Starting July 1, clerks throughout Tennessee gained the power to begin suspending driver’s licenses if court fees and fines go unpaid for a year. But The Tennessean reports that not a single license has been suspended, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Even Tommy Bradley, chief administrative officer for the Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk’s Office and the man who wrote the law, is holding off until Aug. 1 to give debtors one last chance to pay at least something.
Other clerks are questioning whether to suspend licenses at all, out of logistical or moral reservations.
“I just want to wait and see,” said Wilson County Circuit Court Clerk Linda Neal. “I’m afraid this law is going to be hurting the people who would really like to put out the effort to pay and they simply can’t.”
Bradley acknowledges there is “widespread” opposition to the law, which he wrote to help collect hundreds of millions in uncollected court costs.
…Neal said that aside from moral qualms at saddling poor offenders with even more burdens, she’s not sure she has the money or staff to send out notices and then process debtors for suspensions.
“We’ve got all the work that we can say grace over now,” Neal said. “To me, it’s going to be more record-keeping and a little bit more difficult to keep up with.”
Neal said she’s more likely to just continue sending unpaid debts to a collection agency. It’s cheaper and easier on her overworked staff.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Children’s advocates say a report released Wednesday on the welfare of children in Tennessee supports their belief that more preventive care programs will benefit youth long term, as well as save the state money.
The Kids Count report, partially funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, focused on children’s well-being, but also examined how the state spends funds to improve the lives of children.
Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said universal prevention services have the lowest per child cost and the greatest cost-benefit potential because of their ability to prevent downstream costs.
However, they received the least funding, according to the report compiled by the commission.
Thousands of Tennesseans who haven’t paid court costs and fines will start losing their driver’s licenses on July 1 under a law enacted by the General Assembly last year. Bob Fowler reports that county court clerks and judges, who are preparing to begin enforcing the law, have differing opinions about whether it’s a wise thing to do.
The law applies to misdemeanor and felony cases that were resolved after July 1, 2011. Defendants one year from the date of a guilty plea or conviction to pay off their court costs and fines and, if they don’t they are faced with loss of license. The revocations, thus, will begin after July 1, 2012. “Imagine the court having to have a hearing on every unpaid court cost case,” Anderson County Circuit Court Clerk Barry Pelizzari said. “It would be a burden that this system could not handle.”
“It’s going to be a huge mess,” Anderson County Criminal Court Judge Don Elledge predicted. He said he expects to discuss the issue with fellow jurists during a judicial conference in June.
Roane County Circuit Court Clerk Kim Nelson offers another view. She said she’s “thankful that the Legislature has provided court clerks with another enforcement tool in collecting court costs.”
…State Rep. Jim Gotto, R-Nashville, spearheaded passage of the law. His main reason: “There’s almost $1 billion statewide in unpaid fines and court costs,” he said.
Defendants facing the loss of their driver’s license will now have “an incentive to pay their fines,” he said.
Gotto said he was asked to introduce the legislation by representatives of the Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk’s office. “They see what a huge problem this is.”
Gotto said the law allows defendants unable to pay off their court costs in full within a year to either seek a six-month extension or set up an installment plan for paying.
“There are all kinds of safeguards to keep from disenfranchising any group,” he said, “but it brings some real consequences to folks who just won’t pay.”
Several clerks said they have either already sent out notices to defendants owing court costs in cases resolved last July, alerting them about the new law, or plan to do so soon.
By Bill Poovey, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The government paid nearly $2,500 for Sarah Palin’s husband to come to the trial of a Tennessee college student who hacked into her email — even though Todd Palin never testified, court records show.
In all, the government paid more than $29,000 to fly members of the Palin family and other witnesses to Knoxville, send a prosecutor to Alaska for research and pay other travel expenses, according to the Department of Justice records obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request. Air travel totaled about $18,600, and hotel bills amounted to nearly $3,300.
The thousands of dollars spent by prosecutors helped them win a conviction on one felony and one misdemeanor charge against David Kernell, who finishes his 10-month sentence on Wednesday. Prosecutors have said that Kernell’s punishment for the hacking during Palin’s failed 2008 vice presidential bid should deter any hackers who considered targeting candidates in next fall’s presidential election.
The former Alaska governor, her daughter Bristol and an aide were among the witnesses called to the stand, but the chief prosecutor said he decided Todd Palin’s testimony wasn’t needed. Sarah and Bristol Palin told jurors that they harassed and their lives were disrupted after Kernell hacked into Sarah Palin’s Yahoo! Email account and made screenshots public that included personal email addresses and cell phone numbers.