Two members of the Pulaski County Quorum Court have sent a letter to County Judge Barry Hyde
raising questions about the consolidation of hot check cases
in a district court in Sherwood, an operation that has been equated to a debtors' prison by a sprawling class action lawsuit filed in cooperation with the ACLU
The suit will be monumental and not be quickly resolved. In the meanwhile, the court still operates. The lawsuit alleges that minor hot checks have turned into years-long prosecutions of the check writers, with court fees piled on top of court fees and jail terms for failure to pay interrupting defendants' ability to work to pay off fines.
In a letter to Hyde, Justices of the Peace Lille McMullen and Donna Massey
said that the participatin by the county government and prosecutor in the practice is "disconcerting." They said Pulaski government not only should condemn the practice but should also review whether state law still allows the arrangement first set up in a 1975 agreement.
The operation is detrimental to the community, vulnerable citizens and the perception of the county, the letter said. They urged "more fair and effective" ways to operate a hot check court.
The letter worries, too, about potential financial restitution obligations by the county if the plaintiffs win the lawsuit. It chastises the extent to which Sherwood relies on revenue from the court for municipal operations, calling the dependence on that money from the disadvantaged "appalling."
City and county officials, partly because some are defendants, have maintained a general silence since the suit was filed. Cases continue to go to the court, though David Koon observed in the immediate aftermath
some procedural changes in the operation.
Here's the JP's letter.
I'm seeking a response from Hyde.
UPDATE: He responded by e-mail:
I've not seen this letter before it showed up on your blog.
Because we were named in the suit PUCO will not comment on pending litigation.
However, I'm confident that when the facts come to light through the judicial process, PUCO will be vindicated.