It's been a good week for the excessive fines clause in the 8th Amendment. In Maher v. Retirement Bd. of Quincy, No. SJC 10182, the Supreme Judicial Court determined that the clause did not bar forfeiture of the former Quincy plumbing and gas inspector's pension. The amount of the forfeiture? $576,000.
The inspector broke into the office where Quincy's personnell files were stored and stole a portion of his own file. It seems there were some things in that file that Mr. Maher didn't want Quincy's new mayor to know when he was deciding whether to keep Mr. Maher in his inspector post.
Mr. Maher pled guilty to breaking and entering etc. in July 2003. The following month, the Quincy retirement board commenced an administrative proceeding to determine whether Mr. Maher would have to forfeit his retirement allowance. In December 2003, the board informed him of the bad news.
He sued. And made the shameless but not necessarily frivolous argument that the forfeiture was an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment. With more than a half a million dollars on the line, can you really blame him?