In her letter issued Jan. 29, she warned judges to be on guard against the pressure to generate fees and fines as a method of funding the courts.
“I know the pressure that many of you face to generate revenue, to increase collection rates, to ‘self-fund’ as if the courts are a business trading in a commodity,” O’Connor wrote. “But court cases are not business transactions. We do not buy and sell a commodity; we perform a public service.”
O’Connor issued “bench cards” with legal guidelines for fine and cost collection in juvenile and adult court. And the supreme court’s Judicial College now offers an online course on the topic.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio applauded the move.
“ The Department of Justice guidance simply reinforced what the U.S. Constitution already says—that no one can be jailed simply because they cannot afford to pay their financial obligations. Chief Justice O’Connor has been a national leader on this issue, and her work to help end debtors’ prison practices in Ohio is invaluable,” said ACLU of Ohio senior policy director Mike Brickner.