University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Varden v. City of Clanton CJ-AL-0009
Docket / Court 2:15-cv-00034-MHT-WC ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Criminalization of poverty
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On January 15, 2015, an arrested individual who was unable to pay her bail filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Represented by the non-profit Equal Justice Under Law and by private counsel, the plaintiff sued the City of Clanton under 42 U.S. ... read more >
On January 15, 2015, an arrested individual who was unable to pay her bail filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Represented by the non-profit Equal Justice Under Law and by private counsel, the plaintiff sued the City of Clanton under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Her complaint alleged that she was jailed because she was too poor to pay a small amount of bail money as automatically required by the City's bail schedule. Those able to pay the amount of the bond always obtained immediate release. Those unable to pay were required to wait in jail until the next court date, typically held on Tuesday afternoons. The bail schedule required payment upfront and provided no option to secure release on recognizance or by an unsecured bond. The plaintiff claimed this violated the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments; she sought declaratory, injunctive and compensatory relief. The case was assigned to Judge Myron Thompson.

On February 13, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in support of the plaintiff. The statement pointed out that the federal Bail Reform Act requires federal judges and magistrates to conduct an individualized analysis of each defendant prior to ordering pretrial detention. DOJ argued that this is constitutionally required--that fixed-sum bail systems are unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On April 3, 2015, the plaintiff filed her first amended class-action complaint. Subsequently, the defendants moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. However, before the court could rule on the motion, the parties settled the case, except for the issue of damages. The defendants agreed to a modified bail schedule and to hold a hearing within 48 hours for those unable to pay their bail.

Accordingly, on May 14, 2015, the court denied all pending motions without prejudice and cancelled all pending hearings. On September 14, 2015, the court (Judge Myron H. Thompson) issued an opinion and order granting final judgment and adopting the settlement agreement as an order of the court. The court retained jurisdiction for three years to enforce the terms of the settlement and to resolve the matter of attorney's fees. 2015 WL 5387219 (M.D. Ala. Sept. 14, 2015).

Jessica Kincaid - 04/08/2016


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Over/Unlawful Detention
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Clanton
Plaintiff Description Arrestee jailed for inability to pay automatically set bail amount
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2015 - 2018
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
Links Philadelphia Forfeiture
http://ij.org/case/philadelphia-forfeiture/
By: Institute for Justice (Institute for Justice)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:15-cv-00034-MHT-WC (M.D. Ala.) 09/14/2015
CJ-AL-0009-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint 01/15/2015
CJ-AL-0009-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States 02/13/2015
CJ-AL-0009-0001.pdf | Detail
First Amended Class Action Complaint 04/03/2015
CJ-AL-0009-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement 06/29/2015
CJ-AL-0009-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 09/14/2015 (2015 WL 5387219) (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0009-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Judges Capel, Wallace Jr. (M.D. Ala.) [Magistrate]
CJ-AL-0009-9000
Thompson, Myron Herbert (N.D. Ala., M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0009-0005 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dawson, William Monroe Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0002 | CJ-AL-0009-0004 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0002 | CJ-AL-0009-0004 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
McGuire, Joseph Mitchell (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0002 | CJ-AL-0009-0004 | CJ-AL-0009-0006 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Swerdlin, Matthew (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0002 | CJ-AL-0009-0004 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Copeland, Lee Hall (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0006 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Holliday, Shannon L. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-9000
Kinney, Richard Warren (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-9000
Porter, James Wallace II (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0006 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Other Lawyers Anderson, Robert G. (Mississippi)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Beck, George (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Brett, Sharon (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Bullock, Robert B. (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Foster, Lisa (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Katzman, Jennifer (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Killebrew, Paul (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001
Stanner, Andrew (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0001

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -