BREAKING NEWS Manslaughter charge after suspect starts pursuit in Florence, drives into Cypress Creek Full Story

Justice Department rolls back guidance on fining poor defendants

The Justice Department on Thursday rescinded a tranche of agency-issued "guidance documents" that explained and inter...

Posted: Dec 24, 2017 1:59 PM
Updated: Dec 24, 2017 1:59 PM

The Justice Department on Thursday rescinded a tranche of agency-issued "guidance documents" that explained and interpreted policy across a range of issues, including a 2016 memo that cautioned courts against the burdensome enforcement of fines for criminal offenders.

The document crunch comes as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has spent the better part of a year reversing Obama-era policies and legal interpretations, aligning the Trump Justice Department with administration priorities of deregulation and a "return to the rule of law."

The documents were identified by a Justice Department task force

Advocacy groups were quick to criticize the elimination of the guidance

In total, 25 guidance documents dating from the Obama administration and earlier that were deemed to be "outdated, used to circumvent the regulatory process or that improperly went beyond what is provided for in statutes or regulation" were rescinded, Sessions said.

In a statement, Sessions said he was ending "the longstanding abuse of issuing rules by simply publishing a letter or posting a web page."

The documents were identified by a Justice Department task force operating under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in March and were listed in a statement issued by the department late Thursday. The Justice Department did not provide specific reasoning behind the dissolution of each document.

Advocacy groups were quick to criticize the elimination of the guidance around fines and fees levied against poor defendants.

In the March 2016 "dear colleague" letter, sent to state court administrators and chief justices across the country, Justice Department civil rights officials wrote that the guidance was "intended to address some of the most common practices that run afoul of the United States Constitution and/or other federal laws and to assist court leadership in ensuring that courts at every level of the justice system operate fairly and lawfully."

The letter does not prescribe new policy and cites case law to back up mandates like "Courts must consider alternatives to incarceration for indigent defendants unable to pay fines and fees."

"This is a disappointing decision that supports criminalizing poverty," said Lauren-Brooke Eisen, senior counsel in the Brennan Center's Justice Program, said of DOJ rescinding the 2016 memo. "Fees and fines are frequently levied against individuals who can't afford to pay. It's a perverse, profit-based framework that helps spin the revolving door of the criminal justice system."

The change marks another chip made by Sessions at the progressive reform pushed in his predecessor's department.

In May, Sessions told prosecutors to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense" against criminal suspects, and in October he declared in a memo that a 1964 federal civil rights law does not protect transgender workers from employment discrimination -- both times upending guidance issued under the Obama administration.

Some of the memos revoked Thursday, including requirements under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and guidance on portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, appeared to be merely older versions of current memos, or items now made redundant by updated policies.

Several others appeared to be FAQ sheets meant to explain on-the-books laws for practitioners, including one 1999 document that concerned "Common (Americans with Disabilities Act) Problems at Newly Constructed Lodging Facilities." In one example listed in the manual, the DOJ provided mechanical solutions for disability law compliance meant to aid "persons who have the use of only one hand or who have limited use of hands, wrists, or arms (and) are unable to open doors."

One memo that offered explanations of Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act appeared to have been rendered moot by a Supreme Court ruling four years ago. The Supreme Court had held in 2013 that it was unconstitutional to use the coverage formula in 4(b) to determine which jurisdictions are subject to the preclearance requirement when it comes to the voting law changes of Section 5.

Two letters sent to individual attorneys that were rescinded Thursday offered guidance on certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In one, an employer sought clarification on how his human resources department should respond when it inadvertently discovered a potentially forged Social Security card long after the hiring of an employee, who might possibly be an undocumented immigrant. The letter was specific as to not offer an opinion but instead restated federal immigration law that prohibits hiring or firing on the basis of immigration status.

In the second letter, an immigration attorney sought guidance on the anti-discrimination provision of the law pertaining to legal permanent residents and when they may seek eligibility for citizenship.

Both letters were outdated and were revoked because subsequent guidance on the subjects had been issued, a DOJ official explained.

Huntsville
Scattered Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 94°
Florence
Few Clouds
92° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 97°
Fayetteville
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 91°
Decatur
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 95°
Scottsboro
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 96°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
Blount641
Lawrence510
Monroe492
Geneva450
Perry430
Conecuh421
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 25664

Reported Deaths: 408
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby5669127
Davidson563869
Rutherford139829
Trousdale13944
Hamilton99219
Sumner95146
Lake8350
Bledsoe6131
Williamson59511
Robertson5425
Putnam5256
Tipton4673
Wilson4598
Knox4455
Out of TN4264
Bedford3024
Montgomery2873
Rhea2170
Hardeman2040
Bradley1742
Madison1732
Macon1713
Loudon1650
Unassigned1610
McMinn14614
Fayette1442
Cheatham1400
Dickson1210
Cumberland1202
Maury1081
Sevier1002
Blount933
Coffee810
Washington760
Monroe743
Wayne640
Gibson631
Sullivan602
Lauderdale601
Dyer590
Hickman590
Franklin541
Greene522
Unicoi490
Obion481
Hamblen442
Marion441
Anderson422
DeKalb390
Smith361
Lawrence350
Marshall341
White340
Hawkins342
Haywood342
Overton330
Grundy321
Cannon320
Henry320
Lincoln300
Jefferson290
Carroll281
Meigs270
Warren270
Weakley260
Perry240
Hardin222
Cocke210
Sequatchie200
Polk190
Carter191
Jackson190
Johnson190
Campbell181
Morgan180
Roane170
Humphreys161
Crockett163
Grainger150
Henderson150
McNairy150
Giles140
Stewart140
Scott130
Chester120
Fentress120
Claiborne120
Houston80
Clay80
Benton71
Decatur50
Moore50
Van Buren40
Union40
Lewis30
Pickett30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events