More than 1,000 California families will receive cash reimbursements for illegal fees they paid to Riverside County’s juvenile justice system.
The payments are part of a settlement in the class-action lawsuit Freeman v. County of Riverside, that was preliminarily approved last month. In addition to reimbursing $540,307 to more than 1,200 families represented in the case, Riverside has also agreed to stop collecting $4.1 million in outstanding juvenile justice fees.
The plaintiffs, families who were charged millions of dollars in fees related to their children’s stays in juvenile detention, said Riverside County failed to assess whether they were able to pay the fees, a requirement under state law. Plaintiffs’ lawyers say the county has denied any wrongdoing but has agreed to the settlement.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys from the National Center for Youth Law and the Western Center on Law and Poverty said the illegal fee collection thrust many families into “cycles of financial turmoil” that have lasted for years.
“The County’s practices have had a devastating effect on families,” Michael Harris, an attorney and a senior director at the National Center for Youth Law, said in a press release. “This settlement will offer those families meaningful relief and deter Riverside County and other jurisdictions from illegally assessing and collecting money from struggling families.”
Named plaintiffs Shirley and Daniel Freeman said they were pursued by Riverside County for 10 years to collect fees related to their grandson’s time in juvenile detention.
“We are pleased that the lawsuit helped families by canceling amounts they still owed and now the settlement will return some of the money that was collected from them,” the Freemans stated in a press release.
Families who were charged fees through Riverside’s juvenile justice system will receive information in the mail regarding the proposed settlement. Caregivers who think they may be eligible for payment can contact the Settlement Administrator at www.riversidejuvenilefees.com or call (833) 472-1997.