As Phila. courts get tough on scofflaws, attorneys help those unaware of debts

The city of Philadelphia is cracking down on those who owe fines and fees to the court system.

Community Legal Services attorneys are reaching out to people who are on the wrong end of a collection agency phone call. Some of the debts are years old and Rebecca Vallas says records are old or incomplete.

“The problems that we’ve been seeing with implementation of the new court payment system is collection of debts that are not actually owed, for instance people are being billed for supervision fees that were waived by the sentencing judge,” she said.

Attorney Suzanne Young said the courts have been helpful working out the problem, but the age of the records is a problem.

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“They are very old and many of our clients aren’t aware of the dollar amount, they’ve been informed by the probation department their cases are closed,” she said. “And 15 or 20 years later, they are getting paperwork or they are getting phone calls from the collection agency.”

The attorneys say for those who do owe, they have the right to work out a payment plan.

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