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Case Name De Luna v. Hidalgo County JC-TX-0022
Docket / Court 7:10-cv-00268 ( S.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On July 26, 2010, two young adults in Hidalgo County filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas, asked the court for declaratory, injunctive and damage ... read more >
On July 26, 2010, two young adults in Hidalgo County filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas, asked the court for declaratory, injunctive and damage relief. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants, the county and county magistrates and justices of the peace, had violated their constitutional rights by failing to conduct an indigency examination prior to their jailing for the failure to pay the fines associated with the failure to attend school citations that had been issued by their school district's police department. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that, by failing to conduct an indigency examination to determine whether the plaintiffs were indigent and whether they had made a good faith effort to pay their fines, the defendants had violated their right to due process and equal protection by jailing them for being unable to pay a fine.

On June 24, 2011 Judge Randy Crane granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims for injunctive relief against the judicial defendants. The court found that §1983 does not allow for injunctive relief against judicial officers for acts or omissions taken within their official capacities unless "a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable." The court further dismissed the claims against the Sheriff in his official capacity because case law in the 5th circuit allows for "unnecessary parties" to be dismissed. The district court found that the official capacity claims against the Sheriff in reality were claims against the county. As such, the district court found that the Sheriff's presence in the lawsuit was unnecessary and dismissed the claims against him in his official capacity.

Judge Randy Crane denied, however, the defendants' motion to dismiss the claim for declaratory relief against the judicial defendants and the claims for injunctive, declaratory and damage relief against the county.

On October 18, 2011, the remaining defendants filled a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs then filed a cross motion for summary judgment on November 10, 2011.

In an order issued on February 15 2012, Judge Randy Crane 1) denied class certification, 2) dismissed Plaintiffs' individual claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Magistrates and County for lack of standing, 3) granted summary judgment to the named plaintiffs' for their claim for damages against the county because it violated their federal due process and equal protection rights by failing to afford them an affirmative indigency determination before incarcerating them for their failure to pay fines and costs, 4) ruled that plaintiff De Luna was entitled to nominal damages of $1, and 5) ruled that plaintiff Diaz’s entitlement to compensatory damages could not be resolved on summary judgment.

To demonstrate standing to obtain an order declaring as unconstitutional and enjoining Defendants’ challenged practices, the plaintiffs had to show that they faced a “real and immediate” threat that, while indigent, they will again be charged with a Class C, fine-only offense and then arrested and incarcerated solely because they are unable to pay the fine, without being afforded an indigency screening. The court believed that there were simply too many contingencies for the threat to be "real and immediate."

In granting summary judgment on the plaintiff's claim for damages, the court focused on potential defendants who might not think to "speak up" during arraignment, saying that providing the opportunity to bring up indigency is merely a gesture of, but does not provide, due process. Plaintiff De Luna did not show "actual injury" so was only awarded $1 for the unconstitutional violation of due process rights. With the plaintiff Diaz, the court said that the question of whether she knew that she could avoid jail time by bringing up her inability to pay at arraignment still needed to be determined. If she voluntarily chose to serve jail time, there would be no actual injury and she would only recover nominal damages.

A hearing on the remainder of the motions did not take place as the parties filed a joint motion to dismiss (R41) on April 29, 2012, saying that the matter had been amicably resolved. The agreement was filed under seal. The court then approved the motion on April 30.

Justin Benson - 10/26/2011
Dan Hofman - 03/20/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Juveniles
Over/Unlawful Detention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Hidalgo County
Plaintiff Description Young adults jailed in the Hidalgo County Adult Detention Facility for failure to pay fines from school attendance violations
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Damages

Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
7:10-cv-00268 (S.D. Tex.) 04/30/2012
JC-TX-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint 07/26/2010
JC-TX-0022-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Denying Defendants' Motion to Strike 06/24/2011 (S.D. Tex.)
JC-TX-0022-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Opposed Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Law in Support of Same 10/18/2011
JC-TX-0022-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Opposed Motion and Memorandum in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment and Brief in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment 11/10/2011
JC-TX-0022-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Granting Defendants' Motion for Denial of Class Certification, Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment 02/15/2012 (853 F.Supp.2d 623) (S.D. Tex.)
JC-TX-0022-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Judges Crane, Randy (S.D. Tex.)
JC-TX-0022-0003 | JC-TX-0022-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bhat, Ghouri (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-9000
Bowie, Courtney (New York)
JC-TX-0022-0005 | JC-TX-0022-9000
Caddell, Michael A. (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-0001 | JC-TX-0022-0005 | JC-TX-0022-9000
Chapman, Cynthia B. (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-0001 | JC-TX-0022-9000
Graybill, Lisa Shawn (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-0001 | JC-TX-0022-9000
Levy, Dana B. (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-0001 | JC-TX-0022-0005 | JC-TX-0022-9000
Morton, Clay A. (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-0001 | JC-TX-0022-9000
Whitburn, Mark Caddell (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hernandez, Jose Wilfredo (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-9000
Millin, John Andrew (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-0002 | JC-TX-0022-9000
Weitz, Mark A. (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-0002
Wingate, Brandy M. (Texas)
JC-TX-0022-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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