Olson, Justin and MacDonald, Scott, Washington’s War on the Visibly Poor: A Survey of Criminalizing Ordinances & Their Enforcement (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602318
Howard, Joshua and Tran, David, At What Cost: The Minimum Cost of Criminalizing Homelessness in Seattle and Spokane (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602530
Lurie, Kaya and Schuster, Breanne, Discrimination at the Margins: The Intersectionality of Homelessness And Other Marginalized Groups (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602532
Ortiz, Javier and Dick, Matthew, The Wrong Side of History: A Comparison of Modern and Historical Criminalization Laws (May 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2602533
-Congrats to Sara Rankin and her students for this work! =)
The Nature of Poverty – NYTimes.com. [Presented without comment.]
New Book: Felice Batlan, Women and Justice for the Poor A History of Legal Aid, 1863–1945 (2015). Abstract below:
This book re-examines fundamental assumptions about the American legal profession and the boundaries between “professional” lawyers, “lay” lawyers, and social workers. Putting legal history and women’s history in dialogue, it demonstrates that nineteenth-century women’s organizations first offered legal aid to the poor and that middle-class women functioning as lay lawyers, provided such assistance. Felice Batlan illustrates that by the early twentieth century, male lawyers founded their own legal aid societies. These new legal aid lawyers created an imagined history of legal aid and a blueprint for its future in which women played no role and their accomplishments were intentionally omitted. In response, women social workers offered harsh criticisms of legal aid leaders and developed a more robust social work model of legal aid. These different models produced conflicting understandings of expertise, professionalism, the rule of law, and ultimately, the meaning of justice for the poor.
New Article: “A Fine Scheme: How Municipal Fines Become Crushing Debt in the Shadow of the New Debtors’ Prison”
New Article: Torie Atkinson, A Fine Scheme: How Municipal Fines Become Crushing Debt in the Shadow of the New Debtors’ Prison, 51 Harv. CR-CL __ (forthcoming 2016). Abstract below:
As state and local budgets tighten, municipalities have turned to civil fines and penalties to fill empty coffers. Beginning in the 1960s, these fines and fees, often termed legal financial obligations (“LFOs”) or economic sanctions, arose as a way to shift the costs of criminal adjudication to those “using” the system: those charged with criminal activity. Defendants in criminal cases began having to pay restitution, court costs, room and board, and even public defender fees. As time went on, fees spiraled into new areas, such as DNA testing fees, medical examination fees, even jury fees. Today, a weak economy, misplaced faith in the “broken windows” theory of criminology, and lack of regulatory oversight have allowed municipalities to extend this practice into petty criminal violations.
Many areas are now using jail time to coerce poor, mostly minority violators of small infractions into paying up or getting put away. These fines are often for petty misdemeanors or violations, such as truancy fees, driving infractions, public drunkenness or urination, jaywalking, or even bounced checks for government services such as school lunches. Yet these fees are only the beginning, as municipalities tack on additional court fees, payment plan fees, costs, and interest at rates of up to 12%. Small debts spiral into enormous ones, and nonpayment can result in civil contempt: incarceration. To make matters worse, collection of these debts is often outsourced to private debt collectors, who not only use aggressive tactics but can tack on additional collection fees, creating a never-ending cycle of debt and incarceration. This cycle is not only devastating to the poor and poor communities, but it makes no sense, as people wind up jailed at costs far exceeding their original fines. The result is that the rich may walk away, while the poor must pay or stay.
Existing literature has focused on those incarcerated for serious crimes who emerge from prison with enormous debts. However, most poor people face legal debt without having faced prison or parole, but as a routine municipal fine or fee for local ordinance violations. Part I of this Note explores the origins of legal financial obligations, while Part II explains the shift to this system both as a revenue stream and as a “broken windows” tool for social reform. Part III examines the equal protection and due process limitations on economic sanctions — protections being ignored by municipalities all across the country. Part IV illustrates how the current scheme operates outside the bounds of the Constitution, as a shadow system where violators have no right to counsel, are not asked about their financial ability to pay, and are turned over to private collection companies who concern themselves only with the bottom line. These practices have disastrous effects on poor communities, particularly communities of color, and the collateral consequences are discussed in Part V. I address several alternatives to this system and avenues for legal reform, as well as obstacles to such reform, in Part VI.
New Book: A New Juvenile Justice System: Total Reform for a Broken System (Nancy E. Dowd ed. 2015). As can be seen in this table of contents, it includes many poverty related chapters.
-Thanks to Wendy Bach for the heads up!
New Article: Lea Shaver, Copyright and Inequality, 92 Wash U. L. Rev. 117 (2015). Abstract below:
The standard theory of copyright law imagines a marketplace efficiently serving up new works to an undifferentiated world of consumers. Yet the reality is that all consumers are not equal. Class and culture combine to explain who wins, and who loses, from copyright protection. Along the dimension of class, the inequality insight reminds us just because new works are created does not mean that most people can afford them, and calls for new attention to problems of affordability. Copyright protection inflates the price of books, with implications for distributive justice, democratic culture, and economic efficiency. Along the dimension of culture, the inequality insight points out that it is not enough for copyright theory to speak generally of new works; it matters crucially what languages those works are being created in. Copyright protection is likely to be an ineffective incentive system for the production of works in “neglected languages” spoken predominantly by poor people. This Article highlights and explores these relationships between copyright and social inequality, offering a new perspective on what is at stake in debates over copyright reform.
1. Conor Friedersdorf, The Brutality of Police Culture in Baltimore, The Atlantic, Apr. 22, 2015.
2. Ta-nehisi Coates, Nonviolence as Compliance, The Atlantic, Apr. 27, 2015.
(And for ongoing coverage: Baltimore City Paper’s link is here, http://www.citypaper.com/).