Improperly stacked wood. A cracked driveway. Chipped paint on a porch.
These are the kinds of offenses the government of Doraville, Georgia, is using to fine residents and threaten them with jail, all in an explicit attempt to balance the budget of the 8,000-person Atlanta suburb. Now people hit by some of those fines are suing the city in federal court, arguing that its direct financial interest in convicting people tried by its municipal court violates the 14th Amendment’s due process guarantee.
The lawsuit, filed by the Institute for Justice, “seeks to stop municipalities from budgeting to receive fines and fees,” says I.J. attorney Josh House. “Where you have a city that uses these numbers to balance its budget, you are creating an unconstitutional incentive to use the municipal court to balance this budget.”