Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow the Attorney General's office to contract both with local attorneys and private collections agencies to seek outstanding judicial fees.
Kansas Court of Appeals judge Patrick McAnany said Senate Bill 288 is under review because courts' options for collecting delinquent fees are limited and not doing so sinks confidence in the judicial branch's authority.
McAnany is chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) formed in 2010 to find efficiencies within a cash-strapped Kansas judiciary. In written testimony, he said the bill arose from a BRC recommendation "to encourage district courts to identify and vigorously pursue outstanding collectible court costs, fees and fines."
McAnany believes there are a lot of young "eager beavers" within the state's legal community looking for more work who could provide "competitive bidding" for the collections contracts, according to a Topeka Capital-Journal article. Costs of the collections contracts would be borne by those from whom delinquent fees are sought.
Thomas Foster, president of the Kansas District Judges' Association, said his group supports the bill. He estimates the amount of uncollected fees could amount to "a couple million dollars outstanding."
Foster and McAnany both expect SB 288 could need revisions and said their groups would like more time to work on it. Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he doesn't plan to hold a vote on the bill until next week.
McAnany said the Judicial Branch understands the importance of showing consumers are complying with court orders, particularly those for monetary fees, docket fees and restitution. He said it speaks directly to the perception of trust and confidence in the judiciary by the public.
Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he doesn't plan to hold a vote on the bill until next week.