University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Davis v. City of Philadelphia PN-PA-0011
Docket / Court 2:03-cv-1400 ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On March 4, 2003, plaintiff, an indigent resident of Philadelphia incarcerated for failure to pay traffic fines, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and all those similarly situated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against ... read more >
On March 4, 2003, plaintiff, an indigent resident of Philadelphia incarcerated for failure to pay traffic fines, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and all those similarly situated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the City of Philadelphia. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, alleged that defendant's practices, resulting in the incarceration of indigent residents that failed to pay traffic fines violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the practices violated the plaintiffs' rights, an injunction enjoining the alleged practices, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees.

Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that his and others' rights were violated by the City's practice of arresting individuals for alleged Motor Vehicle Code violations and then subjecting them to incarceration following Philadelphia Traffic Court proceedings conducted without the assistance of counsel, notice of specific charges against them, opportunity to prepare a defense, cross-examine witnesses, or offer evidence on their own behalf. The plaintiff and other members of the class were allegedly not released until they paid substantial amounts of money to satisfy fines levied against them.

On March 18, 2003, the District Court (Judge Timothy J. Savage) ordered that no defendant brought before The Philadelphia Traffic Court shall be ordered incarcerated for failure to post bail or security pending a trial at which the defendant shall be afforded the right to counsel and shall be advised of his or her right to appeal to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

On June 11, 2003, the parties submitted a settlement agreement. Subsequently, on July 8, 2003, the District Court (Judge Savage) issued a settlement order resolving the case. The settlement order, pursuant to the parties' settlement agreement, certified the proposed class solely as to the issues of declaratory and injunctive relief and acknowledged that the parties had engaged in serious, good faith negotiations relating to the establishment of procedures to resolve the issues related to the class action. More specific terms of the settlement agreement are not readily available.

Brendan Brown - 10/03/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
Equal Protection
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
False arrest
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Philadelphia
Plaintiff Description A resident of Philadelphia incarcerated for failure to pay traffic fines
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Unknown
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2006
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:08−cv−04583 (E.D. Pa.) 03/04/2003
PN-PA-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 03/04/2003
PN-PA-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 03/18/2003 (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0011-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Order 07/08/2003 (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0011-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Savage, Timothy J. (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0011-0002 | PN-PA-0011-0003 | PN-PA-0011-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Feinberg, Jonathan H. (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0011-0001 | PN-PA-0011-9000
Messing, Paul (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0011-0001 | PN-PA-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Scott, Jeffrey M. (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0011-9000
Williams, A. Taylor (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0011-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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