C3 (Councils, Courts, and Cities) Turns Five

Mark Goodner sat down with Ryan Turner to discuss C3 and the upcoming Fines and Fees Exposition and Showcase. Eligible participants at the event can receive reimbursement for travel and meals consistent with TMCEC’s grant terms.

Mark Goodner: Ryan, can you believe it’s been five years since our public information and education campaign C3 (Councils, Courts, and Cities) kicked off? Time flies, but we have now published 24 issues of The Brief, and next month will be our fifth annual exposition and showcase—this one being a revisit to our Fines and Fees topics from 2019. For those unfamiliar with C3 and its history, what can you tell them about the impetus that brought it about?

Ryan Kellus Turner: C3 was born from the realization that municipal courts occupy a unique role in local government and in the Texas judicial system.  While TMCEC does its best to ensure that municipal judges and court personnel have the information and resources necessary to do their jobs, it is equally important that city officials and people who work in city hall understand their role in ensuring that justice occurs in municipal court.  There is a lot of specialized information.  C3 bridges the information gap by providing information resources that benefit city councils, courts, and cities throughout Texas.

MG: Over the years, I do think the topics covered in The Brief have really helped to bridge the gap between city halls and municipal courts in Texas. I think the two issues from January and March of 2020, Regarding the Appointment of Municipal Judges, are particularly helpful, along with the April 2021 issue on Official Oppression. Is there any issue of The Brief that really stands out to you as remaining particularly helpful?

RKT: Probably the issues having to do with judicial independence.  It is not a topic with obvious relevance to city hall. However, it does relate. Cities are encouraged to be mindful of public perception and take steps to promote public confidence in their municipal courts through judicial independence and judicial accountability.  

MG: I agree. I think there are several that continue to be great resources to help educate city officials—particularly if they are new to the position. I am looking forward to next month’s Fines and Fees Exposition and Showcase [participants can register here]. It feels like we are in a different position than we were in May of 2019, the first time we had this event. We’ve been through a pandemic which perhaps drew financial concerns into sharper focus for many Americans as well as most municipal courts. What are the most significant changes to fines and fees in your mind in the last three and a half years? Are there any new concerns that didn’t exist pre-pandemic? Any concerns from the the time of the first C3 conference that don’t seem as pressing anymore?

RKT: Conversations regarding “hot topics” in criminal justice in Texas tend to be ongoing. In terms of changes in laws regarding fines and fees, we now have more than three years of experience using statutes that provide defendants with more procedural safeguards and judges more latitude to do individual justice in individual cases. These laws, and what we have accomplished in Texas, have received national recognition across the ideological spectrum. While concerns about ensuring the fair and proper imposition of fines have not gone away, in part because of changes in the law, and changes court procedures, there is less public clamor and more public interest.

MG: Thanks for chatting today, Ryan. Everyone should tune in for Ryan’s webinar tomorrow (November 10, 2022) and register today for Fines and Fees Exposition and Showcase! As a reminder, eligible participants can receive travel reimbursement consistent with TMCEC’s grant terms! If you attend, we hope you will consider submitting questions and concerns related to fines and fees on this google form. These issues will be addressed by TMCEC at the Q&A session at the event!

Published by markgoodner

General Counsel & Director of Education, TMCEC

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