Pennsylvania: Constitutional mandate that all costs/fees collected by the courts go to pay for the courts only

One of the challenges courts have faced in the last several years of the Great Recession has been the press to treat them, in the words of a former Texas State Court Administrator, as revenue centers for local and state government rather than as courts. A Pennsylvania lawmaker last week reintroduced a plan that could help move that state’s courts away from being “revenue centers.”

Under HB 320 all costs and fees collected by courts in the state would remain with the courts, or more specifically, go into a Judiciary Operations Fund under the control of Supreme Court. The Supreme Court would then expend revenue from the Judiciary Operations Fund to pay for the state’s courts and be allowed to carry 3% over from fiscal year to fiscal year. Once the courts are fully funded and 3% carried over if there are any additional moneys left, only then would the balance be transferred into the state’s general revenue fund.

HB 320 also provides if the costs/fees paid into the Judiciary Operations Fund are insufficient to maintain courts, the Supreme Court may ask for additional appropriations from the executive and legislature.

HB 320 is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.