Friday, September 23, 2011

Collection Improvement - and Job Postings

Collection of court costs is an important reflection of respect for the rule of law, and an important revenue source for many programs, and I have written briefly on the topic previously.  We describe OCA's collection improvement program in the Texas Administrative Code (1 TAC 175.1) thus:
The OCA Collection Improvement Program applies to criminal cases in which the defendant agrees to or is required to pay all court costs, fees, and fines under a payment plan rather than when they are assessed and payment is requested. Although the program can be utilized by a judge in virtually every criminal case to effectuate the judge’s financial orders, it is not designed to influence the judicial determination of whether to order payment of costs, fees and fines, or otherwise to affect the sentencing or other disposition decision that is within the judge’s discretion. The program is simply designed to improve the collection of court costs, fees and fines that have been imposed, while helping defendants satisfy their obligations. The program is not intended to conflict with or undermine the provision to defendants of full procedural and substantive rights under the constitution and laws of this state and of the United States.
For the full text of the existing rule, and considerably more information about the program, visit the website.  With a few new counties entering the program due to the 2010 census, we want to make sure that folks are aware of the program, but also that local officials realize two things:

1. I have the authority to grant a waiver to a county for whom the program is actually not cost effective, and am willing to talk through what that computation might look like, and grant a waiver(s) if justified.

2. We have spelled out the program in great detail through the Administrative Code, and the APA says you can petition an agency for the revision of rules, but no one has requested revisions. Stay tuned for the possibility of refinements that we propose, and an opportunity to comment on those or upon the rules otherwise.

Finally, it is important to note that the Legislature has given OCA responsibility for auditing local compliance with this program (a function formerly assigned to the Comptroller).  We have an opening posted and have conducted interviews for a Managing Auditor, and will be posting additional openings for this program in the near future.

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