At the time of this writing, recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York City, and elsewhere have triggered quite justified social outrage at debtors’ prisons. Our country’s state and city courts keep scores of indigent people in jail for the crime of being poor, despite the Supreme Court’s clear prohibition on the practice. Skilled litigators and their journalist allies have seized on the moment to win victories in court and in the public eye, which prevent unconscionable bond and probation practices and try to reduce our burgeoning jail populations. Lost in the uproar, though, are the many ways that a savvy anti-defendant judge could insulate herself from corrective litigation, evade effective judicial oversight, and essentially perpetuate current debtors’ prisons by using pretextual sanctions and contempt orders to circumvent Bearden v. Georgia indigency determinations.
Pretextual Sanctions, Contempt, and the Practical Limits of Bearden-Based Debtors' Prison Litigation,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol21/iss2/9