Kate Weisburd and her students in the Youth Defender Clinic at UC Berkeley’s East Bay Community Law Center began representing young people in juvenile court in Alameda County in 2013. Almost immediately they observed that parents and guardians of their clients were being charged fees totaling several thousand dollars per family.
Coalition Hails Governor For Signing Historic Juvenile Justice Reform Bill, And Calls For An Immediate End To All Juvenile Fee Assessments And Collections
SACRAMENTO—Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 190, a major, bipartisan juvenile justice reform bill that will improve youth rehabilitation and increase public safety. Effective January 1, 2018, SB 190 ends the harmful, unlawful and costly practice of charging administrative fees to families with youth in the juvenile system.
Around the country, juvenile defense lawyers and law students have begun to challenge this billing system, arguing that it is akin to taxing parents for their child’s loss of liberty.[…]In California, grassroots activists teamed up with lawyers at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley to bar the imposition of the fees in several counties.
States have trapped millions of Americans in crippling debt by taking away their driver’s licenses. Can the damage be undone?[…]“As the amount of uncollected court debt increases and more driver’s licenses are suspended, everybody loses. The state Legislature loses, the counties lose, employers lose, our clients lose the most,” Theresa Zhen, who works at the East Bay Community Law Center in Oakland, California, told me before the state’s bill passed.
A 2016 report by a coalition of legal aid organizations, including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and the East Bay Community Law Center, found that California’s structure of fines can lead to devastating impacts on poor and minority communities. […] According to records, the state Judicial Council and Alameda County Superior Court together contributed about $122 million toward the Dublin courthouse project, with about half coming from the state and the other half coming from the local court system. Most of that money was either raised through fines and fees or loans that will be repaid with future fine and fee revenue.
Californians will no longer face losing their driver’s licenses because of unpaid traffic fines starting next month.
Kids and their families are drowning in debt.
When kids in California enter the juvenile justice system, their families can end up owing thousands of dollars for court and detention fees, even if they have no ability to pay. While several counties stopped collecting the fees in the past year, a state senate committee is convening next week to consider whether or not all expenses imposed on juveniles and their guardians should be cut statewide.
On March 1, 2017, East Bay Community Law Center filed an amicus brief in People v. Duenas on behalf of over twenty nonprofit and grassroots organizations in California. The brief opposes the imposition of court fines and fees when a defendant is unable to pay.
The East Bay Community Law Center partnered with the law school at UC Berkeley to further investigate the fees. After filing multiple Freedom of Information Act Requests, Weisburd and her team learned how much money was being charged, and how much was actually being collected from young people and their families.
Through this lawsuit I hope to bring the Lacayos to justice for their exploitation of immigrants in San Francisco and to prevent any other immigrants from becoming victims of their fraudulent operation. I want to thank the International Institute of the Bay Area, La Raza Centro Legal, East Bay Community Law Center, Dolores Street Community Services, Immigration Legal Resource Center, the State Bar of California, and the Executive Office of Immigration Review for helping us prepare our legal case.