Timbs v. Indiana: Excessive Fines Clause Applies to the States

The Supreme Court decided Timbs v. Indiana yesterday, holding that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment. What does the decision mean for North Carolina?

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Magna Carta 800 Years and Counting

My criminal justice students and I visited the British Library this morning to view an original Magna Carta (several originals were created by hand). I had considered taking them to Runnymede, the fabled meadow where the English barons forced King John to sign Magna Carta over 800 years ago in the year 1215. Apart from the time it would take to get there from London, I learned the British had repurposed the space to suit modern life. Runnymede is now considered an . . .

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Legal Financial Obligations Table

In my last post I wrote about some of the statutory options for providing relief from various criminal legal financial obligations. Several of my “friends” gave me a hard time about the post, saying the subject must be pretty complicated if I wasn’t able to compile it into some sort of table. Challenge accepted.

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Feds Focus on Fines and Fees


The U.S. Department of Justice recently issued a letter regarding its “strong interest” in putting a stop to unconstitutional court fines and fees that target the poor. According to the authors, Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Department, and Lisa Foster, Director of the Office for Access to Justice, “[T]he harm caused by unlawful practices . . . can be profound. Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.” The DOJ sent the letter to judges and court administrators in all fifty states on March 14, 2016, directing them to review their procedures on imposing and enforcing fines and fees. An article from the New York Times states that the DOJ rarely issues “Dear colleague” letters of this sort; the last one went out in 2010 and concerned the need to provide interpreters for people who don’t speak English.

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Waiving Community Service Fees

May community service fees be waived? I suspect some of you are thinking “I hope so, because they just were,” or something along those lines. It turns out to be a tricky question, I think. First, let me be clear about what I mean by community service. I’m talking about community service ordered as a … Read more