SHERWOOD, Ark. - Defendants who claimed that Pulaski County's Hot Check Court was another version of debtor's prison have settled with District Judge Butch Hale and the City of Sherwood.
The judge and the city both agreed to the settlement, but there are no monetary damages or attorneys fees in the deal.
The settlement required the court to set written policies for issues like defendants' ability to pay, jail time for getting behind on fees and options for poor defendants to face community service instead of fines.
Several court defendants had filed a lawsuit that claimed they were denied representation and faced thousands of dollars in fines over misdemeanor hot checks.
Statement on settlement from attorney representing the judge and the city:
"The Judge and City moved to dismiss this lawsuit and the Court granted it. The Plaintiffs filed a motion to reconsider and my clients responded. At the same time, Plaintiffs approached me through some of their attorneys, desiring to settle the litigation. That process went on for months as Plaintiffs made various proposals we did not agree to. In the end, the City and Judge Hale settled with the Plaintiffs by reducing existing practices of the Court to writing. They are reflected in the agreement. Some of those practices existed before this litigation and some have existed for approximately a year since the Judge attended training put on by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Any practice that the Court refined a year ago, was the direct result of AOC training. No money or attorneys’ fees are being paid as part of this settlement. As we’ve always maintained, and this agreement reflects, the Court’s practices are constitutional and Judge Hale has always considered a person’s ability to pay in determining a sentence after a finding of guilt."
Click here to read the full settlement.