Here’s a question: How much time did Jennifer Nientimp of Tiverton have to spend digging out a 21-year-old letter from the RI Administrative Adjudication Court dismissing a speeding ticket in order to prove that she didn’t have to pay the $82 fine that the state judiciary is now demanding from her?
Here’s another question: How many of the other quarter-million letters that the courts sent out seeking $81 million in unpaid fines are similarly baseless?
The answer to the question is probably that there is no way to know. Reading Gregory Smith’s article in today’s Providence Journal, one gets the impression that the judiciary essentially grabbed somebody’s informal tally and used it as the basis for its collection efforts. The onus is entirely on the people who receive the letters to find their records (potentially after 40 years or more) or at least to claim that the collection demand is in error. Then the state will spend money trying to track down the facts across records spanning every technology of the last half-century.
This is absurd. The state should have to be able to convincingly document that a particular fine is still due, and those who are wrongly harassed should have recourse to some damages for lost time and stress.
The episode is yet another indication that the government of the State of Rhode Island has drifted from the idea of serving the public and to the demand that the public fund a vast array of inside deals, special favors, and pet projects. If you live here or have interacted with the state in any way since the Nixon administration, you aren’t a citizen to be represented, but a potential source of more money.