By Mike Warner, Editor, TennesseeWatchman.com
In 2016 Montgomery County Tennessee became the first County in the State of Tennessee to use a 2011 law that went into effect in 2012. 14,223 Montgomery County Residents (8% the County) lost their drivers license for NON-PAYMENT of “Court Fees”. The “Court Fees” often include a charge for every day incarcerated in the County. Some folks owed in excess of $50,000. If you live in Montgomery Co. odds are you know multiple people who were included in that 14,223.
I’ve talked to (Republican) legislators about this and was told this law was acceptable to them and one said he did not have any problem taking drivers licenses away even after being informed that low income people were running up bills of up to $50,000 which they could never be expected to pay off without being able to drive to first get a job and then be reliably able to show up for work. The response floored me! He said, “we know they will drive anyway.” So what the legislature did, and at least some will readily admit, is make someone who is already disadvantaged be forced into existing as an outlaw to feed their family and pay their bills.
I am a Christian. The Bible has a lot to say about defending the poor and the Lord Jesus Christ got on the case of the pharisees the rulers in Israel for this very thing when Jesus walked this earth in human form. This past session they did put in a provision for those who needed to drive to a job, the doctor or take kids to school and so forth but that is still not just. Fortunately a district judge agrees with me, and at least 14,223 Montgomery County Tennessee Residents…
“Last week, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee issued a Temporary Restraining Order directing the immediate reinstatement of the driver’s licenses of Fred Robinson and Ashley Sprague, named plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit brought by NCLEJ, Civil Rights Corps, Just City, and Baker Donelson. The lawsuit, Robinson v. Purkey, challenges Tennessee’s unlawful suspension of driver’s licenses of people too poor to pay traffic fines.
Tennessee has suspended more than a quarter of a million driver’s licenses for failure to pay traffic tickets. In most cases, the drivers were too poor to pay. Without their licenses, people cannot access jobs, health care, child care, and other fundamental aspects of daily life. The reinstatement of these licenses will bring some temporary relief to these Plaintiffs, but systemic changes are needed to address the continuing harm Tennessee’s practice inflicts on the poor. To that end, NCLEJ and cocounsel have also sought preliminary injunctive relief on behalf of the class.
Robinson is a companion case to Thomas v. Purkey, which NCLEJ filed in January (also with Civil Rights Corps, Just City, and Baker Donelson) on behalf of low-income people in Tennessee whose licenses were revoked because they could not pay fines and fees arising from criminal prosecutions. The cases are part of NCLEJ’s initiative to combat unfair and abusive debt collection practices. For more information, contact Claudia Wilner, firstname.lastname@example.org.”
If you have lost your license in Tennessee for non-payment of “Court Costs” of “Jail Costs” from incarceration you need to get with a good attorney and see if this court directive affects you. If you know of anyone who is in a similar situation, in Tennessee, please share this with them!
TennesseeWatchman.com supports this decision. There are many laws on the books that dis-proportionally affect the poor, this is one of MANY that need to be repealed as unjust. Others we are watching are the laws that prevent entry into jobs requiring a license that have no rational reason to do so but prevent people looking for a way to make a living, within the law, from getting their start. Most such laws are designed to protect those already doing those jobs from competition. But competition is what makes businesses and services keep up on and improve on their products and services. Lack of competition makes them lazy and inattentive to customers. Keep reading TennesseeWatchman.com and if you find issues that need to be addressed like these we want to know about them.
Full disclosure: I am not a Republican or Democrat. Like a growing number of Americans those in office who where those “labels” do not ACT the way I believe. Of course during elections they will try to make me believe they think “just like I do.” What I believe is that the purpose of government, above all else, is to protect the PEOPLE’S GOD GIVEN RIGHTS. Our Constitution the Bill of Rights were based on that knowledge. If you doubt me you have not read, or at least do not remember the opening of the Declaration of Independence. There are 27 rights listed there which the “Crown” had failed to respect and the representatives of the people of the then Colonies called King George out on (Oh and contrary to your government school history class it wasn’t just a 3% tax on tea, taxes were issue number 17 out of 27.) Tennessee likewise has a “Declaration of Rights.” If you know these two short lists of rights and understand what they really mean you can identify real injustice and join us in calling to correct those injustices.
Let’s work together to restore and preserve our rights. Rights we do not defend have a way of disappearing. If you know something, say something. Click on the “Contact Us” link on the menu above under “About TW”!
Mike Warner, Editor, TennesseeWatchman.com