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Report: Trial court funding system is “broken,” says revenue shouldn’t matter in judges’ rulings

courtroom gavel
Flickr/Joe Gratz

Michigan's trial court funding system is "broken." That's according to a study released Monday by the Michigan Trial Court Funding Commission.

Tom Boyd is chair of the Commission. He told Stateside that trial court judges are responsible for raising money to operate the courts, and it often influences their rulings.

“It isn't to say that criminals who can afford to pay fines shouldn't pay fines. We're not saying that at all,” Boyd said. “The question is should there be a connection between the amount of money that comes into a court and the amount of money available to run the court?”

Boyd says the result of this “broken” system is that people within the community feel the courts are out for money more than justice.

“And our report suggests that the community isn't wrong when they conclude the court is more focused on revenue as opposed to simply a just outcome in each case,” he said.

Boyd says solutions to the problem could include a uniform assessment of fees for all defendants and centralizing collections of fines and fees.

You can hear Tom Boyd’s full conversation with Stateside above.

Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Public. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.
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