Who Pays? Fines, Fees, Bail, and the Cost of Courts
223 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2018 Last revised: 4 Sep 2020
Date Written: April 19, 2018
In the last decades, growing numbers of people have sought to use courts, government budgets have declined, new technologies have emerged, arrest and detention rates have risen, and arguments have been leveled that private resolutions are preferable to public adjudication. Lawsuits challenge the legality of fee structures, money bail, and the imposition of fines. States have chartered task forces to propose changes, and new research has identified the effects of the current system on low-income communities and on people of color. The costs imposed through fees, surcharges, fines, and bail affect the ability of plaintiffs and defendants to seek justice and to be treated justly.
This volume, prepared for the 21st Annual Arthur Liman Center Colloquium, explores the mechanisms for financing court systems and the economic challenges faced by judiciaries and by litigants. We address how constitutional democracies can meet their obligations to make justice accessible to disputants and to make fair treatment visible to the public. Our goals are to understand the dimensions of the problems, the inter-relationships among civil, criminal, and administrative processes, and the opportunities for generating the political will to bring about reform.
Keywords: debt, fines, fees, bail, courts, due process, risk assessment, proportionality, equality, general revenue, financing, user fees
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