Wednesday, May 30, 2007

U.S. v. Trimble (9th Cir. - May 30, 2007)

"The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791. The United States produced its first automobile in 1877, and the first traffic ticket issued in 1904."

That's the first paragraph of Judge Berzon's opinion in this case. Which gives you a hint as to how the rest of it is going to read.

It's a tiny little matter, involving seventy-five whole dollars in fines that Trimble had to pay for various traffic tickets but that others did not -- basically all because the U.S. had two different forms, old ones (that were still being used) that didn't refer to the additional $25/ticket fine and new ones that did. The panel decides that's an equal protection violation, even under rational basis review, and that result seems plausible (though I can imagine other defenses that the panel doesn't discuss).

But let me add one more thing. Seventy five dollars. For that we appoint a public defender and have a U.S. attorney and the P.D. brief and argue an entire appeal? We can't just save some money by confessing error and refunding the piddly seventy-five bucks?