Ability to Pay and the Consequences of License Suspension

by Brendan Cardella-Koll

It is no secret that the debt collection schemes that courts impose across the country disproportionately impact indigent individuals, even sometimes to the point of functioning as modern debtors’ prisons.[1] One such scheme, which has become the target of recent litigation in Tennessee, calls for the suspension of an individual’s license for failure to pay traffic fines.[2] The lawsuit targets this scheme as an unduly harsh and discriminatory debt collection method against poor residents.[3] The complaint alleges that courts impose fines without consideration of an individual’s ability to pay and then notifies the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (“the Department”) of a failure to pay without any mention of the reason for nonpayment.[4] The Department is not required to make any inquiry into the reason for nonpayment before suspending a license, and Tennessee law imposes additional fees for the reinstatement of licenses suspended for failure to pay traffic fines.[5] In multiple other jurisdictions, debt collectors do not seek to determine an individual’s ability to pay nor do they allow indigent individuals to establish any sort of payment plan for the traffic fine.[6] As a result, if an individual is brought before the court for a traffic offense with an attached fine, the individual must be able to pay the fine in full or face the suspension of his or her license.

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Why the Congress Must Amend the Indian Child Welfare Act

by Dylan Byrd

The Supreme Court’s decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl dismantled vital protections for Native American children by unfairly limiting important federal statutes.[1]

In the 1970s, the federal government was in the process of removing one out of every three Native American children from their tribes and placing them in mainstream American institutions, foster homes, or adoptive homes.[2] To the average American child, the 1970s were enigmatic of the first Hollywood blockbuster or the grand opening of Walt Disney World. To the Sovereign Nation, this particular decade threatened to cripple its millennial generation, vis-à-vis state agencies’ removal of almost 40 percent of young Native children from their families.[3] This trend illustrates the government’s systematic denial of opportunities for Native American children to participate in their historic cultures, ideals, and experiences.

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In Memoriam: E. Clinton Bamberger Jr. (1926-2017)

by Brendan Kearney

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From left to right: Clinton Bamberger, Author’s sister, Author’s mother. Photo provided by Author.

Growing up in Baltimore, I attended Corpus Christi, a liberal outpost of the Catholic Church led during my childhood by a nun and then by a former Federal Communications Commission lawyer turned priest. After Mass, my mom would chat with other parishioners, and one of her favorites was a kindly older gentleman named Clinton Bamberger L’51. I liked him, too: he had an easy manner, spoke slowly and deeply, and one day, taught me a “secret” handshake, my memory of which he tested each time we crossed paths. I’m not sure where it came from, but the sequential combination of handholds and gestures made me feel like I had a special bond with an important man.

Over the years, my mom told me about things Mr. Bamberger had done, like help run the Legal Services Corporation and travel the world teaching law. I remember Mr. Bamberger himself telling me about his time at Piper & Marbury, when it was only a dozen or so lawyers, a far cry from the international behemoth DLA Piper is today. I came to understand that Mr. Bamberger had lived a full and admirable life. But I didn’t grasp the full measure of it until he died last month.

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How a Billionaire President Could Impact the Working Class

by Desiree Tims

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President Donald Trump Official Photo, available here

On November 8, 2016, the United States elected its forty-fifth President of the United States.[1] The historic presidential election of Republican Nominee, Donald J. Trump, who is a real-estate billionaire, sparked a national debate between those who support and oppose him due to his divisive campaign rhetoric and political inexperience.[2]

Polling data revealed that Trump received an overwhelming amount of support from working-class white voters.[3] Trump’s thematic “Make America Great Again” slogan was followed by his campaign promises to reinforce law and order, restrict immigration and reduce taxes.[4] Trump has many working-class supporters—some who yearn for the return of high-paying hourly factory jobs—as well as high-income supporters who deeply desire a change to the federal tax code.[5] Furthermore, Trump’s self-declaration as the “law and order candidate” has fueled the debate on criminal justice reform, racial disparities, and equitable application of law.[6]

President-elect Trump’s impact on working-class Americans remains to be seen, but here are three issues that could come to bear during his time in office:

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Advancing Justice Through Social Professionalism

by Mina Dixon Davis

Yelp, the cheery one-stop shop for restaurant and other crowd-sourced reviews, was in 2014 the “most popular and trusted website for legal reviews.”[1] But for prospective litigants in the lowest income bracket, affordable representation might as well be off the menu.[2]

Efforts to increase access to justice have been incremental, according to Richard Zorza, Founder and Coordinator Emeritus of the Self Represented Litigation Network.[6] Zorza joined other stakeholders at the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 2016 Symposium: Remaining Ethical Lawyers in a Changing Profession[7] to discuss how trends like online rating tools and commercialization bear on access to justice concerns.

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