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Mass. Supreme Court: $275 Fee To Appeal $15 Ticket Is Constitutional

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BOSTON – Would you pay a $275 fee to appeal a $15 parking ticket?

Arguing the fee violates their right to due process, Vincent Gillespie and Edward Hamel, who received tickets in Northampton in 2005, brought their case to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. And according to the State House News Service, he lost.

Gillespie and Hamel, with the help of the ACLU and the backing of the National Motorists Association argued that, because their first appeal was handled by the local parking clerk, the same office that issued the ticket, they did not receive a fair judicial review.

Their second appeal cost $275. Lawyers argued that the fee is a “financial barrier” that prevents access to courts, which is guaranteed in the state constitution.

But the court disagreed.

Justice Robert Cordy, in the SJC opinion said people do not have a “fundamental right” to operate a motor vehicle and, therefore, parking on public property is a privilege.

He acknowledged the filing fee was excessive compared to those in many other states, but noted that fact was not considered in the ruling.

Cordy’s opinion emphasized that the fee “conserves scarce judicial resources and discourages the filing of non-meritorious appeals.”

There is a bill on Beacon Hill that would move parking ticket appeals to small claims court, which requires a much less expensive $40 non-refundable filing fee.

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