Editor’s note: This past year has seen a burgeoning of scholarship dealing with collateral consequences broadly defined, from lawyers, social scientists, and philosophers. CCRC’s good friend Alessandro Corda has selected fifteen notable articles published in 2018-19, with information, links, and abstracts. They are organized into five categories:
(1) Legal collateral consequences
(2) Collateral consequences and criminal procedure
(3) Sex offender registration laws
(4) Informal collateral consequences
(5) Criminal records, expungement, sealing, and other relief mechanisms
A complete and regularly updated collection of scholarship on issues relating to collateral consequences and criminal records can be found on our “Books & Articles” page. From time to time we will preview and comment on new articles, and Alessandro has promised to provide another round-up by the end of the year. We hope he will continue indefinitely in the role of CCRC’s official bibliographer. (A PDF copy of this scholarship round-up is here.)
This is the title of a study by UCLA law professor Beth Colgan, published in the Vanderbilt Law Review, in which she documents how every state that disenfranchises people based upon criminal conviction also conditions restoration of the vote for at least some people upon their ability to pay. In some states this is because the law requires people to pay fines, fees, restitution and other court costs before they can vote. Even in the states that restore the vote immediately upon release from prison, “wealth-based penal disenfranchisement” may occur through policies applied by parole and probation authorities. Colgan proposes that such laws and policies can be challenged on Equal Protection grounds, arguing that felony disenfranchisement should be considered not as a civil rights deprivation but as punishment. She argues that the test developed by the Supreme Court in cases involving disparate treatment between rich and poor in criminal justice practices, should operate as a flat prohibition against “the use of the government’s prosecutorial power in ways that effectively punish one’s financial circumstances unless no other alternative response could satisfy the government’s interest in punishing the disenfranchising offense.”
Colgan’s article is particularly relevant in light of Florida’s recent enactment of a law that seems to frustrate the will of the 64% of Florida voters who acted last fall by ballot initiative to provide relief from one of the country’s strictest disenfranchisement provisions. On Friday, shortly after the Governor signed into law a bill conditioning restoration of the vote on payment of all court-imposed debt, a group of civil rights organizations filed suit in federal court, claiming that the new law violates the Constitution in several ways, most premised on the notion that disenfranchisement constitutes punishment. Among other things, the suit argues that “the Fourteenth Amendment’s doctrine of fundamental fairness prevents states from punishing individuals if they fail to do the impossible—satisfy legal financial obligations when they do not have the means to do so,” and that the new law violates Equal Protection in discriminating between those who are able to pay and those who are not. We intend to follow this litigation all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
Here is the Colgan article’s abstract: Read more
This is the title of an important new article by Professor Beth Colgan, forthcoming in the Vanderbilt Law Review, in which she documents how inability to pay economic sanctions associated with a criminal conviction (such as fines, fees and restitution) results in continuing disenfranchisement nationwide. While the law in almost every state now restores the vote to those convicted of felonies no later than completion of sentence, and while fewer than a dozen states explicitly condition re-enfranchisement upon payment of court-imposed debt, Colgan shows how the link between re-infranchisement and conditions of supervision “significantly expands the authorization of wealth-based penal disenfranchisement across the country.” Through a detailed analysis of interrelated laws, rules, policies and practices, including those related to conditions of probation and parole, she establishes that “wealth-based penal disenfranchisement is authorized in forty-eight states and the District of Columbia.”
After describing the mechanisms of wealth-based penal disenfranchisement, Colgan offers a legal theory for “dismantling” them. She argues that courts have looked at these mechanisms “through the wrong frame—the right to vote—when the proper frame is through the lens of punishment.” Applying the doctrine developed in cases restricting governmental action that would result in disparate treatment between rich and poor in criminal justice practices, she concludes that wealth-based penal disenfranchisement violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
The article’s abstract follows: