On 7/14/11 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued a decision in the Parking Ticket Case. Click here to read it. That court affirmed the lower court’s decision (i.e., the SJC denied the Plaintiffs’ appeal which sought to have the law declared unconstitutional). One of the SJC’s main contentions was that there would be many frivolous appeals filed in the courts if the appeals procedure was changed and that the fiscal and administrative burdens of additional or substitute procedural requirements would be “overwhelming.” However, the SJC did not provide one iota of evidence to support this contention. (The SJC cited p. 335 of the Mathews vs. Eldridge case, a US Supreme Court decision, but that does not support its position.) On the contrary, the right to appeal parking tickets with brief hearings in small claims court (which would usually take just a few minutes each), even if a few of them were unmeritorious, would not be a burden which would “overwhelm” the state. Contrary to the SJC’s position, it is a good thing when people appeal their parking tickets to the courts and when innocent people are vindicated. It enhances people’s faith in the judiciary and in local government, it enhances the individual’s sense of justice, and it rectifies the injustice of wrongfully issued parking tickets. (This may apply even if the appellant is found responsible for the ticket but he still sees that the appellate hearing was conducted with fairness and due process of law.) This court is out of touch with the interests of the people of this state.
It is now up to the legislature to fix this issue. A bill, House Bill H1576, sponsored by Representative Byron Rushing (D-Boston, South End) and Rep. Evandro Carvalho (D-Dorchester), is presently pending in the Massachusetts state legislature which would move parking ticket appeals from Superior Court to Small Claims court and it would limit the filing fee to a reasonable amount and make it refundable if the appellant prevails. (The bill would also allow appeals of motor vehicle law violation tickets received by bicyclists to be heard in Small Claims court with reduced and refundable filing fees.) If you are a Massachusetts resident you can help by contacting your state legislators and urging them to support this bill. For information about doing that click here.