Washington’s American Civil Liberties Union is suing Pierce County over court fees.
The nonprofit filed the class action lawsuit on Monday, alleging the county violated the constitutional rights of thousands of people by transferring their court debts to private debt collection agencies for missed payments.
The ACLU says the practice penalizes poor people and keeps them in debt as the private collection agencies charge additional fees and interest. It is alleged that the county should offer inmates and others so-called solvency hearings and inquire whether an individual’s failure to pay is deliberate or beyond their control.
The organization says Pierce County’s actions are unconstitutional and violate the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause. It is asking the Thurston County Supreme Court to end the practice.
Erin Babbo, communications manager for Pierce County, said the county has not yet received the lawsuit and is unable to comment.