Rebellious Social Movement Lawyering Against Traffic Court Debt

In Part I, the author explains the criminalization of traffic offenses in Los Angeles County, the hidden fees that accompany a traffic ticket, how the fees are used to generate revenue in Los Angeles, and the impact of the fees on individuals. He emphasizes that low-income communities of color are disproportionately targeted for revenue production. Pow notes that Blacks are 9.2 % percent of the Los Angeles County population but 33% of those arrested for driving with a suspended license. (See page 1782.)

In Part II, Pow speaks about the various strategies used to address traffic court debt such as direct representation, policy advocacy, impact litigation and especially community organizing. He relates how semimonthly meeting with individuals affected by traffic court debt helped her to understand the “multilayered systemic nature of traffic court debt.” The discussions grew from “fines and fees to traffic stops, vehicle searches and arrests and jail time subsequent to traffic violations.” Further, he admits how her lack of a social movement lawyering orientation contributed to the failure of a reform effort by the grassroots organization and encourages other lawyers to learn from her mistakes.

In Parts III-V, Pow thoroughly explains the concept of rebellious lawyering and how it can be used to address traffic court debt. Rebellious lawyering empowers those affected by the issue to come up with solutions to their own problems. He explains that it should be a collective effort between the lawyers and legal services clients and community members from grassroots organizing groups. He encourages her legal colleagues to act with deliberation because constant reflection on their actions can advance the goals of the overall campaign and the merits of a chosen strategy based on immediate outcomes.  Pow ends a with a discussion on building a grassroots organizing group and encourages a coordinated collaboration with Black Lives Matter and the Movement 4 Black Lives with grassroots organizing groups to  effectively address the traffic court debt in California.

You can read the full text of “Rebellious Social Lawyering Against Traffic Court Debt” here.

Veryl Pow, Rebellious Social Movement Lawyering Against Traffic Court Debt, 64 UCLA Rev. 1770 (2017)