Judge voids lower court’s forced fee practice

A Campbell County judge this week struck down a lower court judge’s practice of forcing poor people whose charges were dropped to pay for legal services they did not use, reports the News Sentinel.

In the first appeal of General Sessions Judge Amanda Sammons’ controversial practice, Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton this week ordered the refund of a $200 fee Justin Lee Linkes was forced to pay for a public defender he did not use.

Sammons ordered Linkes in November to pay an administrative fee for a court-appointed attorney before she would dismiss charges against him. Clinton attorney Jeff Coller said Tuesday that Linkes never used the services of the 8th Judicial District Public Defender’s Office, instead hiring him.

Coller, in turn, won dismissal of the aggravated burglary and domestic violence charges Linkes faced. But Sammons refused to formally drop the case until Linkes paid the fee.

Linkes paid the fee and then appealed to Sexton, who ruled Monday that Sammons was wrong.

…In at least four cases reviewed by the News Sentinel in December, Sammons refused to dismiss misdemeanor charges against defendants — even when wrongfully accused — who qualified because of poverty for court-appointed attorneys but whose families hired private attorneys instead.

She has continued the practice since then, refusing to dismiss cases even when prosecutors agree the defendant was wrongfully accused, court records show.