Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Fall 5-8-2012

Major Department or Program



Helen Knowles


This thesis documents the Walla Walla Superior Court’s procedures of enforcing legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed by the Court through contempt of court proceedings. The Court systematically prosecutes individuals who have failed to pay their debts without sufficiently verifying their ability to pay beforehand; this practice results in the illegal incarceration of indigent debtors. I completed an empirical observation of Court procedure and interviewed both Court Judges as well as the public defender assigned to these cases. I then juxtaposed the information gathered with an analysis of the relevant laws and judicial precedents, sociopolitical case-studies and statistical studies, and normative political theory. By placing the County’s procedures in the relevant legal, social, and political contexts, I was able to conclude that Walla Walla Superior Court’s LFO enforcement procedures are illegal, impractical, and unethical and sketched out the likely impacts these policies had on those unable to pay their court-imposed debts.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Legal services -- Policy, Court administration, Washington (State), Walla Walla (Wash.), Legal obligation, Debt -- United States -- Management, Collecting of accounts -- Debt collection, United States Department of Justice -- Criminal Division -- Criminal justice system, Finance -- obligations, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2012 -- Politics Department

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Public Accessible Thesis

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