SACRAMENTO (CN) – A federal class action claims California’s Administrative Office of the Courts and the state Supreme Court are “using the Administrative Office of the Courts as a collection agency to build new courthouses for themselves,” by adding fees for a “Courthouse Construction Fund” to traffic tickets and other fines.
Lead plaintiff Jessee Welch Jr. calls this “self dealing” by the defendant agencies, which have an unbearable conflict of interest that can be expressed by a simple equation: “Convictions = Courthouse, No Convictions = No Courthouse.”
The budget disaster suffered by California’s Administrative Office of the Courts has been extensively reported by Courthouse News. Welch says that “the sole source of money for the courthouses is the ‘Courthouse Construction Fund.'”
“The entire funding scheme implemented by statute and being embraced fully by the court is an assessment that has as its sole condition precedent the conviction of people,” Jessee Welch says. “If there is no conviction, there is no assessment. Without assessments there can be no courthouses. The court wants courthouses. Therefore, the court must convict.”
He adds: “There is a dollar for dollar, conviction for conviction, direct benefit bestowed upon the Court. The very court that will make the rules, interpret the laws, determine credibility, and exercise almost unfettered discretion in every criminal case. All state appeals, up to and including the Supreme Court of California, have the same issue of ethics and conflict of interest and are therefore incompetent to hear this case.”
Welch says he got a speeding ticket in June 2009, which he fought unsuccessfully.
He claims that he was “denied evidence, ordered to return to court numerous times, denied numerous dismissal motions, and subject to unethical conduct by both the prosecutor and the traffic commissioner. Welch, finally exhausted by the burdens placed upon him and under the advice of counsel, plead[ed] to the offense and filed a timely appeal.” But he lost that too, so he paid the fine and the cost of his insurance increased.
Welch claims no California court should hear his case, as they all have the same conflict of interest.
“If (any) person is found to have violated any law, i.e. found guilty or admits, then the Administrative Office of the Courts shall impose an assessment. The sole purpose of that assessment is to build new courthouses for the benefit of the very court that heard the case. In fact, the fund the assessment must be deposited to is named ‘Courthouse Construction Fund.'”
Welch says the courts violated his right to due process: “the California court hearing Welch’s case never informed him that the California court was going to construct new courthouses and the sole source of money for the courthouses is the ‘Courthouse Construction Fund.’ Welch was not told that to contribute to the ‘Courthouse Construction Fund’ Welch must first be found liable for any offense.”
He claims to represent all people whose cases were heard by California’s criminal courts.
He seeks compensation for costs and fees, reimbursement for increased insurance costs, wants his ticket expunged, and he wants the courts enjoined from assessing fees for construction funds.
He is represented by Dennis Fleming of Manteca.