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Court will decide whether court fees are taxes

Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court
The Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether it’s legal for judges to order defendants to pay fees and court costs.

One defendant is challenging the practice, which he says violates the state constitution.

Shawn Cameron Junior was ordered to pay more than $1,600 in court costs after he was convicted of assault. He says that amounts to a tax, and only the legislature can enact taxes. Cameron says courts can also be arbitrary in how they set the charges.

He is also challenging the law that allows courts to collect fees and costs. He says the law does not specifically state the purpose of imposing court costs and does not adequately set standards for determining the costs.

Lower courts have upheld the fees on the grounds they raise money from people using the criminal justice system to help pay for the criminal justice system. But this will be the first time the Michigan Supreme Court weighs in on the question. The court will hold a hearing on the case later this year.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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