The Bolch Judicial Institute and the Duke Law Journal are bringing together leading scholars, practitioners, and judges, to discuss the problem of court fines, fees, and bail. The problem has never been of greater national significance. The abuses of fines and fees in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri have drawn attention to formerly ignored and highly localized fee practices that have created de-facto debtors prisons. Judges and lawyers have aimed to combat the reliance on fees that burden the poor and subject them to severe consequences for costs that they cannot afford. In response to these efforts, a range of states have recently overhauled bail and pre-trial practices, created new systems to waive fees, and abolished the practice of suspending drivers’ licenses for unpaid traffic fees.
We believe that it is an important time to share scholarship and receive feedback from members of the judiciary regarding new thinking on the growing problem of court debt. For this symposium, the written contributions to be published by the Duke Law Journal will be interdisciplinary, studying the problem of court debt from a variety of perspectives. Sociologically-informed work will examine the ways in which court debt burdens the poor and increases inequality. Constitutional analyses will examine legal avenues increasingly used in nationwide litigation challenging, including under the equal protection and due process clauses, fines and fees practices. Empirical scholarship will examine patterns in imposition of court fines and fees and the use of risk assessment as an alternative to bail in pre-trial decisionmaking. Administrative scholarship will examine the problem from the perspective of procedures used to ensure access to justice but also sound funding for judicial functions.
We look forward to advancing the discussion of these critical issues!
Please note, this conference is by invitation only.