“Funding the Courts from Those Who Can Least Afford It”

I just read this shocking story from the Brennan Center, the superlative justice think tank and legal clinic based at NYU. Boy am I naive! I had no idea about the kind of rabid injustice — meanness, really — that is still being inflicted on people in states around the country, so many of them southern states.

Add this to the ugly and fraudulent voter suppression mania and you can see how the antebellum South lives on: it uses the Tenth Amendment as a bludgeon to pound the Eighth and a whole bunch of other amendments — as well as Gideon — into the ground.

 Funding the Courts from Those Who Can Least Afford It

The state of Alabama is now in a situation common among states that fund part of their court system through fees on litigants. Alabama is one of 13 states that expect indigent defendants to pay some or all of the costs of their defense counsel. The Anniston Star reports that Alabama collected only $4 million from indigent defendants in 2012 – “only a fraction” of the legal fees and other court costs charged. “You can rack up $4,000 to $5,000 worth of fines and costs in a heartbeat,” Calhoun County Circuit Judge Bud Turner told the paper. Last year the Alabama legislature approved a slew of increased court fees intended to raise more than $20 million to bolster the state’s court system, which has laid off workers and limited working hours in recent years due to budget constraints. “A lot of court systems are struggling, across the country, to fund themselves. They’re turning to court fees as a source of revenue,” Lauren-Brooke Eisen told The Star. “It adds to what is an insurmountable cycle in the criminal justice system.” Read the Brennan Center’s report on criminal justice debt here and here.

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