Legendary American historian, novelist, jazz and country music critic, and syndicated columnist, Nat Hentoff passed away yesterday. I had the incredible experience of being interviewed by Nat Hentoff during my work on a civil rights case I took all the way to the United States Supreme Court (Mellony Burlison, et al. v. The School District of Springfield, R-12, et al., 708 F.3d. 1034, (8th Cir.2013), cert. denied 134 S.Ct. 151, 187 L.Ed.2d 39 (2013)). Mr. Hentoff wrote a great article, Supreme Court Teaches Students They’re outside Constitution. Nat Hentoff will be sorely missed.
The Missouri Supreme Court found red light camera programs violated the constitution.
The Court says a city can’t convict using red light/speed cams 1) unless they issue points on a driver’s license as prescribed by state law; 2) unless there is no presumption of guilt; and 3) if an owner instead of an operator is charged, then the city must prove the owner expressly permitted the operator to break the law allegedly violated.
I previously litigated red light cameras in Springfield, resulting in the shut down of the program and removal of the cameras.
“My hat is off to you, Jason, for tackling a tough case, going all the way to the Supremes, all for something more than a nickel and less than a dime!!
You did plow the trail very well, long and hard, and for a good client, on sound reasons, even if the record is now far from the public eye, it’s in the records forever.
In my book, your efforts are right up there with Atticus, well done, Sir!”
— A respected colleague
In a recent article in the DePaul Journal for Social Justice, “A ‘Holocaust in Slow Motion?’ America’s Mass Incarceration and the Role of Discretion,” a former federal prosecutor and a sitting federal judge highlight the “stunning metrics of mass incarceration in America” and discuss the role of discretion of lawmakers, prosecutors and judges and make suggestions for how our system can be more fair and just.
The “land of the free” incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any country in the world.
The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. The U.S. has 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails. The U.S. is the world leader in incarceration with a 500% increase over the past 40 years. The number of people in federal prisons for drug offenses increased 1950% between 1980 and 2010. Of all the inmates in federal prisons, nearly half are serving time for drug offenses. One in forty-five children have a parent in prison and one in ten have a parent under correctional supervision, straining them financially, disrupting parental bonds, separating spouses, stressing the remaining caregivers, leading to a loss of discipline in households, and to shame, stigma and anger.
But we get a safer society with the bad guys locked up, right?
On average, a person can make roughly $11,000 more [illegally] from spending time in prison versus a person who does not spend time in prison.
The City of Springfield announced it will remove the red light cameras from intersections. The cameras have been deactivated since the 2010 Missouri Supreme Court decision in City of Springfield v. Adolph Belt, Jr. I served as the lawyer for the retired veteran highway patrolman who argued the cameras jeopardized public safety and the extra-judicial hearing process violated the basic rights of motorists.
Amos Bridges wrote a nice watchdog piece outlining the history of the case and cost to the motorists and taxpayers. Final cost of the red-light camera program to Springfield taxpayers: $461,504.62. Cost to motorists of illegal fines: $807,163.00. Legal fees paid by the City to defend the camera program in court: $124,244.62. Accidents prevented: 0.
Kudos to the City and to Councilman Burlison who, it was reported, suggested the change. Councilman Burlison has a long history of fighting for our basic freedoms. Some will remember he was one of my clients in the lock down and mass search case against Springfield Public Schools and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office that we took to the United States Supreme Court.