Court suspends required fee that put justice 'behind a paywall'

 December 30, 2023

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

Many things are behind paywalls, or something similar, these days.

Websites charge for access, entertainment venues charge ticket prices, and some restaurants or other food enterprises have a cover charge just to get in.

But justice in America shouldn't have that, according to a case fought by the Institute for Justice.

That organization reported it has successfully obtained an order from Stow Municipal Court that the paywall for justice for motorists there – a fee of $100 – has been suspended.

"We are pleased that the Stow Municipal Court has suspended its unconstitutional $100 fee for the right to contest a traffic violation," said IJ Litigation Fellow Bobbi Taylor. "We hope that this 'suspension' will become a permanent protection of the constitutional right to due process."

At issue was a charge for motorists who were passing through the village of Peninsula and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park of $100 to challenge a speeding ticket.

The IJ last month warned officials there their moneymaking scheme was violating motorists' constitutional rights of due process.

"Since the late spring of 2023, Peninsula police officers have used handheld speed cameras to issue thousands of speeding tickets, producing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income for the tiny village. Worse yet, drivers who chose to contest their tickets were forced to pay a $100 fee to the Stow Municipal Court. That fee was unconstitutional because it violated Americans’ right to due process, which requires the government to provide a meaningful hearing before taking an individual’s property," the IJ reported.

The problem has been resolved, for now, in the Stow Municipal Court, the IJ said, but officials in the village of Peninsula still are being asked to "reassess" their overall programs.

"A tiny village of just 536 people, Peninsula has issued 8,900 tickets since April, providing $1.3 million in revenue. These staggering numbers raise concern that the village’s ticketing is nothing more than a policing for profit scheme," the IJ reported.

It reported various courts have ruled that such revenue generation, especially at the levels seen in Peninsula, raises serious constitutional concerns. Specifically, courts worry law enforcement could be enforcing the law in the name of profit, not public safety.

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