Politicians are human, and therefore flawed. However, I’m not sure that any presidential election has forced voters into such uncomfortable corners. Before yesterday, no twentieth-century candidate, according to The Atlantic, has even joked about having his rival assassinated. Enter Donald Trump, who opened the door for Second Amendment purists to draw a bead on Hillary Clinton. In a not-so-unexpected twist of fate, Clinton couldn’t fully express righteous indignation over the threat because she must deal with a scandal of her own: conservative activists have used a Freedom of Information Act request to find potential links between the Clinton Foundation and policies pursued while she was Secretary of State. None of this is good news for voters, of course. It certainly doesn’t instill faith in our system, which, though imperfect, does its best to promote justice, to allow for safe travel, and to educate children.
An example of quirks in the justice system has caught my eye. City Courts and Justice Courts, which are the courts in which misdemeanors are tried, have two revenue sources: property taxes and fines collected. What happens to these courts when laws make it harder to collect fines? That’s what may happen under recent “pay or stay” settlements. In the past, municipal and justice court judges jailed people who had not paid their tickets and fines. Recent litigation described that system as turning county jails into debtors’ prisons. To be sure, it seems unfair to jail people who lack the means to pay a traffic fine. On the other hand, if the court can only get $25 a month from those who refuse to pay their fines in full, a significant revenue source will disappear, and the threat of a fine seems less likely to encourage sound decisions on the road. Will this cause property taxes and insurance rates to rise? Will it result in unsafe streets and highways because people feel less compelled to follow traffic laws? How can we make sure that the laws are applied fairly?
Headlines such as these make rank and file citizens feel caught between rocks and hard places.