Posts Tagged ‘petty fines and fees’

Law enforcement for profit roundup

Fifth Circuit: basing judges’ fund on fines and fees violates due process

Orleans Parish, Louisiana (= county, in this case coterminous with the City of New Orleans) funnels the revenue from many criminal fines and fees into a judicial services fund which, while it does not pay judges’ salaries, does cover many related expenses including staff salaries, conferences and office supplies. Judges themselves help determine the volume of inflow to the fund by their rulings in cases. Now a unanimous Fifth Circuit panel has ruled that given the fund’s substantial dependence on such revenue, the parish “failed to provide a neutral forum” and thus violated defendants’ constitutional right to due process [Nick Sibilla/Forbes, ABA Journal; opinion in Cain v. White]

After a mechanic took it on an unauthorized ride, Chicago impounded her car. And then….

Her car was in the shop for work when a mechanic drove it on an expired license. What the city of Chicago did to her then shouldn’t happen to anyone [Elliott Ramos, WBEZ/ProPublica, Institute for Justice on its suit representing Veronica Walker-Davis and Jerome Davis, earlier]

An especially outrageous angle from an earlier Ramos/WBEZ story, quoted in our earlier coverage: “Chicago has impounded and sold off nearly 50,000 cars for unpaid tickets since 2011. Not a dime of the sales went toward the ticket debt; instead, the city and its towing contractor pocketed millions.”

Environment roundup

  • EPA confirms the view of its peer agencies around the world: glyphosate weed killer, found in Roundup, is not a carcinogen [Tom Polansek, Reuters, earlier, more]
  • Mayor Bulldozer? Critical look at Pete Buttigieg’s push to tear down hundreds of vacant dilapidated South Bend homes and fine the owners [Henry Gomez, BuzzFeed; see also Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star]
  • “Why Trump should call off the EPA’s latest assault on NYC” [Nicole Gelinas, New York Post; $3 billion to revamp and cover over a Yonkers reservoir]
  • “‘High-yield’ farming costs the environment less than previously thought – and could help spare habitats” [Cambridge University]
  • Is clarity finally coming on the scope of federal control of local surface waters? [Jonathan Adler on Trump administration “Waters of the United States” regulation; Tony Francois, Federalist Society on prospects for “navigable waters” at the Supreme Court]
  • “New Jersey Court Strikes Down Use of Eminent Domain to Take Property to “Bank” it for Possible Future Use” [Ilya Somin] Pennsylvania law promoted as fixing blighted neighborhoods used to steal people’s homes [Eric Boehm]

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]