Pursuing Elimination of Racial and Poverty Disparities in the Criminal Justice System. Damian Stinnie, et al. v. Richard Holcomb (amicus curiae) 

The Legal Aid Justice Center (“LAJC”) filed a lawsuit in 2016 against the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) Commissioner Richard Holcomb on behalf of four people whose driver’s licenses were suspended automatically for nonpayment of court fees. That case is now on appeal to the federal U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond.

On August 16, the ACLU of Virginia joined the NAACP and other civil rights and poverty law organizations in filing a brief in the appeals court supporting the LAJC’s position in the lawsuit.

In Virginia, a person’s driver’s license is automatically suspended if court fines, costs, forfeitures, restitution or penalties go unpaid for more than 30 days after a conviction. Once a license is suspended, the DMV commissioner will not reinstate it until debts are paid in every jurisdiction in which they are owed. The amicus brief supports LAJC’s position and argues that the DMV practice disproportionately affects poor people, and particularly those of color.

In addition to the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP and the ACLU of Virginia, the amicus brief includes the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice; the Center for Civil Justice; the Center for Justice; the Colorado Center on Law and Policy; Equal Justice Under the Law; Florida Legal Services, Inc.; Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice; the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Mississippi Center for Justice; the National Center for Law and Economic Justice; the North Carolina Justice Center; the Public Justice Center; the South Carolina Appleseed Center for Law and Justice; the Texas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice; Tzedek DC; the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs; and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Cynthia Cook Robertson, Robert C.K. Boyd, and Thomas V. Loran, III of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP

Date filed

August 16, 2017


U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit



Case number

No. 17-1740