The Rutherford County Commission voted unanimously Thursday night of this past week to ask the state to let the county raise its $25 court filing fees to an upper limit of $50 - despite opposition to the idea from State Rep.Mike Sparks at Tuesday's Steering Committee meeting.
The purpose of a fee increase, District 12 Commissioner Robert Stevens told the full commission Thursday night, would be to require the people who use the court system to help pay its cost - instead of putting the entire burden on all county taxpayers.
At that meeting, Sparks said he's concerned that increasing court cost fees would unduly burden indigent defendants. He also said the county should encourage home schooling to deal with overcrowded schools - and use counseling instead of incarceration for drug offenders to help cut the county's costs.
At which time, County Mayor Ernest Burgess emphatically replied to Sparks that the county is required to enforce state laws, which state legislators need to address if they think they need changing.
County Attorney Jim Cope explained that when low-income defendants appear in court, they can claim to be indigent and if the judge believes they are, all fees are waived. Cope added the judge could waive any higher fee as well, so an increase would have no effect on low-income defendants.