Special Edition: Arizona fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session

HB 2245 ORIGINAL: Requires Supreme Court report annually to the governor and the legislature the amount of fees that were collected by every court in the state, including the revenue and collection rates for each court. AMENDED: Strike all language. Strike-all amendment approved by House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee 2/15/17.

SB 1158 Implements a portion of the recommendations of the Arizona Chief Justice’s Task Force on Fair Justice for All.


Fine Mitigation and Restitution

  • Modifies the court’s ability to waive civil penalties, forfeitures and fines, instead allowing the court to mitigate them. Maintains requirements related to hardship and division of the amount assessed.
  • Stipulates that the court cannot mitigate the Clean Elections surcharge.
  • Allows the court to mitigate mandatory fines and civil penalties. They are not currently allowed to be waived.
  • Permits the court to waive or mitigate mandatory community restitution due to a defendant’s medical condition. Specifies this ability does not apply to community restitution in lieu of a monetary obligation.
  • Allows the court to mitigate a fine imposed on conviction for a drug offense.
  • Eliminates the requirement that a probationer be current on the payment of monetary obligations to receive earned time credit. Maintains the requirement that the probationer be current on court-ordered restitution.
  • Expands the ability of the court to order a defendant to perform community restitution in lieu of paying all or part of a monetary obligation if the court finds the defendant is unable to pay.
  • Specifies that community restitution in lieu of a monetary obligation does not apply to the Clean Elections surcharge.
  • Reduces the interest that accrues on a criminal restitution order in favor of the state from 10 percent to 4 percent per year.
  • Allows the court to waive all or part of the interest on a criminal restitution order in favor of any person entitled to restitution on agreement of the prosecutor and victim.

Removal of Debt

  • Allows the superior court, a justice of the peace or a municipal court to order all or part of a debt due to the court be removed from the accounting system if
    a) 20 years or more have elapsed from the date of the initial fine or other monetary obligation in a criminal or civil traffic case that resulted in the debt;
    b) the court notifies the prosecutor, defendant and victim, if the defendant’s and victim’s addresses are known, that the court may remove all or part of the debt and that any party or the victim may file an objection to the removal within 30 days after notification;
    c) the court makes reasonable attempts to collect the debt, including billing the debtor on at least four different dates;
    d) the court submits the debt for collection to a licensed collection agency and does not order the removal for at least a year while the agency attempts collection;
    e) the court notifies the Department of Revenue of the debt pursuant to statute; and
    f) the court notifies the county or city treasurer, as appropriate.
  • Requires the court to consider any objection in determining whether to remove the debt.

Sentences of Community Restitution or Education or Treatment

  • Permits the court to impose a term of community restitution or education or treatment if a conviction is for a misdemeanor and the person is not granted a period of probation or probation is revoked, in addition to any sentence authorized by law.
  • Requires the court to determine and fix the sentence for a definite period of time if the court imposes a sentence to perform community restitution for a misdemeanor conviction.
  • Requires the court or probation officer to determine the program of education or treatment.
  • Prohibits the term of education or treatment the court imposes from exceeding the term of probation for such convictions.


  • Relieves court clerks of their duty to automatically report unpaid fines, fees, incarceration costs or restitution and instead requires clerks to make the person’s payment history available for free only on request by:

a) the prosecutor;
b) the victim;
c) the victim’s attorney;
d) the probation department; and
e) the court.

  • Eliminates the ability of the court to revoke a defendant’s probation, parole or community supervision and to sentence the defendant to prison if the court finds the defendant:

a) has willfully failed to pay a fine, fee, assessment, restitution or incarceration costs; or
b) has intentionally refused to make a good faith effort to obtain the monies required for payment.

  • Allows time spent in actual custody to be credited in each sentence against the term of imprisonment if the defendant is released from custody pending trial on at least one charge, but remains in actual custody because of not being released pending trial on any other charge.
  • Modifies how a person on intensive probation is paid. Instead of the chief adult probation officer administering the defendant’s account and making payments on behalf of the defendant, the defendant’s probation officer will monitor the defendant’s wages to ensure the collection of restitution, fees, fines and other payments.
  • Adds assessments to requirements related to consequences and garnishment for nonpayment

Texas: bill similar to Arizona “anti-commandeering” legislation would ban state appellate courts from enforcing federal court orders

A version of the Arizona bill that would ban state courts from enforcing federal court decisions has now been filed in the Texas House.

