DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union and a lawyer for a Detroit-area judge are being urged to reach a settlement in a dispute over jail sentences for people who can’t afford to immediately pay fines.

Judge Carl Gerds (38th District Court.US/Judge Profile)

Judge Carl Gerds (38th District Court.US/Judge Profile)

The ACLU of Michigan is seeking an order prohibiting “pay-or-stay” sentences in the Eastpointe court of Judge Carl Gerds III.

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In July, a higher court stepped in to stop Judge Gerds from sentencing a single mother who couldn’t afford to pay a $455 fine for failing to have her dogs licensed.

The ACLU of Michigan said Donna Anderson is justified in fearing she would be ordered to jail, noting that Gerds sentenced a man to 30 days in jail in June after he couldn’t afford to pay a smaller jaywalking fine.

Michael Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled years ago that such practices were unconstitutional.

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An attorney for Gerds acknowledged that the judge has made mistakes. But Tom Rombach says the judge now is offering payment plans. Rombach also objects to some of the cases listed by the ACLU until he can dig into the details.

Macomb County Judge James Maceroni held a hearing Monday.

Maceroni says pay-or-stay sentences seem “ingrained” in local courts. The ACLU says sending someone to jail without checking their ability to pay is unconstitutional.

 

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