On August 21, 2002, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit under § 1983 against the Hamilton County Public Defender Commission in the United States Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court for damages, claiming that he had been unconstitutionally incarcerated. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that he had been unconstitutionally subjected to jail time because his public defender failed to request an indigency hearing.
Plaintiff's claims stem from his original arrest and conviction for drunk driving. As a result of that conviction, Plaintiff was put on probation, given a suspended jail sentence, and fined. Plaintiff was subsequently arrested and incarcerated for failure to pay the fine associated with his original sentence. Plaintiff claimed that this incarceration was unconstitutional because he was unable to pay the fine, and his attorney never requested an indigency hearing to allow Plaintiff to show he was unable to pay the fine. In short, Plaintiff claimed that he and others were unconstitutionally incarcerated because Defendant made it a practice to not request indigency hearings.
On August 30, 2005, the Court (Judge S. Arthur Spiegel) certified a class action. Powers v. Hamilton County Public Defender Commission, 2005 WL 2033696 (S.D.O.H. Aug. 30, 2005). The class consisted of all those persons who were incarcerated without an indigency hearing.
On February 7, 2006, the Court granted, in part, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on liability, to the extend it found relief appropriate for those who fell within the modified class definition. The Court stayed consideration of Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on damages.
The Court issued final judgment in the case on March 24, 2006. In the order, the Court modified the class definition to include "all persons who, without an indigency hearing, were committed to the custody of a Hamilton County correctional facility by a Hamilton County municipal or common please court from August 21, 2000, to the present in satisfaction of a fine and/or court costs, including persons who violated probation following a "stay to pay" sentence. Further, the order required Defendant to provide class notice at its expense and allowed Class Counsel to file for attorneys' fees and costs. Defendants indicated they intended to appeal the judgment.
On August 29, 2008, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr.) affirmed the District Court's ruling that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims are cognizable, and affirmed the grant of class certification. However, the Sixth Circuit reversed the District Court's grant of summary judgment to Plaintiff and remanded for further proceedings. Powers v. Hamilton Cty. Pub. Defenders Comm'n, 501 F.3d 592 (6th Cir. 2008).
On April 29, 2009, the District Court (Judge S. Arthur Spiegel) issued an order certifying a class for the purposes of settlement, preliminarily approving settlement, and approving notice to the class members.
The Court issued a final order approving class action, approving settlement, and approving distribution of payment to class members, and dismissing all claims with prejudice, on June 17, 2009.
The case was closed in 2009 and there has been no further action.Haley Waller - 11/17/2010