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11/1/2017
Shackle or not

Alaska might take Vermont’s lead and save itself court costs while it works to erase an operating budget deficit.

An Anchorage attorney, formerly of Vermont, has lined up clients to sue the state over the way suspects are cuffed wrist-to-wrist as they enter court. That practice has been done away with in Vermont for suspects who present no danger to the court.

The premise of the lawsuit is that the practice violates the U.S. Constitution.

The attorney, Ember Tilton, says he decided to file the suit after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Nineth circuit ruled earlier this year that a presumptively innocent defendant should be treated with respect and dignity in court.

Alaska’s federal court system revised its restraint practices after the Appeals Court ruling. The federal court now allows the least restrictive means to maintain security and order in its courtroom.

U.S. marshals and probation services provide the federal court with guidance on which suspects may be unrestrained in court.

The inmates involved with the suit claim their rights are violated because they aren’t heard before they are deprived of their liberty.

There must be more to that point than is readily apparent, because it’s common that inmates are deprived of their liberty upon arrest — even before showing up in court. It’s determined at arraignment how much liberty they will have and under what conditions.

To the point of respect and dignity, all people should be treated with such. It helps to behave in a way that deserves it.

The state has examples of federal court and Vermont courts to learn whether changing the practice discussed in the lawsuit has merit. If it does, the change should be implemented, making the lawsuit moot.

If not, then the inmates will have another day in court.