11:08, December 22 81 0 abajournal.com

2017-12-22 11:08:05
Sessions rescinds letter warning local courts about fees and fines imposed on poor people

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded a “Dear Colleague” letter that warned state and local courts about constitutional concerns regarding fees and fines imposed on poor defendants.

Sessions rescinded the letter along with 24 other documents he found “unnecessary, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper,” according to a statement. The Washington Post and BuzzFeed News have stories.

The letter, issued in March 2016 by the U.S. Justice Department, had urged courts to review procedures regarding fines to make sure they comply with “due process, equal protection and sound public policy.”

The letter said courts shouldn’t incarcerate a person for nonpayment without first determining whether the person is indigent and whether the failure to pay is willful.

Sessions’ statement said he has “ended the longstanding abuse of issuing rules by simply publishing a letter or posting a web page.” Congress has provided for a regulatory process “and we are going to follow it,” Sessions said.

“Therefore, any guidance that is outdated, used to circumvent the regulatory process, or that improperly goes beyond what is provided for in statutes or regulation should not be given effect,” he said.