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Sample driver’s license, Virginia DMV

A federal judge Friday denied a request to dismiss a class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s law that automatically suspends the driver’s licenses of people who cannot afford to pay court costs and fines.

The Virginia attorney general’s office sought the dismissal in light of a one-year freeze on court-debt driver’s license suspensions created by a budget amendment passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. The freeze takes effect Monday and expires July 1, 2020.

In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon, of Charlottesville, wrote that, “although the Budget Amendment may indeed reflect shifting political winds ... future enforcement of [the driver’s suspension law] remains reasonably possible such that this case is not moot.”

Instead of dismissing the suit, Moon postponed the trial, set for August, to give the General Assembly a chance to pass a permanent fix during the current one-year freeze.

The suit, Stinnie v. Holcomb, was filed in 2016 by the Legal Aid Justice Center and McGuireWoods LLP challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s law automatically suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay court costs and fines.

The case was earlier dismissed but was revived by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year when the appeals court allowed plaintiffs to amend their complaint.

Angela Ciolfi, executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center, said in a statement Friday that, “The Plaintiffs would have preferred to have their day in court this August and end this civil rights crisis permanently. But if the Commonwealth will not take responsibility for decades of violating people’s constitutional rights, we will continue to fight in the General Assembly to fix it for the future.”

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