Judicial ethics complaint: Alabama Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins and court fines

The SPLC filed a judicial ethics complaint against Perry County (Alabama) Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins after he required people unable to pay court fines to either donate blood or go to jail.

The complaint described how Wiggins threatened defendants in his court with jail on Sept. 17, 2015, noting that the sheriff “had enough handcuffs” for those unable to pay their court debt and unwilling to donate blood – a violation of judicial ethics and the U.S. and Alabama constitutions.

Dozens of indigent defendants had packed the courtroom for hearings on the restitution, fines, court costs and fees they owed. Without speaking to the judge about their financial situation, many gave blood out of fear of going to jail.

In January 2016, the Alabama Court of Judiciary censured Wiggins for violating five provisions of the state’s Canons of Judicial Ethics.