Category: Court Decisions

Suits filed regarding municipal fees

| December 9, 2014 | Reply

The following press release was issued today regarding suits filed by my law firm (Campbell Law, LLC) working alongside the Law Clinic of St. Louis University School of Law and ArchCity Defenders. At issue are illegal fees being charged by many municipalities. In this particular set of cases, many cities are charging people “warrant fees” when they attempt to pay overdue traffic offenses. We’ve alleged that these fees are illegal because they are prohibited by Missouri State Law. We intend to pursue additional cases regarding illegal municipal fees as additional violations and victims come to light. My law partners ( John Campbell and Alicia Campbell ) and I are proud to be part of this endeavor.
Here is today’s press release:

SEVEN CITIES ARE SUED FOR COLLECTING ILLEGAL FEES IN MUNICIPAL COURTS

St. Louis (Dec. 9, 2014) – A team of attorneys from three public interest law offices filed class action lawsuits against seven St. Louis County municipalities for charging illegal fees in their municipal courts. The lawsuits come amid new scrutiny of municipal courts and the systemic issues of high fees and warrants that adversely affect low-income defendants.

The class action lawsuits were filed against Ferguson, a city at the center of the focus on policing and municipal courts, as well as Beverly Hills, Fenton, Jennings, Pine Lawn, Wellston and Velda City. The suits claim that fees for warrants are not authorized by state law.

Plaintiffs in the seven separate suits are represented by attorneys John Campbell, Alicia Campbell and Erich Vieth of the private public interest law firm of Campbell Law, LLC; Thomas Harvey and Michael-John Voss of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit organization serving the homeless and working poor; and Professors John Ammann and Brendan Roediger of the Saint Louis University Legal Clinics.

“There are serious problems in our municipal courts, and these lawsuits are an attempt to hold these cities accountable by forcing them to remedy the wrongs of the past,” said John Campbell of Campbell Law.
Professor Brendan Roediger of the Saint Louis University Legal Clinics said, “Our goal is to stop cities from filling their coffers with illegal fees and from continuing to conduct for-profit policing.”

“The cities have charged an untold amount of money illegally to thousands of people; money that could have gone to help families and help the economy,” said Thomas Harvey, executive director of ArchCity Defenders. “We hear municipal officials and police repeatedly say citizens must be held accountable for their actions. Now it is time for these municipalities to be held accountable.”
The lawsuits call for a judgment that the fees violate state law, an accounting of who paid the illegal fees and how much, and for reimbursement to defendants who were forced to pay the fees to avoid jail time or warrants. The suits also include a claim under the Missouri Merchandise Practices Act, the state’s consumer fraud statute, alleging the cities attempted to deceive defendants into paying the fees.

Ferguson recently repealed the ordinances charging the illegal fees, but made no effort to reimburse defendants who were charged the illegal amounts, including a $50 warrant recall fee and a $15 failure to appear letter fee.

The team of lawyers expects to file lawsuits against additional cities in St. Louis County in the near future.

For more on these issues, check out this detailed article in the Washington Post:  “How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty.”

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On Being Primed For Worse

| November 25, 2014 | 1 Reply
On Being Primed For Worse

Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Sure looked like we expected what we got. [More . . . ]

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Chris Hedges on the NDAA

| May 29, 2014 | 1 Reply

From Truthdig:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed—a poll by OpenCongress.com showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating—is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

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Retired Justice Stevens: Add five words to the Second Amendment

| April 12, 2014 | 1 Reply

In recent years, court decisions concerning the Second Amendment have lost any attachment to the “militia,” making the mention of “militia” in the amendment superfluous. Justice Stevens, who retired from the United States Supreme Court in 2010 recommends that we reestablish that connection by adding five words to the Amendment:

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. As so amended, it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment. The amendment certainly would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.

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Formula for Predicting case outcomes at the United States Supreme Court

| April 8, 2014 | 1 Reply

At Truthout, Mike Lofgren concludes that the formula for predicting future case outcomes of the United States Supreme Court is simple and that references to the Constitution are merely smokescreen. Roberts is well aware of this bait and switch: “Roberts is wise enough to know that and is wise enough to conceal his hand with occasional strategic references to the free speech or free exercise clauses in the First Amendment.” Instead of really upholding constitutional rights, the Roberts court Lofgren states that the cases are results oriented; they are about upholding the superior political privileges of rich interests in society. The unspoken basis is “freedom of contract notion (without government restrictions), from which many subsequent pro-corporation decisions have flowed, the court’s majority was basing its decision on economic ideology rather than constitutional interpretation.”

