Posts Tagged ‘petty fines and fees’

Chicago impound confound

“It can’t be overstated what a procedural and logistical nightmare it is to get a car impounded in the city of Chicago.” [C.J. Ciaramella, Reason] Related, Atlanta area: “Lawsuit claims Doraville officials writing tickets for profit, not enforcement” [WXIA, Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News] And Pagedale, Mo., a small St. Louis suburb, has agreed “to stop bankrolling itself by fining its residents into the poorhouse.” [Scott Shackford, Reason]

Constitutional law roundup

  • “Allegation: Maplewood, Mo. officials trap low-income motorists in a repeated cycle of arrests and jailing over traffic violations by requiring them to pay fines and bonds irrespective of their ability to pay. A Fourteenth Amendment violation? The district court did not err, says the Eighth Circuit, in allowing the case to proceed.” [John Kenneth Ross, IJ “Short Circuit” on Webb v. City of Maplewood]
  • “Does the Excessive Fines Clause Apply to the States? You’d think we’d know that by now — but the Supreme Court hasn’t spoken to this.” [Eugene Volokh]
  • “SCOTUS Bingo: The Slaughterhouse Cases” [Sheldon Gilbert on Heritage “SCOTUS 101” podcast with Elizabeth Slattery and Tiffany Bates; Eighth Circuit occupational licensure case]
  • Should committing a crime unrelated to guns or violence lead to lifetime forfeiture of gun rights? [Ilya Shapiro and Matt Larosiere on Cato amicus brief in Kanter v. Sessions, Seventh Circuit]
  • “A Debt Against the Living: An Introduction to Originalism,” Federalist Society podcast with Michael McConnell and Ilan Wurman discussing Wurman’s new book]
  • A new and better Article V? [proposal for an “amendment amendment“]

When courts depend on fines

One problem with the packing on of fines and fees in street-level law enforcement is that it can pull residents down to indigency over ultimately minor offenses; another is that when fees are directed into justice system budgets, it can reshape incentives in dangerous ways. “We place courts in a dangerous position when we make them dependent on the funds they collect. The dynamic risks undermining judicial independence.” [Matthew Menendez, ABA Journal]

Finally, rules to rein in agency guidance documents

Agencies use informal guidance documents in lieu of formal regulation to clarify and interpret uncertainties in existing law and enforcement. Unfortunately, this and other forms of “subregulatory guidance” can also offer a tempting way to extend an agency’s power and authority into new areas, or ban private actions that hadn’t been banned before, all without going through the notice and comment process required by regulation, with its protections for regulated parties. Fair? Lawful? The Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions has lately sought to bring agency use of guidance documents under better control, and in particular end the use of documents that 1) are obsolete, 2) improperly use the process to circumvent the need for formal regulation, or 3) improperly go beyond what is provided for in existing legal authority. I’m interviewed about all this by Caleb Brown for the Cato Daily Podcast.

More: Charlie Savage, New York Times (DoJ revokes batch of guidance documents), Matt Zapotosky/Washington Post; Scott Shackford, Reason (rescission of guidance letter on local fines and fees should be read not as blessing those practices as okay, but as reflecting fact that federal government lacks clear statutory or constitutional mandate to intervene against them); Stephen McConnell, Drug and Device Law (“DOJ Says its Litigators May Not Use Noncompliance with FDA Guidances as Basis for Civil Enforcement Actions”).

“They confessed to minor crimes. Then City Hall billed them $122K in ‘prosecution fees'”

“In Indio and Coachella, prosecutors take property owners to court for some of the smallest crimes, then bill them thousands and threaten to take their homes if they don’t pay.” [Brett Kelman, The Desert Sun, California, via Dan Mitchell who besides citing this story, and my writing on the new Philadelphia bulletproof glass law, relates local government ticketing sprees arising from Chicago window sign rules and Los Angeles pedestrian laws] The Institute for Justice [press release] has now filed a lawsuit challenging the Indio/Coachella practices. [Kelman, Desert Sun]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • Citation nation: abuse of fees and fines erodes legitimacy and accountability in local government [C. Jarrett Dieterle, City Journal]
  • If concept of obstruction of justice is not to do injustice itself, it must be confined to a limited number of well-defined offenses [Tim Lynch, Cato]
  • “Drug recognition experts” deployed at traffic stops have a reliability problem, and that can put innocent people behind bars [11Alive Atlanta, Ed Krayewski] Zero-tolerance THC: Unimpaired driver gets six months for fatal crash she did not cause [Jacob Sullum]
  • New York Senate approves bill to make police protected group for purposes of hate crime law; similar proposals have become law in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi [Tim Cushing/TechDirt, earlier here and here]
  • Now renamed “trafficking”: “Why Governments Always Exaggerate the Prostitution Threat” [Camilo Gómez, FEE, related Libertarianism.org podcast with Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • Some problems with requiring “racial impact statements” for new bills on criminal justice [Roger Clegg and Hans von Spakovsky, NRO, James Scanlan, Federalist Society blog]

October 19 roundup

  • “Nobody wanted to vote ‘against’ 9/11 families in an election year.” Which led to a series of absurd consequences when Congress took up Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA [Lowering the Bar, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Cute: animal rights group ambushes Orthodox with legal action on eve of Yom Kippur [Scott Greenfield citing Josh Blackman account]
  • “Can U.S. Presidents Much Affect the U.S. Economy?” If so, it might be through regulatory burdens [David Henderson]
  • Suit had much publicity but nearer to zero merit: Connecticut judge dismisses suit against gun manufacturer over Sandy Hook school shooting, citing PLCAA (Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act) [Hartford Courant]
  • Did spate of violation-finding against local property owner proceed from retaliatory motives? “Councilman Says California City Used Code Enforcement as Payback” [Lompoc, Calif.; Matt Powers, Institute for Justice]
  • Local man discusses third parties’ role in the national election [Frederick News-Post podcast, 37:09, I’m interviewed by reporters Danielle Gaines and Jeremy Bauer-Wolf; related article]