36th District Chief Judge Vows To Hound Scofflaws for Fines; Detroit Needs the Cash
Imposing fines is routine business at Detroit's 36th District Court. Collecting them hasn't been.
That corner of city government has a significant role in the "serious financial problems" spotlighted by a state review team, and Serena Maria Daniel of The Detroit News reports that new steps are aimed at prodding scofflaws to pay hundreds of millions of dollars owed.
The Detroit-funded court has failed to collect $279 million in traffic tickets, drunk driving violations and misdemeanor fines — with $199 million of it owed to the city, the six-member Detroit financial review team found. . . .
Chief Judge Kenneth King says he has hired a new collections agency and gotten tougher on debtors, including garnishing of taxes and holding hearings for delinquent civil infractions. Those who fail to appear at the hearings are charged with contempt of court, which can result in property seizures. . . .
"We're turning a tide, but it's going to take some time."
The chief judge acknowledges that actually collecting the penalties levied hasn't been a priority. "The court has never done these things before because there has never been such a light shown on the city's plight before," he tells Daniel.