Unified But Not Uniform: Judicial Funding Issues in Alabama

This study explains how the current lack of uniformity in funding of Alabama’s courts, even after the 1973 establishment of the Unified Judicial System (UJS), warrants a second wave of reform. Over the past 40 years and across Alabama counties, hundreds of different fees and court costs have been adopted, and a large portion of funds raised by the courts is earmarked for agencies outside of the judiciary. This study suggests that Alabama’s UJS should implement the National Center for State Court’s best practices for collecting fines and fees to create a more reasonable, uniform, and appropriate system of court costs and funding for courts.

You can read the full study here.

Key findings
  • In 2012, circuit courts in Alabama collected only 28% of imposed fines and fees, and district courts collected 25%.
  • “…through an online survey of local officers of the Alabama Bar Association…59% of respondents said they have had a client who was jailed for non-payment of high court costs, fees, or fines. In most cases it was failure to pay a monthly probation supervision fee ($40) that led to the jailing.”

The authors recommend that courts consider the costs of collections before pursuing outstanding fines and fees.

Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama