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Read the Fine Print: Court Costs

This article is part of a series lifting the veil on the numerous and profound changes to vital North Carolina programs and services made in the lengthy and wonky special provisions of the budget.  We’re starting with the special provisions in the House budget and will continue when the Senate releases its version of the budget.

Special provision in focus: Justice & Public Safety

This special provisions and the policy changes included can be categorized as:

  • Just plain sticking it to all those [insert type] people

Special provisions attached to the budget suggested by the House budget subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety outline over $80 million in new and increased court fees that are intended to offset state appropriations to the legal system. That’s a lot of dough by any standards, but the real kicker is that those dollars may exist mostly in the minds of legislators, not the wallets of those in the justice system. It’s completely unrealistic to assume that raising the statutory fees will result in 100% of the fee revenue forecasted. As anyone who has worked in or around the court system knows, not every plaintiff and defendant is flush with cash these days.

And talk about kicking people when they’re down – the special provisions suggest we should double the court fee assessed on foreclosures, from $150 to $300 per foreclosure. Yes, you heard that right. As we’re mucking our way out of a deep, dark recession caused mostly by wild financial speculation on mortgages and irresponsible lenders, our legislators have the gall to suggest that North Carolinians who are in the heartwrenching process of losing their homes should shoulder more of the cost of providing core government services.

Of course, we’ll probably be told it will all work out to our advantage because they’ll be cutting corporate taxes as part of the budget. So, the banks that wrote the mortgage to the family now in foreclosure will get a tax cut, and the family losing their house will just have to go a little bit deeper into debt than they already were thanks to the court’s new, higher foreclosure fee. Why would anyone object to THAT scenario?

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