By now it should be obvious to everyone that the problems in Law Enforcement extend to the Judiciary. Further – conservative “No-Tax” freaks on the right have created a system wherein any semblance to a fair an equitable tax system is replaced by a predatory Judicial and draconian laws shifting the tax burden onto the poor. The Ferguson Report was a watershed in exposing such criminal schemes, often which target minorities under The New Jim Crow.
It has been a long time coming, but the DOJ is finally preparing to hold corrupt and predatory Judges at the local level…Accountable.
TITLE 18, U.S.C., SECTION 242
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
What is interesting about this law, is it goes far beyond just the issue of Debtors, and suggests that even local legislators may be held accountable for willfully creating local laws which violate Civil Rights as defined under the Constitution. Which doesn’t mean that a local law challenged before a higher court and ruled unconstitutional makes local legislators liable – but does mean those legislatures which (as in North Carolina) have ruled the Federal Constitution null and void can be tried and jailed for passing laws violating Civil Rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
I gotta believe that Tea Baggers in jail are going to have a harder time than Jared the child molester.
Civil rights lawyers want the DOJ to give judges who break the law a taste of their own medicine.
Justice Department officials warned U.S. judges and court administrators this week that practices like incarcerating poor people without determining whether they could afford outstanding fines are illegal and unconstitutional.
But civil rights advocates with clients who’ve had their lives torn apart after being accused of petty crimes, receiving traffic tickets or charged with municipal code violations say the feds have a much more effective method of fixing the widespread problem: locking up judges.
In a nine-page letter sent to all state chief justices and state court administrators on Monday, the DOJ’s Vanita Gupta, who heads the Civil Rights Division, and Lisa Foster, the director of the Office of Access to Justice, urged local officials to “review court rules and procedures within your jurisdiction to ensure that they comply with due process, equal protection, and sound public policy.”
Judges who incarcerate poor people because they missed a payment are breaking the law, the letter said. What many courts consider a “routine administrative matter” of forcing defendants to pre-pay a “bond” or “bail” before they’re allowed to schedule a court date is actually unconstitutional, Gupta and Foster wrote. Locking people in cages for long periods of time solely because they can’t afford to buy their freedom is a violation of the country’s supreme law, the U.S. Constitution.
Civil rights advocates praised the Justice Department for sending the letter. However, they say there’s a much more powerful tool available if the feds really want to deter judicial crime: Federal prosecutors can hold judges accountable for their unlawful conduct by charging them with a federal crime.
Section 242 of Title 18 of the U.S. code — the so-called “color of law” statute — is the same federal civil rights legislation that Justice Department prosecutors use against police officers and prison guards who use excessive force and make false arrests. The law applies to prosecutors and judges, too. But the feds don’t use it against them often.
Hub Harrington, a former circuit judge in Shelby County, Alabama, who in 2012called Harpersville Municipal Court a “debtors prison” and a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket,” suggested prosecuting judges who break the law at a December meeting at the White House. He said he approached the Justice Department and the Alabama Attorney General about the issues in Harpersville and was frustrated that former Municipal Court Judge Larry Ward wasn’t charged over his conduct.
“We’ve been talking about the victims,” Harrington said at the time. “What about the perpetrators? We got the laws in place. We already have the law you can’t put indigent people in jail without a hearing. We don’t need more laws. We need to enforce the ones we’ve got.”
Alec Karakatsanis from Equal Justice Under Law, an organization that has been suing cities engaged in widespread unconstitutional practices, said the DOJ letter was a good start and could help “eradicate any notion that any judge can be ignorant of basic principles of constitutional law.” But he hoped bad judges would be indicted.
“For a long time, our courts have become places where impoverished people and people of colors’ rights are violated with virtual impunity every day as a matter of daily practice,” Karakatsanis said. “You’d like to think that the people who are tasked with applying the law are held to the same standards as everyone else, and when people are blatantly violating the law, there should be consequences for them.”
It would be “a hard argument for any judge to make that they thought it was OK for them to be throwing people in jail for not being able to make payments without making any type of inquiry into their ability to pay,” he added. But the problem is so widespread and commonplace that prosecution could be less likely.
“It’s not just a ‘few bad apples,’ we have a legal system that has lost it’s way, become desensitized towards caging people,” Karakatsanis said. “One of the really difficult and sad things about our legal system is that the more common something is, the more difficult it is to prosecute because there’s this sense that ‘Well, everyone is doing it, so it would break the system.’” …Read The Rest Here…