Missourians who’ve paid a speeding or parking ticket in the last few years will want to pay close attention to a class-action lawsuit recently filed in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Millions of dollars in ticket surcharges, past and future, are at stake.
So is a more fundamental issue: unwisely using court fines to raise money for government programs, instead of increasing taxes or cutting spending somewhere else.
Our story begins in May, when two local men, Daven Fowler and Jerry Keller, got speeding tickets in Kansas City. When they paid their fines, a $3 surcharge had been added to the penalty.
What was the $3 for? Better equipment for police? Paperwork?
No. The $3 fee, added to every parking and speeding ticket in Kansas City Municipal Court, pays for the retirement of roughly 125 former county sheriffs in Missouri. County-based circuit courts have collected the fee for years, but municipal courts were exempt until 2013.
That year, under circumstances that remain murky, the state’s court administrator reversed himself and ordered judges to collect the $3 fee from every violator appearing in virtually every municipal court in Missouri.
Some judges and some cities balked. They found it outrageous that speeders were required to pay into the sheriffs’ once-wobbly…