A Report from Arizona Worth Reading

The experience of many courts has been that their state Supreme Court appoints a task force to address a critical problem, and several years later a report is issued that few read. At least on the issue of a timely response to a critical problem, kudos to Arizona!

On March 3, 2016, Chief Justice Scott Bales issued Administrative Order No. 2016-16, which established The Task Force on Fair Justice for All:  Court-Ordered Fines, Penalties, Fees, and Pretrial Release Policies. The administrative order outlined the purpose of the task force as to study and make recommendations as follows:

a) Recommend statutory changes, if needed, court rules, written policies, and processes and procedures for setting, collecting, and reducing or waiving court- imposed payments.

b) Recommend options for people who cannot pay the full amount of a sanction at the time of sentencing to make reasonable time payments or perform community service in lieu of some or all of the fine or sanction.

c) Recommend best practices for making release decisions that protect the public but do not keep people in jail solely for the inability to pay bail.

d) Review the practice of suspending driver’s licenses and consider alternatives to license suspension.

e) Recommend educational programs for judicial officers, including pro tem judges and court staff who are part of the pretrial decision-making process.

f) Identify technological solutions and other best practices that provide defendant notifications of court dates and other court-ordered deadlines using mobile applications to reduce the number of defendants who fail to appear for court and to encourage people who receive citations to come to court.

The Chief Justice asked the task force to file a report and make recommendations to the Arizona Judicial Council (AJC) by October 31, 2016. The report consists of 53 recommendations, plus additional educational and training recommendations, and can be found here.


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