In Ferguson, Reform Begins With Courts

Confronting racial issues in Ferguson, Missouri – where the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer sparked demonstrations – apparently begins with the courts system. Reports the Guardian newspaper “… some residents have described the courts regime as ‘taxation without representation’ and complained of a cycle of punishment in which they were fined for not making it to court appearances set during working hours that they tried unsuccessfully to reschedule.”
Actually, the newspaper reports that the offence of “failure to appear” is to be abolished under the new rules, along with a $50 ‘warrant recall’ fine and $15 in other fees imposed on people who can not make court dates. The city council says it wants to stop using the fines as a “source of general revenue” for the city, but critics say a plan to cap such fees to “15 percent of the city budget” would actually allow for increasing the payments. 

The report also noted that “… many people in the city, which has a two-thirds black population and a police force that is 94% white, complain that the law enforcement system disproportionately targets black residents. Figures published in 2013 by Missouri’s attorney general showed that seven black drivers were stopped by police in the city for every white driver.”

Read the story here:  Ferguson reform to courts system could leave residents paying more

‘Rocket Dockets’ Set For Border-Children Immigration

The federal government is creating “rocket dockets” to process unaccompanied border children, hoping to slow the flow of children by showing a policy of quick returns. Critics are responding that the new practice moves too quickly in a system inadequate to provide legally required court oversight and without a system for legal representation. 
The U.K.-based Guardian newspaper has a good overview, reporting that “.. under normal rules, the recent arrivals would have queued at the tail-end of a backlogged system where migrants wait months or years for hearings at overstretched immigration courts… instead, with Republicans accusing the president of neglecting border security, the administration vaulted the newly arrived children to the front of the line, and said they would have initial court hearings within 21 days.”
They also cite a California-based critic: “We appreciate the government’s attempt to deal with these [new] cases expeditiously, but not to this extreme. We think 21 days is too fast. Maybe 60 days would be preferable,” said Caitlin Sanderson, director of the Los Angeles-based Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, which has staff attorneys representing about 270 children pro bono.