A recent Atlanta Journal Constitution article highlighted one very dedicated court clerk who had the chance to play Santa Clause to a number of former Cobb County residents over the last year.
Elva Dornbusch is the Chief Deputy Clerk of Cobb County Superior court, and if she called you during the past year, chances are you would have wanted to answer the phone. Dornbusch, you see, is handing out money. Victim restitution money, that is.
As it turns out, hundreds of thousands of dollars rightfully belonging to Cobb County crime victims had been languishing in a forgotten account until Dornbusch took on the task of contacting the victims and restoring their rightful cash. So far she has found about 4,100 past Cobb County residents who had no idea that their cases had provided monetary compensation. The search did not prove to be easy. With some cases going back to the 1980’s, by the time the criminal had the chance to pay restitution, people had moved on and businesses had closed. But, after finding old methods of tracking people ineffective, Dornbusch resourcefully turned to online databases and so far has managed to track down 80% of the money’s recipients.
According to Georgia law, if not claimed after five years, restitution money is to be deposited into a crime victim’s emergency fund administered by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). Most of the money in the fund has so far been donated by probation offices, but according to the CJCC, some superior courts have also contributed. According to the law, money collected more than five years ago should automatically go into the fund, while money collected between 2-5 years ago is kept so that citizens who think they may have some unclaimed funds due can search for them through the Georgia Department of Revenue website.
In this time of economic uncertainty, many of Dornbusch’s Santa Claus stories had a happy ending. In the AJC article, she spoke of returning money to a truck driver just in time for him to take his 7-year-old daughter on her first vacation. In another instance, Dornbusch returned $700 to a minister who had been praying for a way to find $700 to repair his van.
Often our dealings with the courts are either full of tension or just a hassle. Unless visiting the courthouse is part of your job, how often do you go down to there except to deal with stressors like paying a ticket or waiting in line for a permit? It’s a welcome change to see that some former Cobb County residents received a happy surprise from the courthouse over the past year.
Could you have some unclaimed money? If you live in Georgia, check the Georgia Department of Revenue’s site for a simple web search. Other state’s Departments of Revenue have similar searches set up.