Commonwealth v. Mauk

ACLU-PA case, where Mr. Mauk was illegally jailed in Cambria County for nonpayment of fines and costs.

Court/Assoc.: County Court of Common Pleas

Attorneys/Firms: Andrew Christy (ACLU-PA)

The Cambria County Court of Common Pleas held Mr. Mauk and 53 other individuals in contempt and sentenced them to two weeks of jail for not paying fines, costs, and restitution, without giving any of the individuals an opportunity to explain why they had not been paying. By the time he was sent to jail, Mr. Mauk had paid what he was supposed to, but he was late in the payments because of the irregular nature of his work as a painter and a medical issue that landed him in the hospital.

The Superior Court vacated the trial court’s order, finding that the court violated Mr. Mauk’s rights by not providing him with an individualized hearing and making findings as to why he did not pay. The Court explained that courts must hold ability-to-pay hearings every time an individual comes before them. In addition, the Court found that Mr. Mauk had a right to a lawyer and a right to consult with that lawyer before any court hearing.  

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