Supes Vote To Eliminate Administrative Court Fees

Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and other groups told the board that the fees should be eliminated because they create a long-term financial burden for low-income people who already served time for their crimes but then have problems turning their lives around.

Alameda County looks to eliminate fines, fees for defendants

The supervisors ultimately moved all three forward when attorneys from the East Bay Community Law Center argued that ability-to-pay assessments were often inconsistent. Brandon Greene, a staff attorney for the center, said the measure is the culmination of two years of public records requests and meetings with county officials.

Criminal Justice Fees: Possible Elimination

Among the groups that are urging Alameda County to eliminate the court fees are the East Bay Community Law Center, a Berkeley-based legal services provider that represents low-income people, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a non-profit group based in Oakland.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: East Bay Community Law Center attorneys, law students, and community partners advance legislation to end criminal justice fees in Alameda County

Tomorrow, the Alameda County Probation Department, Public Defenders Office, and the Sheriff’s Office will testify in front of the Public Protection Committee to urge the adoption of legislation that will eliminate criminal justice administration fees in Alameda County. The East Bay Community Law Center, a legal services provider serving low-income residents in Alameda County, along with the Policy Advocacy Clinic of U.C. Berkeley Law School, Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the Urban Strategies Council, have been actively advocating for the elimination of these fees.

The Only Winners In California’s Fines And Fees System Are Private Debt Collectors

Furthermore, collection agencies are not bound by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects consumers from various forms of threat and harassment, because court debts are considered “involuntary.” As a result of this loophole, said Miguel Soto, an attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center, “We’ve had clients tell us that the [debt collector] they’re dealing with is threatening them with violence, imprisonment, or, in some occasions, deportation.”

Few Winners When Courts Privatize the Collection of Public Debts

The clinic is run by the Center’s Clean Slate Practice, which focuses on “the decriminalization of poverty,” according to Brandon Greene, one of its lead attorneys. Some of Greene’s colleagues do post-conviction work, helping to seal arrest records, reduce probation, and help people who’ve been denied employment because of criminal backgrounds. But Greene’s clients are facing a particular set of issues: court-ordered debt related to things like traffic violations and parking tickets.