DA Watkins Says He'll Get a Law Firm to Collect That $35 Million in Missing Bail Bond Money

No doubt you, the well-informed and engaged Friend of Unfair Park, are well aware that Dallas County's missing around, oh, $35 million that some bail bondsmen somehow forget to turn over to the county when their clients fail to show up for court. The Dallas Morning News had the story over the weekend, though as Schutze pointed out during our weekly editorial meeting this morning, he can recall writing a very similar story for the Dallas Times Herald, like, 74 years ago. Because as Kevin Krause and Ed Timms wrote, many of those forfeitures date "back decades."

But no mas, says Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins in a statement that just landed in the Unfair Park in-box. Only, he's gonna have to go outside his office to find himself a tracker, because his office is "understaffed and underfunded for a jurisdiction of its size," meaning Watkins "does not have the resources to designate assistant district attorneys to focus on the collection of bond forfeitures." Let's hop in our Bentleys and drive over the jump to read the entire statement. And leave your bond money on the nightstand.

District Attorney to Appoint Law Firm to Collect Outstanding Bond Forfeitures

(DALLAS, TX - July 6, 2011) - Today Dallas County District Attorney (DA) Craig Watkins announced that he will appoint a local law firm to collect an estimated $35 million in outstanding bond forfeitures owed to the county. The District Attorney's Office, which is understaffed and underfunded for a jurisdiction of its size, does not have the resources to designate assistant district attorneys to focus on the collection of bond forfeitures. Thus, the DA will select and hire a law firm (as allowed by the statute) to handle the outstanding funds from default judgments that had gone uncollected for years prior to Mr. Watkins taking office in 2007. The firm hired to spearhead this effort will retain 25 percent of the total amount collected and the remaining balance will go into the county's general fund.

"A recent report stating that there are no policies and procedures in place at the DA's office is absolutely incorrect," said Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. "We have been looking into this issue for the past two years. In 2010, we hired a bond forfeiture subject matter expert to work full-time in our Civil Division to seek forfeiture judgments in current civil cases. However, it is going to take more than one individual to proactively go after default judgments that were never collected. Therefore, we will have to bring in someone from the outside to manage the collection of these funds as our civil attorneys are already busy representing the county on a host of other civil matters. During my first term, we focused on cleaning up the failures of the past and improving policies and procedures to operate more efficiently. This is among many issues that still need to be corrected and hiring a law firm to dedicate their time and attention to resolving this issue is the first step."

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