HB 2808 as filed amends Government Code Chapter 2113 by creating a new Subchapter F to prohibit a “state agency” from using any money in enforcing any “federal action.”

Under Gov. Code Ch. 2113 “state agency” includes “the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, another entity in the judicial branch of state government with statewide authority, or a court of appeals.”

Moreover, HB 2808 specifically defines “federal action” to include “order of a federal court.”

Enforcement of the federal court order could only occur if permitted by the Texas legislature via the General Appropriations Act or some other state law.

HB 2808 has been filed but not yet assigned to a committee.

Arizona: Statewide Court Security Fund clears Senate 27-2, money would be used to bring all courthouses up to Supreme Court’s minimum standards

The Arizona Senate last week approved SB 1161 to create a Statewide Court Security Fund to be administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Under the bill the money would be dedicated to “assistance, training and grants to courts to meet minimum standards of courthouse security that are adopted by the supreme court.

Funding would come from an apparently 2% increase on all court fees.

SB 116 has been sent to the House but not yet assigned to a committee.

Arizona: hearing next week on plan to end merit/commission selection of judges & reduce terms down to 2 years; bill sent to House Appropriations, not House Judiciary

The latest effort to end merit/commission selection for Arizona’s appellate courts and Superior Courts has been refiled. HCR 2030 would require partisan elections for all appellate and Superior Courts and reduce judge’s terms in office from the current 6 (appellate) or 4 (Superior) down to 2 years. The companion HB 2534 provides the implementing statutes, contingent on passage of HCR 2030 and makes clear it is a partisan race.

As occurred last year the bill is not being heard in the House Judiciary Committee. Instead it has been sent into the House Appropriations Committee, which approved a similar version (HCR 2028 of 2016) although that version made the races nonpartisan (“without partisan or other designation.”)


Arizona: citing state’s “sovereign authority” House approves ban on state courts from being “commandeered” into enforcing federal court rulings

The Arizona House yesterday approved on a 38-22 vote HB 2097 which could result in state court judges being directed by the legislature not to enforce federal court rulings including those of the U.S. Supreme Court.

HB 2097 of 2017 provides that “the sovereign authority” of Arizona allows the legislature to call a halt to any “commandeering” “action” by the federal government. “Action” includes “A ruling issued by a court of the United States.” Moreover, the ruling by the courts of the United States would only be allowed to be enforced if “affirmed by a vote of the Congress of the United States and signed into law as prescribed by the Constitution of the United States” or via a bill passed and enacted by the state’s legislature & governor.

HB 2097 now goes to the Senate which narrowly defeated the same measure last year (discussed here).

Arizona: Bill set for hearing this week would require pro se litigants have access to efiling, require audio recordings be considered official record

The Arizona House Judiciary committee will hold a hearing this week on a proposal to require pro se litigants have access to efiling as well as potentially ending the use of paper/written transcripts in the state.

HB 2220 as filed prohibits the supreme court or any court in the state from designating “a paper transcript of a hearing or other proceeding as the only official record if the hearing or other proceeding is electronically recorded and the recording is audible.”

Additionally, the bill amends an existing law allowing electronic filing of documents and electronic access to records in the state’s general jurisdiction courts (Superior) to provide that if the court does provide such access/filing to attorneys “the privileges must also be provided to clients and pro se litigants.”

Arizona: chair of House Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy committee files bill to allow state legislature to remove federal judges in state from office

While Gavel to Gavel is focused on state legislation affecting state courts, I occasionally find and discuss state legislation affecting federal courts. Such as bill has just been filed in the Arizona House.

The U.S. Constitution provides federal “judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour”. The chair of the Arizona House Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy committee has filed a bill that claims this gives the state’s legislature the power to remove “a federal judge who presides in this state” by declaring them not serving in good behavior.

HB 2282 of 2017 lists three causes for such a removal process

  1. A judicial act that is in blatant disregard of the original intent of the United States constitution or the laws of the United States.
  2. Professional or personal conduct that is unbecoming of a federal judge.
  3. Grossly lenient sentences for offenses in comparison to national trends for similar offenses.

HB 2282 has been filed in the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.