Litigation

Ending the American Money Bail System

Every day, there are about 500,000 human beings in American jails solely because they are too poor to make a monetary payment for their release.  Across the country, people accused of even minor crimes are kept in a cage prior to their trial — despite our legal system’s guarantee that every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — unless the person can pay an arbitrarily set amount of money to secure her or his release.  The result is pretrial detention based on wealth-status, not any meaningful assessment of flight risk or danger to the community. Read more


Fighting Abusive Private Probation Practices

Equal Justice Under Law and the law firm Baker Donelson filed a landmark RICO and constitutional class action lawsuit in federal court in Nashville challenging the pervasive extortion and debtors’ prison conspiracy that has devastated thousands of the most impoverished people in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Read more


Shutting Down Debtors’ Prisons

For many years, the cities of Ferguson and Jennings have used their local courts, jails, and police forces to generate millions of dollars in profit off the backs of their most impoverished residents.  The pursuit of profit has entirely changed the nature of local policing and local government.  For example, in 2014, Ferguson averaged 3.62 arrest warrants per household and 2.2 arrest warrants for every adult, mostly in cases involving unpaid debt for traffic tickets. Read more


Challenging Wealth-Based Banishment

In September of 2016, the City of McCrory Arkansas passed a “Trailer-Banishment Ordinance” which states that anyone who lives in a mobile home or trailer worth less than $7,500 must leave the city or face exorbitant fines — when their only ‘crime’ is being too poor to afford a more expensive home. There has never been a more important moment in American history to fight against the criminalization of poverty. Along with Little Rock law firm McMath Woods P.A., Equal Justice Under Law is challenging this law, calling it unconstitutional. Read more


Defending Against the Government’s War on Drugs
and the Landmark Prosecution of the Kettle Falls Five

The United States now imprisons its own citizens at a rate five times its historical average.  Every year, the federal government spends more than $50 billion on its War on Drugs.  The government wages this war by surveilling, raiding, prosecuting, and imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people for totally victimless crimes.  The War on Drugs overwhelmingly targets the poor and minorities, contributing to the highest incarceration rate in world history and labeling as dangerous criminals people who have never hurt anyone. Read more


Opposing Militarized Police Forces and Violent Home Invasions in the District of Columbia

One of the most hidden aspects of the contemporary American legal system is the unprecedented volume of violent home invasions by police in impoverished communities.  There were 3,000 armed paramilitary raids in the United States in 1980 and 30,000 in 1995.  By 2001, there were 45,000 every year.  By 2005, between 50,000 and 60,000. Read more


Challenge to Alabama’s Sex Offender Registration Law

Alabama has the most onerous and punitive sex offender registration law in the country.  Its provisions have caused many Alabamans to be homeless and unemployed, in some situations denying registrants the right to live with their own parents, siblings, or spouse.  Its restrictions also create impediments to travel, levy excessive fees and fines, and impose unparalleled reporting requirements that are unmatched across the United States. Read more