After defying an appeals court for weeks by throwing people in jail for unpaid court costs, Florida Judge Ralph Eriksson jailed no one yesterday with the news media watching him, says the Orlando Sentinel. He ordered some people back to court for contempt proceedings, something that could eventually result in jail time. For the first time, he told people in that category that they had a right to an attorney then he appointed them one.
Last week, the Sentinel reported that Eriksson, 62, had jailed more than 20 people and issued another 20-plus arrest warrants in the past five months because of unpaid court costs. An appeals court judge set each of those people free and cancelled the warrants. She concluded Eriksson, a 15-year judicial veteran, had exceeded his authority and violated the constitutional rights of those former defendants. He contined the jailings until yesterday, when sitting in his courtroom were reporters and cameras. “He was a lot different because he was being watched by the newspaper and Channel 9 News,” said Maria Raila, 35, who was in court because of $115 in unpaid fees.