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Innovative and Effective Approaches to Court Collections. National Association for Court Management Annual Conference. July 14, 2011. Why is Collections Important?. Judicial integrity Accountability of the court Accountability of the litigant Fiscal responsibility.

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Innovative and Effective Approaches to Court Collections

National Association for Court Management

Annual Conference

July 14, 2011

why is collections important
Why is Collections Important?
  • Judicial integrity
  • Accountability of the court
  • Accountability of the litigant
  • Fiscal responsibility
why is collections important1
Why is Collections Important?
  • NACM 2010-2015 National Agenda
    • Sustaining excellence in difficult budget times
      • Court budget shortfalls
      • Maximizing appropriations
    • Enhancing public perceptions of the court and increasing community collaboration
      • Public trust and confidence
why is collections important2
Why is Collections Important?
  • Enforcing court-ordered financial sanctions
    • Judiciary’s credibility
    • Judiciary’s responsibility
judiciary s credibility
Judiciary’s Credibility
  • Courts must send the public a firm and consistent message that their orders will be enforced
  • Effective enforcement of court orders, including financial sanctions, will:
    • Enhance the integrity and credibility of the courts
    • Increase respect for both the courts and their orders
judiciary s responsibility
Judiciary’s Responsibility
  • To assure victims are made whole
  • To share its burden of fiscal responsibility; the fines, costs, and assessments that courts collect support:
    • Law enforcement
    • Libraries
    • Crime victim’s rights fund
    • Local governments
elements for improving collections
Elements for Improving Collections
  • National Center for Victims of Crime
    • Five case studies on improving restitution collection
    • Shared important elements for improving collections
      • Leadership
      • Commitment
      • Openness to new thinking
judicial acceptance of collections
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Disclaimer
    • Review your statutes/laws
    • Review your court rules
    • Review your administrative orders
    • Review your judicial canons/ethical rules
judicial acceptance of collections1
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Is it necessary for judges to be involved in collections?
    • Leadership and commitment
    • Cooperation and consistency
judicial acceptance of collections2
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • What message does your court send?
  • Know your judge(s)
    • New judge or served a number of years
    • Background
    • One judge or multi-judge bench
  • Educate your judge(s)
judicial acceptance of collections3
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Judicial 3 D’s of Collections
    • Duty
    • Dedication
    • Diligence
judicial acceptance of collections4
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Duty
    • Every judge has the duty to enforce court orders and sanctions, if only because it enhances the integrity of the court and what you do
judicial acceptance of collections5
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Dedication
    • Every judge must specifically dedicate themselves to implementing an effective collections program in the proper discharge of their duties
judicial acceptance of collections6
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Diligence
    • Diligence requires that judges constantly monitor these efforts to assure that there is fair and efficient application of their mandates
judicial acceptance of collections7
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Defendant comes in to collections and is $200 behind on payment plan
  • Collections tries to work with him, but he just keeps saying he can’t make his payments and only has $20 on him
  • What should the judge do?
judicial acceptance of collections8
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Judge puts defendant in jail and while court officer is booking him, defendant pulls out over $600 and pays entire fine in full
judicial acceptance of collections9
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Defendant was on payment plan before and failed to pay, so he was sentenced to jail
  • Next time he comes in, he says he will do whatever odd jobs he needs to so he can pay off his fine because he knows “the court ain’t messing around”
  • On the FLIP SIDE!
judicial acceptance of collections10
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Judge asks defendant if he can pay, defendant says no, and judge sets up payment arrangements from the bench based on what defendant says
    • This will always be a detriment to collections
    • Judge does not know the history of the defendant as to collections
judicial acceptance of collections11
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Defendant tells judge he can’t pay because he lost his job
  • Judge orders defendant to start making payments in 6 months
  • Not sent to collections
judicial acceptance of collections12
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Two days later that same defendant is sentenced to fines and costs by another judge
  • Sent to collections
