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Kim: Support Court Fee Intercept Act

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Mahalo nui loa Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald for selecting the site across the street from the West Hawaii Civic Center as the future site of the Judiciary Complex in Kona.

The West Hawaii Bar Association (WHBA) supports this location on the corner of Ane Keohokalole Highway and Kealakehe Parkway as it is the future Regional Center for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in the Kona Community Development Plan.

In light of the budget challenges facing our Hawaii state judiciary, I totally support the enactment of federal legislation S. 755 and H.R. 1416, the Crime Victim Restitution and Court Fee Intercept Act.

It provides a way for the federal government to help state courts collect overdue court-ordered fines and crime victim restitution.

The American Bar Association (ABA), Chief Justice Recktenwald, the Conference of Chief Justices, Hawaii State Bar Association Executive Director Patricia Mau-Shimizu, and ABA State Delegate Margaret Masunaga, and WHBA are working together to help pass the federal law.

Masunaga met with Sen. Dan Inouye, Sen. Daniel Akaka, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa on April 18 in Washington, D.C. as part of ABA Day.

Mau-Shimizu agrees with CJ’s support and said, “While Hawaii has been spared drastic measures such as statewide courtroom closures significantly reducing access to court services mainland jurisdictions are experiencing, courts in the 50th state have reduced the use of per diem judges and delayed filling vacant judiciary staff positions to cope with decreasing funding levels. Expanding the federal tax-offset program to allow debtors’ federal tax refunds to be used to pay overdue court-ordered fines is one way to collect amounts owed to the judiciary.”

The court fee intercept act enables the U.S. Treasury Department – only at the request of state court systems, to intercept the federal tax returns of those who have neglected to pay court-ordered financial obligations. This is the same way that past-due child support is collected.

It is important to note that collecting overdue child support debts would continue to take priority over other monies owed and the legislation would not apply to overdue parking fines, civil judgments, or private litigation.

The CJ and our state judiciary need funding to start construction of our Kona courthouse by 2014 and complete it by 2017.

To make this a reality, we need additional sources of funding to helped cash-strapped courts. Hawaii needs the Crime Victim Restitution and Court Fee Intercept Act.

Robert D.S. Kim
President, West Hawaii Bar Association

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