University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Fant v. City of Ferguson CJ-MO-0005
Docket / Court 4:15-cv-00253 ( E.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Criminalization of poverty
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On February 8, 2015, this case was brought against the City of Ferguson in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, by impoverished persons who were jailed for failing to pay legal fines imposed on them by the City. Plaintiffs made a number of allegations against Ferguson, ... read more >
On February 8, 2015, this case was brought against the City of Ferguson in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, by impoverished persons who were jailed for failing to pay legal fines imposed on them by the City. Plaintiffs made a number of allegations against Ferguson, including: (1) that the City failed to conduct an inquiry into whether plaintiffs were able to pay their fines before jailing them, in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment (2) that the City failed to provide plaintiffs with legal counsel during the proceedings leading to their incarceration, in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments (3) that the City jailed plaintiffs indefinitely and without an adequate legal process through which they could challenge their detention, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (4) that the squalid and unhealthy conditions of Ferguson's jail constituted Cruel and Unusual Punishment, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (5) that the City used jail time and the threat of jail time to deny plaintiffs the substantive and procedural protections that Missouri debtors would have against private creditors, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (6) that the City issued arrest warrants against impoverished persons for failure to pay traffic fines without any finding of probable cause, in violation the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and (7) that the City detained plaintiffs arrested without a valid warrant for an extended period without a legitimate government interest, in violation the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Represented by the public interest group Equal Justice Under Law, by lawyers from St. Louis University School of Law, and by private counsel, plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C §1983, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. They asked the court to grant them class action certification to represent similarly situated impoverished persons, to declare that the Ferguson's practices and policies violated the U.S Constitution, to issue injunctive relief requiring Ferguson to change its practices and policies to stop violating the U.S. Constitution, to order that Ferguson grant plaintiffs compensation for the harm they suffered as a result of the city's practices and policies, and to order that Ferguson pay plaintiffs’ costs and attorneys’ fees.

On May 26, 2015, the judge assigned to the case, District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig, granted defendants’ motion to dismiss in part, dismissing plaintiffs’ claims (5) and (6). 2015 WL 3417420. However, on July 13, 2015, Judge Fleissig granted plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration, reversing her May 26 order. 2015 WL 4232917.

On January 29, 2016, the parties were told to select neutral parties to act as mediators, and to schedule mediation to see if they could come to a settlement agreement. On May 10, 2016, the neutral parties reported to the court that the parties had mediated in good faith, but were unable to reach settlement.

As of July 11, 2016, the case remains ongoing. Judge Fleissig has not yet decided whether to grant plaintiffs’ class certification.

Ryan Berry - 07/11/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Placement in detention facilities
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) City of Ferguson
Plaintiff Description Impoverished persons who were jailed for failing to pay legal fines imposed on them by the City of Ferguson.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Links Philadelphia Forfeiture
http://ij.org/case/philadelphia-forfeiture/
By: Institute for Justice (Institute for Justice)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
4:15-cv-253 (E.D. Mo.) 07/05/2016
CJ-MO-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint 02/08/2015
CJ-MO-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order 05/26/2015 (2015 WL 3417420) (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order 07/13/2015 (2015 WL 4232917) (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint 04/13/2016
CJ-MO-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Judges Fleissig, Audrey Goldstein (E.D. Mo.) [Magistrate]
CJ-MO-0005-0002 | CJ-MO-0005-0003 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Mensah, Shirley P. (E.D. Mo.) [Magistrate]
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ammann, John J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-0001 | CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Hall, Edward James (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Hanlon, Stephen F (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0005-0004
Harvey, Thomas B. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Murphy, Sonia Williams (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Roediger, Brendan D. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-0001 | CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Ryals, Stephen M. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Strode, Blake Alexander (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Voss, Michael-John (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-0001 | CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Dunne, Peter J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Plunkert, Robert T. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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