Prof. Edelman Part II: Traffic Court, High Fines, Exorbitant Rising Fees, Contribute To Poverty, Inequality Around America

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Professor Edelman sat down with the Staten Islander News Organization to discuss the overuse of fines, fees, and traffic tickets by municipal courts, along with the DC Access To Justice Commission, and his work there. 

Professor Edelman is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor at Georgetown University Law School. He is also the Chair of the D.C’. Access To Justice Commission. At the school, he teaches his students about poverty law, and encourages them to take steps in their own communities to make the system a fairer place for those who are low-income.

In this interview, he discusses the ways in which cities and towns across the country have come to see their population as cash cows, where unnecessary laws are passed to make ordinary activities, such as watering one’s lawn at a certain time and other innocuous non-violent activities, subject to tickets, court costs, missed work time, and often other issues for those who are low-income. When people are forced to pay these fines, often they are unable to then meet their own basic needs, such as putting food on the table and getting to and from work.

Professor Edelman also is the Chair for the D.C. Access To Justice charity. This charity connects people who are low-income for lawyers for non-criminal offenses at little or no cost. Many people, including low-income people, do not realize that lawyers are, in most instances, not provided free of charge by most counties across the country.

As seen in our previous article, the book review of Not A Crime To Be Poor, there are many, many states in the country that interpret the right to representation guaranteed in the Constitution, as something they can, and do, charge the defendant for. There are other charities working to challenge this situation across the country, which seems like a no-brainer considering the wording of the Bill of Rights. However, until a law or statute is legally challenged by one or more plaintiffs, it tends to continue unabated.


He also discusses how a traffic ticket can morph into a suspended license, then further into jail time if the tickets, court costs,and other mounting debt is not taken care of. This ruins people’s lives, especially since once one has been to prison, there is a list of things they can no longer get. Getting a job is difficult and often impossible, they are barred from public housing and welfare aid, along with a host of other problems.

Professor Edelman reiterates that the system is broken. He is training the next generations of lawyers to go out into the world and try to make changes that will bring about true equality for all. He is hopeful, and considers our current President to be a true Democratic president. It is a massive undertaking to restore true equality and justice for all in America, and Professor Edelman has been doing his part since the Civil Rights era.

Banner Image: Video cover. Image Credit – Staten Islander News 


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This byline indicates that this article was penned by a member/members of the Staten Islander News Organization office team. Our staff writers are the backbone of our newspaper, performing all sorts of important tasks like conducting interviews, investigating leads, besides writing the news stories you see.

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