Friday, October 6, 2017

Ruling Cracks the Door on Drivers License Issue

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 2:55 PM

click to enlarge Just City's executive director Josh Spickler calls the policy "failed" and "destructive." - JUST CITY
  • Just City
  • Just City's executive director Josh Spickler calls the policy "failed" and "destructive."

Two Tennessee drivers will get their licenses back thanks to a judge’s ruling on Thursday, and the case could pave the way for thousands more to, once again, get legally behind the wheel.

Just City, the Memphis nonprofit criminal justice reform agency, and other national and state groups, recently filed a class action lawsuit to stop Tennessee’s policy of suspending drivers licenses because drivers could not pay their traffic tickets.

The practice criminalizes poverty and disproportionately affects African Americans, according to Just City. In Tennessee, African-American drivers are four times more likely to lose their licenses for not paying traffic tickets than white drivers, Just City said.

The groups asked a federal judge in Nashville Thursday to immediately stop the practice and to re-instate the licenses of about 250,000 Tennesseans who had their licenses pulled because they could not pay fines and fees associated with their tickets.

Nearly 20 percent of those drivers with suspended licenses are in Shelby County. Nearly 85 percent of those here are African American.

The case was heard in the U.S District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee by Judge Aleta A. Trauger. Her ruling ordered state officials to reinstate drivers licenses of Fred Robinson and Ashley Sprague, two plaintiffs named in the suit.

Josh Spickler, Just City’s executive director, said the ruling maybe cracks the door to eventually ending the practice and getting back those suspended licenses.

The two sides in the case will have two weeks to research and bring their arguments back before Judge Trauger.

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