13:10, May 04 49 0 abajournal.com

2018-05-04 13:10:09
Judge’s mass contempt trial and ‘high-speed sentencing’ violated due process, appeals court rules

A Pennsylvania judge who sent 54 people to jail for failing to pay fines after holding a mass contempt trial violated the defendants’ due process rights, a state appeals court has ruled.

Cambria County Judge Tamara Bernstein didn’t allow any of the defendants to be heard and didn’t allow any of them to speak with their lawyers until after the sentencing in February 2017, according to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The Legal Intelligencer covered the April 26 decision.

Bernstein should have held individual hearings to allow defendants to determine whether the failure to pay was willful, according to the superior court. The judge’s “high-speed sentencing violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment,” the court said.

The court ruled in the case of Gregory Mauk, who was jailed for 11 days after missing two restitution payments in connection with theft-related offenses. He had made the overdue payments before entering the courtroom for the mass hearing.