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ArchCity Defenders Denounces Excessive Fines and Fees as a Manifestation of Systemic Racism in the Criminal Legal System at U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Advisory Committee

March 15, 2017

The Nevada Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission Civil Rights invited ArchCity Defenders’ Executive Director and co-founder Thomas B. Harvey to testify about the disparate impact of municipal fines and fees on poor people and communities of color on Wednesday, March 15, 2017.

“At ArchCity Defenders, we represent people who have taken out payday loans and borrowed against life insurance policies to pay fines and fees that judges have demanded,” said Thomas Harvey, executive director, ArchCity Defenders. “We’ve also filed federal class actions to combat a legal system that’s violated people’s civil rights and prioritized revenue generation over justice.”

In 2016, ArchCity Defenders settled a landmark $4.7M debtors’ prison class action against the City of Jennings, neighbor to Ferguson, for illegally jailing people who were unable to pay fines and fees stemming from unpaid traffic tickets and minor ordinance violations. Civil rights advocates consider the Jennings lawsuit as a blueprint for meaningful and permanent legal reform in the region, especially in cities with similar pending litigation.

Representatives from the Brennan Center, the ACLU, the NAACP as well as judges, prosecutors, and court personnel will also provide testimony at the hearing.

Since 2009, ArchCity Defenders attorneys have represented thousands of low-income and homeless clients, exposed the systemic abuses implemented by courts, cities, police departments and jails in St. Louis, and filed multiple class action lawsuits to combat excessive fines and fees, debtors prisons, cash bail, and police misconduct.

ArchCity Defenders is a non-profit civil rights law firm providing holistic legal advocacy and combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence against poor people and people of color.


Media Contact:
Z. Gorley, Communications Director at ArchCity Defenders