University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Thomas v. City of Gulfport, Mississippi CJ-MS-0001
Docket / Court 1:05-cv-00349-LG-RHW ( S.D. Miss. )
State/Territory Mississippi
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Criminalization of poverty
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Southern Center for Human Rights
Case Summary
On July 21, 2005, fifteen named indigent plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of a putative class, filed this suit in in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the City of Gulfport, Mississippi.

The plaintiffs, ... read more >
On July 21, 2005, fifteen named indigent plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of a putative class, filed this suit in in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the City of Gulfport, Mississippi.

The plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, asked the court for class certification and injunctive relief, claiming that various city policies and practices related to the processing, fining, and jailing of indigent accused and convicted misdemeanor offenders violated the First, Sixth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and Mississippi state law. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the following policies and practices were illegal: incarcerating indigent debtors for failure to pay court-imposed fines and fees; denying accused misdemeanants the right to counsel at hearings where the accused faced incarceration; and effectively denying indigent persons access to public court records by levying unreasonably high record retrieval fees.

On August 9, 2005, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding three more named plaintiffs to the suit. Seven months later, the defendants filed a motion to quash and dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs' service of the complaint was improper and insufficient to confer jurisdiction. The District Court (Judge Louis Guirola) denied the motion on August 23, 2006.

On September 27, 2006, the District Court stayed the case for 120 days pending settlement discussions. Following these discussions, the parties jointly filed a stipulation of dismissal on January 31, 2007, and the court closed the case.

According to a February 1, 2007 article in Mississippi's Sun Herald newspaper, the plaintiffs agreed to the dismissal after the city: created a program allowing indigent debtors to perform community service in lieu of paying fines; granted temporary amnesty to debtors with overdue fines; implemented a new court document filing and retrieval system; and doubled its budget for public defenders.

Robert Lake - 11/10/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
Equal Protection
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Courts
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Poverty/homelessness
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Gulfport, MS
Plaintiff Description Eighteen indigent Gulfport, MS residents, individually and on behalf of a putative class.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Southern Center for Human Rights
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 Private Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2007
Case Ongoing No
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)
1:05-cv-349 (S.D. Miss.) 02/02/2007
CJ-MS-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 07/21/2005
CJ-MS-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Amended Complaint 08/09/2005
CJ-MS-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Quash and to Dismiss and Allowing Plaintiffs to Correct Defect in Service Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.4(m) 08/23/2006 (S.D. Miss.)
CJ-MS-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Judges Guirola, Louis Jr. (S.D. Miss., W.D. Tex.) [Magistrate]
CJ-MS-0001-0003 | CJ-MS-0001-9000
Walker, Robert H. (S.D. Miss.) [Magistrate]
CJ-MS-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bright, Stephen B. (Georgia)
CJ-MS-0001-0001 | CJ-MS-0001-0002 | CJ-MS-0001-9000
Geraghty, Sarah E. (Georgia)
CJ-MS-0001-0001 | CJ-MS-0001-0002 | CJ-MS-0001-9000
Gohara, Miriam (New York)
CJ-MS-0001-0001 | CJ-MS-0001-0002 | CJ-MS-0001-9000
Lipman, Joshua R (Georgia)
CJ-MS-0001-0001 | CJ-MS-0001-0002
McDuff, Robert B. (Mississippi)
CJ-MS-0001-9000
Shaw, Theodore M. (New York)
CJ-MS-0001-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Bruni, Jeffrey S. (Mississippi)
CJ-MS-0001-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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