PJC Argues Before Fourth Circuit Against Charging Pre-Trial Detainees a Dollar a Day
On February 4, 2005, former Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow Josh Auerbach argued before a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Slade v. Hampton Roads Regional Jail. The PJC represents Slade, a pretrial detainee who was held at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia, on appeal of the dismissal of his pro se constitutional challenge to the Virginia “prisoner’s keep” statute. The statute authorizes local and regional jails to charge detainees a “fee” of one dollar per day, which the jail may then use “for general jail purposes.” PJC argued that the practice of imposing on pretrial detainees the costs of their own detention represents both a deprivation of property without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and a taking of property without just compensation, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Josh engaged in a lively debate with Judges Harvie Wilkinson and Karen Williams, both of whom appeared to side with the jail. U.S. District Court Judge, Henry F. Floyd (D.S.C.), sitting by designation, was the third member of the panel. The case already has resulted in a partial retreat by the Commonwealth of Virginia, which now has adopted a policy that refunds the fees to detainees who are adjudicated not guilty, apparently in response to this appeal. The case remains pending.