Looking for some feedback on this one:
Should judges be allowed to impose fines for the benefit of unrelated third parties outside the jurisdiction?
I touched on this tangentially in my earlier story about Pennsylvania’s pending lawsuit against the NCAA because one of the claims against the NCAA challenged the provision of the settlement that ordered Penn State University, as an institution supported by Pennsylvania taxpayers, to pay a fine that would partially benefit victims of sexual abuse outside Pennsylvania.
But settlements provide more flexibility than judicially imposed fines.
Who could possibly object to forcing criminals to send money to charity? Oh, we can find a guy….
Consider the fight brewing over Scott Studer’s criminal fine. Studer, a former basketball coach with the Jackson High Polar Bears (seriously?) for 27 years, pleaded guilty to videotaping over 70 of his former students showering without their knowledge.
Judge Frank Forchione sentenced Studer to 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Stating that he wanted something good to come out of this horrific ordeal, Judge Forchione ordered that the fine be sent to a charity benefiting those affected by the Sandy Hook shootings.
Now a taxpayer in Stark County (home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame!) named Thomas Marcelli has filed suit. Marcelli claims that Studer’s $5,000 fine would be best served fighting crime in Stark County, or fixing the stop light down on Main Street, or some other mundane local cause, because Marcelli feels he shouldn’t have to be subsidizing those Sandy Hook folks with his tax dollars.
No word on whether or not his beef also stems from not believing the shooting ever took place.
Given that Judge Forchione is noted for not letting legal precedent stand in the way of a good idea (ugh, that article used the phrase “current status quo,” which ranks right up there with misusing literally as a pet peeve, am I right?), he’s probably not likely to let himself be bullied by a local arguing that $5,000 should be taken away from Sandy Hook relief, an amount equal to about 1.7 cents of a given taxpayer’s share of local taxes ($5,000 divided by the population of Stark County over the age of 18… admittedly a rough estimate).
On the other hand, Judge Forchione is an elected official in Stark County. Since his position is owed entirely to the voters of Stark County, what authority does he have to act beyond its borders? And why should judges have the right to substitute the normal collection procedures of the jurisdiction with their personal charitable views? Would the liberal impulse to send taxpayer dollars indirectly to charity be as strong if the judge ordered the money to be sent to an African AIDS charity that works with Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” government?
Bringing us back to the original question: