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News from the Campaign:
In line with asks made to Governor Newsom in light of the current health and economic crisis, the Debt Free Justice California coalition sent the following letter to all superior courts, including the presiding judges, court executive officers, public defenders, and district attorneys. Acknowledging that some authority over fines and fees rest with the counties, the coalition sent a similar letter to the Boards of Supervisors, county administrators, chief probation officers, auditor-controllers, and county counsels.
Letter to Courts:
Letter to Counties:
Debt Free Justice California Coalition Ushers in Sweeping Protections for Vulnerable Community Members During COVID-19:
FRANCHISE TAX BOARD SUSPENDS COLLECTION OF DEBTS OWED TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related health and economic impacts of this crisis, the California State Controller has temporarily suspended the collection of all debts to government agencies until July 15, 2020, or a date to be determined based on the evolving nature of this unprecedented event. Read more about the impact of this decision here:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 3/27/2020
CALIFORNIA’S FRANCHISE TAX BOARD TO HALT DEBT COLLECTION IMMEDIATELY
The Debt Free Justice California coalition and partners commend State Controller Betty Yee for halting debt collection efforts in light of the unprecedented public health and economic crisis.
Sacramento, CA—Today, State Controller Betty Yee ended the Franchise Tax Board’s (FTB) collection on debt imposed by state and local governments, including the juvenile and criminal legal systems and superior courts (traffic violations, infractions). This policy will go into effect immediately.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 2/18/2020: Los Angeles County Ends Assessment Of And Discharges $1.8 Billion in Adult Fees. The Debt Free Justice California coalition commends the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for ending county-sanctioned racialized wealth extraction through criminal fees.
After careful consideration and consultation with impacted communities, advocates, and the Debt Free Justice California (DFJC) coalition, Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D – LA) has made the groundbreaking Families Over Fees Act a two-year bill. Senator Mitchell and the Coalition believe this path will give stakeholders an opportunity to map out a more just way to fund our budget, ultimately ensuring the most impactful version of the bill is passed and greater racial
and economic justice comes to California.
Senate Bill 144, introduced by Senator Holly J. Mitchell, was amended with text that will end the assessment and collection of administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal justice system. By doing so, it would dramatically reduce the economic hardships caused by court-ordered debt and enhance the economic security of system-involved populations, their families and their communities. SB 144 will usher in an era of criminal justice policy that does not rely on stripping wealth from communities of color and low-income communities. The Debt Free Justice Coalition is sponsoring the legislation.
On January 8, the California Second District Court of Appeals issued a pioneering decision in the case of Velia Dueñas, holding that the trial court improperly imposed fines and fees against Ms. Dueñas by failing to assess whether or not she could actually afford to pay them. The court recognized that “imposing unpayable fines on indigent defendants is not only unfair, it serves no rational purpose, fails to further the legislative intent, and may be counterproductive.” Debt Free Justice California applauds the court’s decision requiring that a defendant’s ability to pay be proven before a fine or fee is imposed. Read our statement here.
LA Times editorial on the need for complete fees abolition in California: “But even (implementing ability-to-pay plans) is merely a stopgap. California’s Legislature in recent years has begun curbing some of the most abusive fines and fees, but what’s missing is a comprehensive look at, and overhaul of, the justice system, with the role of wealth and the impact of poverty in the forefront. Without that, we will not be as removed from Dickens’ era as we would like to believe.” Read more here.
Announcing the Launch of Debt Free Justice California
Alameda County Ends Assessment of and Discharges $26 Million in Adult Fees