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Proposed Administrative Law Ordinance Impacts Ethnic Communities

08 November 1999 Published in Local Policy Work

In a Letter to the Salt Lake City Council, the ACLU of Utah Questions the Proposed Administrative Law Division

November 9, 1999

Laurie Dillon
Salt Lake City Corporation
Policy & Budget Office
451 South State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111

Council Members
451 South State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111

Re: Proposed Salt Lake City Administrative Law Division

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Thank you for giving us an opportunity to review the Racial. Although it is presented as a means of enhancing both the fairness and the efficiency of processing minor traffic and other violations, the fact is that the proposal raises more questions than it provides answers as to the nature and impact of the new system. We write to express our concerns about potential due process issues and a very real possibility that the system will work to the further disadvantage of already-disadvantaged members of the community.

In section 2.75.080 (E) (2, 4) of the City’s proposal, the right to subpoena witnesses and the right of persons or their attorneys to cross examine witnesses are listed as due process protections. However, Van Harken v. Chicago 103 F.3d 1346 (7th Cir. 1997), states it does not offend due process to treat the ticket as an affidavit excusing the officer from appearing in court because there is no absolute right of confrontation in civil cases. The ACLU believes that the right to examine witnesses is vital to ensure the fairness the City is seeking in adjudicating cases under this procedure. These rights should be guaranteed to individuals appearing before the City Administrative Law Court without the possibility of submitting a ticket in lieu of an officer’s appearance.

In addition to the above due process concern the City’s proposal uses Utah Rules of Evidence and Utah Rules of Civil Procedure as guidelines, but says they "need not be strictly followed or applied 2.75.080 (E) (3)." By decriminalizing these violations, safeguards usually adhered to are no longer mandatory. The ACLU feels the guidelines for evidence and procedure which the City Administrative Law Court will follow need to be clearly delineated to ensure fair litigation of cases and implementation of penalties.

Moreover, section 2.75.080 (I) lists penalties for unsatisfied fines, but does not discuss the means by which this information will be disclosed to the accused. We argue that notice of these penalties and the due process rights of the accused must be given to each individual at the time a citation is issued.

Finally, the proposal asks the ALJ to "establish policies and procedures… and to formulate and maintain a schedule of penalties, surcharges and assessments 2.75.020 (A) (1-2)." The ACLU contends that these duties should be assigned to someone other than the ALJ. A third party will have the advantage of establishing more objective policies and procedures and a schedule of penalties, surcharges and assessments.

We note the "Budget Impact" is projected to be a substantial surplus in the future. We think the City’s residents are entitled to know the basis for this projection so they can analyze whether it will come from increased fines and forfeitures, and whether it is based on an assumption that already-disadvantaged members of our community will bear a disproportionate share of this new revenue source.

The ACLU urges the City Counsel not to adopt yet another measure that could place the poor and the racial and ethnic minority members of our community at a disadvantage. The ACLU will continue to advocate for alternative approaches to this issue that employ effective, neutral enforcement of laws to address conduct that constitutes minor criminal activity.

Thank you for allowing us to express our concerns. Please call me if you have any further questions at 521-9862.


Stephen C. Clark
Legal Director