Sheriff's fees origin difficult to track

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JONESBORO, Ark. – The origin of the sheriff’s fees collected in Craighead County Circuit Court remains difficult to track, but dates back to at least the 1960s.

The search for when, or how, the fees began is one several have undertaken along the route to June 29’s ruling in Craighead County Circuit Court against the county.

When attorney Mark Rees began deposing county officials leading up to the filing of a 2012 lawsuit on behalf of Christopher Miles and similarly situated persons, the Craighead County Sheriff was Jack McCann.

During deposition, McCann said sheriff’s fees had been in place since before he was

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McCann

elected, dating back to at least Sheriff Larry Emison’s term. Emison served as Craighead County Sheriff from 1989 to 1997.

When Sheriff Marty Boyd, elected in 2012, set out to find the origin of the sheriff’s fees, he said it went back to the 1960s and possibly even further back. This was based on the earliest documents he could find showing the fees.

However, why the fee is titled “sheriff’s fee” is the biggest mystery of all, because none of the money ever went to the sheriff’s department. Instead, it was earmarked as its own item on the county general revenue paper.

The only interaction the Craighead County Sheriff’s Department ever had related to the sheriff’s fee was collecting it, as they collect all costs from the Craighead County Circuit Court, per ordinance.

SO Logo“All the court costs and fees are put on a commitment through the courts,” Boyd said. “The judge signs that order and sends for us to collect. We don’t have any say so. The sheriff doesn’t have any say so on how much it is or if there is any amount. We only collect what was ordered by the judge.”

Although Boyd was not elected in time to try, he said even if he wanted to, he could not have stopped collecting the $86 sheriff’s fee.

“It was ordered by a judge on the commitment,” Boyd said. “Once sent to our office, we have to do it.”

Not complying with a judicial order would leave a sheriff in contempt of court, and in effect, breaking the law.

Boyd said Craighead County is not the only county which does collect this type of fee and other counties collect it as well. However, in Craighead County Circuit Court Wednesday, Judge David Laser said there seemed to be no statutory authorization for the fee.

Boyd expected the county to appeal, based on conversations with Rainwater, Holt, and Sexton, P.A., as the search for the statute continues.

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