On May 27, 2015, this lawsuit was brought by a person arrested by the City of St. Ann (the City), Missouri, who was jailed for a prolonged period after he was unable to pay the fee demanded for his release under the city’s “secured bail” policy. Under that policy, persons arrested for ...
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On May 27, 2015, this lawsuit was brought by a person arrested by the City of St. Ann (the City), Missouri, who was jailed for a prolonged period after he was unable to pay the fee demanded for his release under the city’s “secured bail” policy. Under that policy, persons arrested for ordinance violations were required to post a bail from $150-350 or spend upwards of 3 days in jail, without any consideration of the person’s ability to pay. Plaintiff argued that the City’s policy violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Represented by public interest legal groups ArchCity Defenders and Equal Justice Under Law, plaintiff brought suit in the U.S. federal Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Plaintiff asked the court for class certification to represent other similarly situated individuals, for a declaration that the City had violated the Constitutional Rights of arrestees who were unable to pay the City’s secured bail, for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief requiring the City to stop jailing arrestees for their inability to pay the City’s secured bail, for damages to the named plaintiff to compensate for his period of confinement, and for legal costs and attorneys’ fees.
The next day, the parties asked the judge assigned to the case, District Judge Rodney W. Sippel, to grant them a stay in proceedings so that they could conduct settlement negotiations. To that end, plaintiffs dropped their request for preliminary injunctive relief pending the outcome of the negotiations. The day after that, on May 29, 2015, Judge Sippel granted a stay, and asked the parties to report the outcome of the negotiations to him by August 3, 2015.
On September 2, 2015, Judge Sippel asked the parties, who had failed to meet his August 3 deadline, to show cause for why he shouldn’t have their case dismissed with prejudice or issue them sanctions. That same day, the parties issued a joint motion showing the judge their provisional settlement agreement, and explaining that they wanted to see how the changes that the agreement required in the City’s policies worked over the coming year. The next day, Judge Sippel agreed to give the parties twelve months to test the effects of the policy changes, and ordered the defendants to comply with the provisional settlement agreement during that period.
Under the provisional settlement agreement, the plaintiffs agreed to drop most of their non-equitable claims (the claims for monetary damages). The defendants agreed to meet most of plaintiff’s demands for injunctive relief, and to give the named plaintiff a $10,000 fee for acting as a class representative. Defendants agreed to stop requiring arrestees to post a secured bail for release. Instead, they agreed to release arrestees if they agreed to provide an unsecured bond (a bond which requires persons to pay the court only if they fail to adhere to the conditions of their bail) or a recognizance (an alternative set of conditions for preventing persons from violating the terms of their bail to the payment of a monetary fee), except for cases in which the arrestee is a threat and detention is required to protect the community. Defendants also agreed to improve their procedures for notifying arrestees of court dates, and to release persons arrested for failure to attend court dates on unsecured bonds.
The parties agreed that plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel would notify defendants of any perceived breach in the agreement, and that plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel reserved the right to pursue judgment against defendants if they failed to remedy the breach. The parties also reserved the right to seek modification of the agreement, and if they fail to reach an agreement on modification, to terminate the agreement and resume litigation. As of July 12, 2016, there is no record of a breach in the agreement, or of any move to terminate the agreement. The 12 month stay has not yet concluded, so it is not yet clear whether the City will keep the new policies permanently. Ryan Berry - 07/12/2016