Council Hears How Online Tool for Requesting Fine and Fee Reductions Helps Courts and Litigants
VIA VIDEOCONFERENCE—The council at its March 24 business meeting received a report on the MyCitations program, an online tool that allows people with infraction violations to request a reduction in what they owe. Nearly six in ten California court filings are infractions, and more than 95% of those are traffic cases.
“We were pleasantly surprised from the start by the large number of litigants that chose to use the online tool,” said Stephanie Bohrer, assistant court executive officer for the Superior Court of San Joaquin County, who told the council about her court’s experience. “This tool is very beneficial to litigants struggling to pay their debts. The tool also enables the court to dispose of cases sooner and better manage our caseload.”
Launched in April 2019 as a pilot project in a few select courts, the MyCitations tool is now in 21 superior courts around the state. The council anticipates adding the remaining 37 courts and achieving statewide implementation by June 30, 2024.
The report states that as of Jan. 1, 2023:
- More than 45,000 litigants submitted over 66,000 ability-to-pay requests, accounting for more than $41 million in outstanding fines and fees
- Courts granted more than $20 million in fine and fee reductions
- In a study of more than 12,000 cases, successful repayment topped 60% when fines and fees were reduced below $300
- Nearly 46% of litigants who used the tool reported they receive public benefits and just over 88% reported incomes at or below the poverty line
The report also contains results from the MyCitations program’s pilot period, which ran from April 2019 through July 2021. That evaluation found litigants are more likely to repay in full as the amount ordered decreases—cases granted a reduction had a 61% success rate for full repayment, while cases denied relief had only a 29% success rate. Watch
Other items on the March 24 council meeting agenda included:
Funding to Help Public Listen to Courtroom Proceedings: The council approved allocating funding to support Assembly Bill 716, which requires an audio stream or telephonic means for listening to courtroom proceedings when the courthouse is physically closed to public. Per the funding proposal, 28 courts will receive funding to make audio upgrades to courthouses built before the year 2000, which accounts for approximately 1,775, or 85%, of courtrooms in the state. Watch
Terms of Commitment to Secure Youth Treatment Facilities: The council approved a rule of court to implement Welfare and Institutions Code section 875(h), which required the council to create a matrix of terms of commitment meeting the developmental and treatment needs of youth. Judicial officers can choose from this matrix when ordering youth to a Secure Youth Treatment Facility. Input on the matrix was gathered from a diverse working group that included attorneys, probation, behavioral health, and youth advocates and service providers. Watch
The complete meeting agenda and council reports are posted to the California Courts Meeting Information Center. The center also contains an archived webcast of the entire meeting broken out by topic.