Monday, January 18, 2010

Seminole County, Florida's Jailin' Judge

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting  on this "jailin' Judge" Seminalole County Judge Ralph Eriksson who ha jailed over 20 citizens in the last 5 months BECAUSE these indigent citizens were not able to pay their court costs.  That's not all, if the Judge doesn't like your lawyer, that's jail.

This pinhead (pic), thinks it makes sense to obligate the taxpayers  for jail services to house poor persons in flagrant violation of, let's see, how about the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution, and about every other document since the Magna Carta.  An Appellate Court routinely reverses these jailings, and has ordered Eriksson to cease and desist, which as you will see from Rene Stutzman's Orlando Sentinel account, Eriksson ignores thus fra with impunity, but his day is coming:

"Seminole County Judge Ralph Eriksson improperly jailed more than 20 people during the past five months, finding them in contempt of court and locking them up for failing to pay court costs, court records show.  In each case, an appeals judge ruled Eriksson violated their constitutional rights and ordered their release.

In fact, Circuit Judge Donna McIntosh provided Eriksson with written appeal orders, explaining why he was wrong and specifying his errors.  That didn't stop Eriksson.  On Dec. 15, he jailed four more men, including 22-year-old Stephen Antonio Kelley, who lives near Casselberry and said he had not paid $600 in court costs because he could not find a job.

Asked Eriksson: 'What did you do with all of the jewelry you were wearing to court on December the 7th? ... If you wanted, you could sell that and clear [your fines].'

Said Kelley: 'That was a gift from my mother.'

Eriksson ordered Kelley to jail for 30 days. Two days later, McIntosh freed him and three others Eriksson jailed the same day for contempt.  'Kept doing it'

So far, the appellate judge has freed at least 21 inmates and halted the arrest of more than 20 others, records show. Those 20-plus people were behind on court-cost payments, something that prompted Eriksson to order them back to court. They failed to appear, and Eriksson then ordered their arrests.

The Public Defender's Office in Seminole County is fighting and succeeding in getting the inmates freed and the arrest warrants canceled.'That's what's frustrating,' said Judy Kinney, lead public defender in Seminole. 'We prevailed on all of them, and he still kept doing it.'

Eriksson, 62, a judge for 15 years, did not return repeated phone calls for comment.

What Eriksson is trying to do is get people to pay overdue court costs. Each person he found in contempt and jailed generally owed hundreds of dollars, was months behind on payments or paid nothing, court records show.His tactics sometimes work: Former defendants often see Eriksson in action, sending others to jail for contempt. At later hearings, a great many of them hold up receipts, showing they have paid off, just that morning, what they owe.Each person found in contempt by Eriksson had 'many, many, many' chances to pay, Assistant State Attorney Pat Whitaker said.

But Eriksson, despite being told repeatedly by McIntosh that he's not doing it right, persists in taking shortcuts that violate people's constitutional rights, public defenders say.'Our system of justice does not allow imprisonment for debt,' Assistant Public Defender Jeffrey Leukel wrote in court pleadings.

This is not Eriksson's first brush with controversy.  In 2008, the Judicial Qualifications Commission — a state panel that polices judges — put Eriksson on trial and concluded he should be punished for jailing a man in 2007 because he was angry at the man's attorney.

The JQC said Eriksson also should be disciplined for being 'cavalier and insensitive' to several domestic-violence victims who appeared before him and asked, without benefit of an attorney present, for court protection.The panel recommended Eriksson be publicly reprimanded. Eriksson filed an appeal, and it's unclear when the JQC will make its recommendation. Once it does, the Florida Supreme Court could decide the matter."
Again, we are at "small law," and Judge Eriksson gives us the other side of the coin--why?  Because, if we don't care, if we don't pay attention we all lose.


  1. This judge sounds like he needs to stick to what is right and take his personal feelings out of the situation. Not only this judge, there some Public defenders that need to be discplined as well. They make it kown that they don't care and speak very rude to the family. I am dealing with one now who is suppose to represent my son who is in Seminole County jail. This lady is rude and need to take clasees on treating people as she wants to be treated. Dion Fletcher is not a friendly person

  2. There is alot going on in seminole county and even the investigators should be dicplined they are rude they suck they need to go back to school and learn what a real investigator is all about. They are not good Investigators. People need to learn they have a license to lie. There not your friend they are evil dimonds. What goes around comes around

  3. i have to go before Eriksson in about a week and a half. I owe $600 in court cost and money to my probation officer. how do you pay these costs when there are no funds to do so? I just recently found a job after being unemployed for 3 months. Ive lost my apt, Ive lost my vehicle and now will I be sent to jail for the unpaid costs? will I lose my present job that I finally found because of this judge? how did the system boil over like this? im sure he isnt the only bad seed in the establishment. i wonder what the crippled judge is going to have to say to me. I wont have a lawyer by my side either......only time will tell.

  4. Anon @ 3:27

    I would think you are in a pretty advantageous position in light of the scrutiny on the Judge, now. Good luck.

    Remember supposedly there is no debtors' prison in America.

  5. Omg this was the judge who locked me up both 2008 and 2009 for court cost and the boy stephan was my boyfriend back in 2009 wow small world yea Erickson. Was the worst judge and was very rude i serves all 30 days in jail for court cost

  6. Judge Erickson should not be permitted to rule on any other cases, in my opinion. And if he has indeed violated numerous citizens of their rights....... what punishment will he receive, if any? We all still remember another Judge from the past......Judge Sloop. How many more travesties of justice are going unheard and unaddressed?