By James Baxter, NMA President
In this land where reality and fiction are indistinguishable there is a dead legal principle that says judges and courts should not personally benefit from the results of their rulings. Obviously, there is a conflict of interest anytime a judge’s well being would be affected by his or her decision. On occasion, a judge is found guilty of taking bribes for deciding in favor of his benefactors.
But, when the conflict of interest is systemic, universal, and worth billions of dollars it is also invisible!
I’m talking about the adjudication of traffic tickets. Traffic tickets are the mother’s milk of the court system. Thousands of judges rule on traffic cases knowing full well that guilty verdicts pay their salary, fund their retirement systems, and build their courthouses.
But nobody seems to see a conflict of interest in this system? The noble judges are apparently above the temptations the rest of humanity experiences?
Here’s how a typical speeding ticket (in this case a ticket from Indiana that we paid though our Traffic Justice Program) is divvied up:
State Courts: $49.00
County Courts: $18.90
City Courts: $2.10
Law Enforcement Fee: $4.00
Jury Fee: $2.00
Highway Work Zone: $0.50 (??)
Auto Record Keeping Fee: $7.00
Document Storage Fee: $2.00
Infractional Judgments: $99.50 The fine!
Public Defense Administration Fee: $3.00
Judicial Insurance Adjustment: $1.00
Judicial Salaries Fee: $18.00: Do you think murderers and rapists pay this fee too?
DNA Sample Processing Fee: $2.00 Very common service for traffic tickets.
Court Administration Fee: $5.00
Total Cost Of Ticket: $214.00
This should help explain why average traffic ticket recipients start out with two strikes against them when they enter traffic court. The court system just can’t afford to offer real justice. If it did it would drown in its own workload and go broke in the process.