhere in California have recently laid off employees or closed due to falling revenues and budget cuts.
What if the court system could get a $7.5 billion shot in the arm?
Lloyd W. Pellman, former Los Angeles County Counsel, asked the California Judicial Council, the policy body for the state courts, to do something about collecting the more than $7.5 billion owed to the state court system. Lawyers familiar with the court system say that money owed to courts is too difficult to collect. Many people are too poor to pay their fines, and it’s costly to jail the non-payers.
After our segment on uncollected fines, Mr. Pellman wanted to point out, "Contrary to the reference that additional staffing would be necessary to chase those who have not paid their tickets, no such additional costs would be involved if a law firm, working on a contingency basis, were to be retained to follow up on collections. When I was County Counsel, I retained such a law firm and had the firm begin with collections of 'uncollectable debt' for the Probation Department — and they succeeded. After I retired, the firm was also provided with 'uncollectable accounts' from the County Department of Health Services: they collected almost $1.4 million in the test program. That same firm could be used to follow up on debts uncollected by the courts."
Lloyd W. Pellman, former Los Angeles County Counsel now in private practice
Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law in Los Angeles