The Court’s recent ultra-narrow definition of “corruption” is a case in point. [More . . . ]

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Colorado Supreme Court agrees to hear case involving paraplegic man who was fired for using medical marijuana.

| January 29, 2014 | Reply

There is some good news for Brandon Coats. He is a paraplegic man who had excellent job reviews as a customer service at DISH Network in Denver. He was a properly registered user of medical marijuana, which provided relief from the considerable pain he suffered. His employer fired him following a random drug testing, finding THC in his blood. He never used marijuana on the job and he was never under the influence on the job. Colorado attorney Michael Evans has represented Brandon Coats throughout this litigation. John Campbell and I (of Campbell Law, LLC) assisted Mr. Evans in the drafting the Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Colorado Supreme Court. Two days ago, we were happy to learn that the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear this case. We will be assisting with writing the brief in the coming weeks.  Here is the Colorado Supreme Court’s  January 27, 2014 ruling.

In our Petition, we had asserted:

After prolonged treatment with various conventional, prescribed medications failed, a licensed Colorado physician recommended that Mr. Coats medically use marijuana. Mr. Coats registered and received state-approval for medical marijuana use. Thereafter, he used marijuana only in the privacy of his own home and after working hours, in compliance with Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14. . . . Despite satisfactory job performance, an absence of work place accommodation, and lack of impairment, DISH fired Mr. Coats solely based on an unknown amount of THC found in his body, the presence of which was the result of his exclusive use of medical marijuana in the privacy of his own home after work. Colorado’s Lawful Activity Statute prohibits employers from discriminating against or terminating employees for engaging in legal off-duty conduct. Both Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14 and § 16 permit the use of marijuana for Colorado residents like Mr. Coats.

In its recent Order, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to consider the following two issues:

Whether the Lawful Activities Statute, C.R.S. section 24-34-402.5, protects employees from discretionary discharge for lawful use of medical marijuana outside the job where the use does not affect job performance.

Whether the Medical Marijuana Amendment makes the use of medical marijuana “lawful” and confers a right to use medical marijuana to persons lawfully registered with the state.

For more information about this compelling case, see this article from the Denver Post.

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The lesson of the sentence Bradley Manning is about to receive

| July 31, 2013 | Reply

Michael Moore sets the stage. Here’s the beginning of his long list:

Manning now faces a potential maximum sentence of 136 years in jail. When his sentence is announced tomorrow, we’ll all get a good idea of how seriously the U.S. military takes different crimes. When you hear about how long Manning – now 25 years old – will be in prison, compare it to sentences received by other soldiers:

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib and the senior officer present the night of the murder of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi, received no jail time. But he was reprimanded and fined $8,000. (Pappas was heard to say about al-Jamadi, “I’m not going down for this alone.”)

Sgt. Sabrina Harman, the woman famously seen giving a thumbs-up next to al-Jamadi’s body and in another photo smiling next to naked, hooded Iraqis stacked on each other in Abu Ghraib, was sentenced to six months for maltreating detainees…

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The scourge of patent trolls

| July 17, 2013 | Reply
The scourge of patent trolls

Electronic Frontier Foundation reports:

Thanks to trolls like IPNav, the Times explains, U.S. companies are forced to spend upwards of $30 billion every year on patent litigation. Most of that money goes to troll profits and legal expenses, with less than 25 percent flowing to inventors. Even Spangenberg concedes that his business uses “the courts as a marketplace, and the courts are horribly inefficient and horribly expensive as a market.” Patent trolls like IPNav are a symptom of a fundamentally broken system.

According to the NYT:

There is debate about the definition of patent trolls, but the term broadly refers to people who sue companies for infringement, often using patents of dubious value or questionable relevance, and then hold on like a terrier until they get license fees. In recent years, patent trolls — they prefer “patent assertion entities,” or P.A.E.’s — have gone from low-profile corporate migraine to mainstream scourge. This is partly because the number of patent infringement suits has more than doubled in recent years, to 4,731 cases in 2012 from 2,304 in 2009, according to that RPX report. The cost to businesses, which pass along the expense to consumers, is immense. One study found that United States companies — most of them small or medium-sized — spent $29 billion in 2011 on patent assertion cases.

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How to get your case heard

| July 11, 2013 | Reply

What I just learned from Harper’s Index from the August 2013 issue of Harpers: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear only 1% of all Petitions for Certiorari filed over the past three years. But, if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce files an amicus brief, there is a 32% chance that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear that case.

Those attorneys for the Chamber must be excellent brief writers . . .

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