Media Coverage

Lawsuit: Tennessee Driver's License Law Punishes Poor

Stacey Barchenger, The Tennessean

"Nashvillian James Thomas can't drive to see his doctor or get to his volunteer work each week because he owes $290 for a trespassing conviction, a crime the formerly homeless man faced for sheltering under a bridge.

"Thomas and more than 146,000 Tennesseans have had their driver's licenses revoked since 2012 because of a state law that says court fines that go unpaid for a year result in automatic revocation, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Nashville on Wednesday."

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Why Won't the County Settle the Lawsuit Over the Bail System?

Lisa Falkenberg, Houston Chronicle

"Why are Harris County officials wasting millions in taxpayer money on high-dollar lawyers to defend a bail system that has now been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge?

"The county's handling of a class action lawsuit, which is intended to stop criminal court at law judges from jailing people simply because they're poor, continues to intrigue and outrage. But an exchange late Tuesday with two top county offices left me more baffled than ever."

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Criminal Injustice

Michael Zuckerman , Harvard Magazine

TODAY KARAKATSANIS is in the trenches, but he is also “one of the most important figures litigating issues related to the criminalization of poverty,” according to Smith, who notes that Karakatsanis’s cases “have deeply impacted” his own scholarship at Berkeley. “Indeed,” Smith adds, “one could make the strong case…that he is the most important figure working on those issues in the United States.”

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His Clients Weren't Complaining. But The Judge Said This Lawyer Worked Too Hard.

Richard A. Oppel, Jr. , The New York Times

Mr. Willey’s lawyer, Charlie Gerstein of Civil Rights Corps, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., said the lawsuit would be the first in a series of cases and was filed partly to illustrate a “phenomenon that pervades the entire legal system.”

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Podcast: Justice in America

Clint Smith III & Josie Duffy Rice, The Appeal

Civil Rights Corps founder Alec Karakatsanis discusses the U.S. money bail system in episode one of Clint Smith III & Josie Duffy Rice's new podcast "Justice in America". "Justice in America" is produced by The Appeal

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New Orleans judges enter 'uncharted territory,' and budget peril, after federal court decisions

Matt Sledge, The Advocate

Federal judges delivered a one-two gut punch to the New Orleans criminal court system this month, declaring that judges have an inherent conflict of interest both when they set bail amounts and when they impose court fees that pad their budgets.

The twin rulings against Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell and the 12 Criminal District Court trial judges portend major changes at the courthouse — and problems for its coffers.

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Being Poor Can Mean Losing a Driver’s License. Not Anymore in Tennessee.

Richard A. Oppel, Jr. , The New York Times

The ruling in Tennessee could mean the reinstatement of driver’s licenses for more than 100,000 Tennessee residents. A similar lawsuit is also pending before the same judge over unpaid traffic fines that have cost about a quarter-million Tennesseans their licenses. The precise number of residents who would get their licenses back is unclear because some also lost driving privileges for other reasons and would still be subject to revocation.

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