  • During interview by collections, he says he’s had his job for 1 year and can pay this fine in full in a week
judicial acceptance of collections13
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Defendant tells judge she can’t pay because she doesn’t have a job
  • Judge orders collections to set up $25 a month payment plan
judicial acceptance of collections14
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Collections interview reveals she’s receiving state assistance and child support, and is working under the table
  • Defendant is capable of paying much more than judge ordered
  • Judges must let collections do their job!
judicial acceptance of collections15
Judicial Acceptance of Collections
  • Defendants know they can mislead judges and get away with it because judges don’t have the full financial picture
collections program components
Collections Program Components
  • Staff or staff time dedicated exclusively to collections activities
  • Enforcement of payment at time of assessment and communication of the expectation of payment
  • Payment requirement on the day of assessment
  • Financial statement information is verified and evaluated to establish appropriate payment plan
  • Payment alternatives are available for those who do not have the ability to pay
collections program components1
Collections Program Components
  • Litigants are closely monitored for compliance, and actions are taken promptly after noncompliance
  • Submit required receivables and collections reports to the SCAO annually
  • Promptly and consistently use statutorily permitted graduated sanctions
  • Use of locator services
  • Referral to outside agency for collections after all in-house collections efforts are exhausted
obstacles and solutions
Obstacles and Solutions
  • Lack of judicial and/or administrative leadership and commitment
    • Increase awareness and keep collections in the forefront with positive and increased visibility
    • Provide actual results (costs and revenues)
    • Focus on “compliance” and “enforcement” rather than “collections”
obstacles and solutions1
Obstacles and Solutions
  • Lack of ownership by court staff
    • Prioritize collectible accounts, decide what to go after first, and implement one tool at a time rather than trying to do it all at once
    • Set realistic goals and share results and successes
    • Keep staff informed and involved
obstacles and solutions2
Obstacles and Solutions
  • Inadequate staffing levels
    • Demonstrate to funding unit that a collections position will pay for itself
    • Pursue legislation that restricts revenue to fund collections, including staff
    • Consolidate collections efforts with other courts or funding unit
    • Third-party collectors
obstacles and solutions3
Obstacles and Solutions
  • Technology limitations
    • Third-party collections software
    • Pursue legislation that restricts revenue to fund collections, including development of collections software
obstacles and solutions4
Obstacles and Solutions
  • Lack of data and reporting
    • Develop and require standard reports
    • Develop reports that measure results for specific enforcement tools
    • Evaluation methods
      • Pre-test/post-test study
      • Control group study
      • Benchmark or comparison
      • Baseline
obstacles and solutions5
Obstacles and Solutions
  • Economy
    • Educate defendants on where to cut spending or how to prioritize spending
    • Refer defendants to employment agencies
    • Offer payment alternatives, such as community service
obstacles and solutions6
Obstacles and Solutions
  • Lack of understanding
    • Provide training seminars and consultations with individual courts
    • Create a collections website
    • Collections training videos
collections training videos
Collections Training Videos
  • Help courts communicate the expectation of payment
  • Courtroom proceedings in district and circuit courts, including family divisions of circuit court
    • Guilty pleas
    • Sentencings
    • Show cause hearings
    • Probation violation hearings
collections training videos1
Collections Training Videos
  • Court collections department at work
  • Judges and a court administrator answering questions about their collections programs
  • Demonstrations of successful practices and practices to avoid
collections training videos2
Collections Training Videos
  • http://webcast.you-niversity.com/youtools/companies/scao/login.asp
  • Passcode (PIN number) is collect
lessons learned
Lessons Learned
  • Leadership and commitment will cause the necessary cultural change
  • Increase in compliance when implement effective collections tools
  • Increase in employee morale
  • Provides offenders with sense of ownership, accomplishment, and responsibility
lessons learned1
Lessons Learned
  • Provide information to the court’s funding unit
  • Attend conferences and seminars
  • Invite questions, comments, and complaints from stakeholders
  • Utilize collections software
  • You don’t need a lot to start a collections office
  • Collections office should be in close proximity to judges
lessons learned2
Lessons Learned
  • Be consistent
  • Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive. Elbert Hubbard – US author (1856 – 1915)
contact information
Contact Information
  • Judge John Hallacy
    • 269-969-6908
    • jhallacy@calhouncountymi.gov
  • Beth Barber, Trial Court Collections Project Manager
    • 517-373-5895
    • barberb@courts.mi.gov