Fighting Modern Day Debtors’ Prisons in the American Justice System

by Johanna Schmidt

Long lasting principles in the American criminal justice system require that it be sensitive to the needs and treatment of people who are indigent.[1]  This sensitivity encompasses all aspects of trials, including access to counsel on direct appeal,[2] transcripts, and court records.[3]

Most importantly, the Supreme Court has continually affirmed that people who are indigent must be fined differently from their wealthy peers. In Tate v. Short, the Court held that “the Constitution prohibits the State from imposing a fine as a sentence and then automatically converting it into a jail term solely because the defendant is indigent and cannot forthwith pay the fine in full.”[4]  Continue reading

Could a Supreme Court Case Light the Spark that Dissolves Unions?

by Beatrice Igne-Bianchi

Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association[1], a public labor union case, is pending before the Supreme Court this term, with oral arguments scheduled for January 11. Many are apprehensive it will harm — and potentially dissolve — the strong tradition of public employee unions in the United States.[2]  Named plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs is a teacher in Orange County and she, along with the Christian Educators Association[3] and nine fellow public school teachers, filed a lawsuit arguing against paying agency, or fair share, fees to the Association of which she is not a member.[4]

Continue reading