Two Big Boosts for IJ’s Fight Against Taxation by Citation in Alabama and Delaware
Loyal Liberty & Law readers will recall the class action lawsuit IJ filed this past spring against the town of Brookside, Alabama. Brookside burst into the national spotlight after its revenue spiked over 600% in two years, with fines and forfeitures accounting for nearly half the town’s budget. That increase—hundreds of thousands of dollars—largely flowed back to the town officials and departments that generated the increase.
Representing four victims of Brookside’s policing-for-profit scheme, IJ filed a class action lawsuit against the town in April. The suit challenges Brookside’s law enforcement system, which treats citizens like ATMs by extracting payment from individuals at every turn—for example, by charging them hundreds of dollars to recover their vehicles when officers order them towed for no reason.
That challenge got a big boost in late July when the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the case. Much like an amicus brief (read more), the federal government’s statement of interest offers its perspective on litigation in which it is not a party—and that perspective is firmly on IJ’s side. Noting that “courts, prosecutors, and police should be driven by justice—not revenue,” the statement urges the Alabama federal court to deny Brookside’s motion to dismiss IJ’s lawsuit.
Meanwhile, IJ has been enjoying similar good news in our lawsuit against Wilmington, Delaware’s outrageous tow-and-impound racket, which pays private tow companies by letting them keep and scrap cars when owners are unable to pay exorbitant impound fees. After IJ filed that lawsuit in September of last year, the government moved to dismiss. When the court held argument on that motion in July, it wasted no time in informing the government’s lawyer that “of course” this case was going to move forward. As a result, IJ clients Ameera Shaheed and Earl Dickerson will finally have the chance to prove the town’s towing scheme violates the Constitution’s Takings and Excessive Fines clauses.
These encouraging early signs are good news for our clients and for everyone who believes in holding governments and officials accountable for violating constitutional rights. By drawing the attention of the DOJ and defeating government attempts to dismiss our cases, not only do we get a step closer to final victory, we also raise the profile of these issues and set important precedent that will make it that much easier for others who have had their rights violated to get their day in court.
Also in this issue
Subscribe to get Liberty & Law magazine direct to your mailbox!
Sign up to receive IJ's bimonthly magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking news updates about the Institute for Justice's fight to protect the rights of all Americans.