Hot check court lawsuit dismissed
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit last week over the hot check division of Sherwood District Court, which attorneys for the plaintiffs said operated as an unconstitutional “debtor’s prison” that trapped poor defendants on a treadmill of debt and incarceration for years — and, in some cases, decades.
The lawsuit had named as defendants the city of Sherwood, Pulaski County, Judge Milas “Butch” Hale III and Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley.
In a four-page order, U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice. In January, Federal Magistrate Joe J. Volpe had recommended the case be dismissed, citing the Younger abstention doctrine. Named for the 1971 case Younger v. Harris, the Younger doctrine prohibits federal courts from hearing civil suits brought by people who are currently being prosecuted in state court for reasons related to the claims in their federal civil suit. Several of the plaintiffs in the civil suit against Sherwood are still under the supervision of that court for penalties and fines related to their hot checks.
The ACLU of Arkansas, which had been representing the plaintiffs, said it was analyzing the ruling and considering its next step.
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