Morris v. Schoonfield

RESPONDENT: Schoonfield
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Central District of California

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 399 US 508 (1970)
ARGUED: Apr 22, 1970
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Morris v. Schoonfield

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 22, 1970 in Morris v. Schoonfield

Warren E. Burger:

Number 782, Morris against Schoonfield.

Robert G. Fisher:

May it please the Court.

My name is Robert Fisher.

I represent a class of plaintiff appellants.

The class is defined as those people who are incarcerated in the Baltimore City Jail and we have defined it as a continuing class.

We brought this action in July 1968 and there are currently about a 150 people in the Baltimore City Jail under the statute that we are attacking.

This case is different from the Williams case that the Court has just heard, in that there, only I -- and unusual application of the jail or fine statute was being contested.

The situation where the judge gives both the maximum jail sentence and a fine, and the person is required to serve more than the maximum amount allowed.

Our case covers all types of incarceration for non-payment of fines except the contumacious refusal to pay situation.

We're not concerned with that.

Our case involves a two-dollar rate instead of a five-dollar rate.

It is a mandatory rate as the statute says the judge shall commit him and then pursuant to the terms of the statute, then the statute provides a two-dollar rate.

Hugo L. Black:

$2.00 per day?

Robert G. Fisher:

I'm sorry?

Hugo L. Black:

$2.00 per day?

Robert G. Fisher:

$2.00 per day.

Potter Stewart:

Your statute has been substantially amended and I -- but I expect you're going to tell us about that in due --

Robert G. Fisher:

That's right Your Honor.

The new statute should be enforced, but it is not.

I called the Chief Judge of the Municipal Court of Baltimore City yesterday, and he said he had never heard of the new statute.

He asked me to send him a copy which I did.

I called the jail and they said they had not heard of the new statute and that nobody was getting out under it.

The new statute by the way just gives a judicial remedy.

It does not say that everybody who's committed under the old statute should get out, and only gives them a right to apply to the justice that committed them for re-determination under the new statute and it does not guarantee that we -- they will get out.

Potter Stewart:

It gives a judicial -- excuse me, excuse me.

Hugo L. Black:

I'm just going to ask does it have a date and rate, in the new statute?

Robert G. Fisher:

It has a minimum rate of $10.00 per day.

Potter Stewart:

So, it gives a judicial potential, judicial remedy to those now in jail, and it also for the future sets up a -- quite inconsistent doesn't it?

Robert G. Fisher:

That's right.

If Your Honor, it gives a potential remedy, but it doesn't require that they be notified of the existence of the remedy and the Chief Judge of the municipal court doesn't know about it a week after it was passed.