University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Buffin v. City and County of San Francisco CJ-CA-0016
Docket / Court 4:15-cv-04959-YGR ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Criminalization of poverty
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On October 28, 2015, arrestees in San Francisco who were unable to afford the bond set by the fixed “bail schedule” filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued the City and County of San Francisco and the State of California under 42 ... read more >
On October 28, 2015, arrestees in San Francisco who were unable to afford the bond set by the fixed “bail schedule” filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued the City and County of San Francisco and the State of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. The plaintiffs, represented by Equal Justice Under Law, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, damages suffered as a result of defendants’ conduct, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs claimed that San Francisco’s wealth-based pretrial detention scheme violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that by adhering to the generic “bond” schedule set by state law, San Francisco’s system jailed some of its poorest residents prior to a first court appearance solely because they couldn't pay an arbitrary amount of money.

It was the policy and practice of the City and County of San Francisco to refuse to release arrestees from jail unless they paid a generic “bond” amount. That amount was determined by a fixed “bail schedule” set by San Francisco under direction of state law. Because this sum was set by reference to the alleged offense of arrest, no individualized factors are considered, and anyone who couldn't afford to pay was held in jail for at least two days before any court appearance.

On February 1, 2016, the court (Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers) issued an order granting the State’s motion to dismiss under sovereign immunity, denying the City’s motion to dismiss, granting the City’s motion for a more definite statement, denying without prejudice the plaintiffs’ motions for preliminary injunction and to certify class, and denying proposed intervenor California Bail Agents Association’s motion to intervene as premature. Unable to identify the precise legal challenge being made by plaintiffs as well as the precise relief they seek against the City (especially in light of the State being dismissed), the court found that the City’s motion for a more definite statement was warranted. The court further determined that the plaintiffs’ motions for preliminary injunction and class certification could not be properly ruled on without a clearly articulated legal theory in the complaint.

On February 5, 2016, the defendants filed a notice of pendency of other action regarding Gary Wayne Welchen v. Kamala Harris & County of Sacramento, No. 2:16-cv-00185-TLN-KJN, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on January 29, 2016. The claims were similar or identical to those asserted in this case. The plaintiff in that case, who sought certification of a class, contended that Sacramento’s bail schedule, set by the judges of the Superior Court as required by California law, violated his constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.

As of February 11, 2016, litigation is ongoing.

Katrina Fetsch - 02/08/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Over/Unlawful Detention
Poverty/homelessness
Timeliness of case assignment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City and County of San Francisco
State of California
Plaintiff Description Arrestees imprisoned in county jail because they are unable to pay the amount of money set by the fixed “bail schedule” used by San Francisco in order to obtain release.
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-04959-YGR (N.D. Cal.) 02/01/2016
CJ-CA-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint 10/28/2015
CJ-CA-0016-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Setting Teleconference 10/30/2015 (2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 147727) (N.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0016-0003.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Pending Motions [Re: Dkt. Nos. 2, 7, 20, 26, 41] 02/01/2016 (2016 WL 374230 / 2016 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 12411) (N.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0016-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Rogers, Yvonne Gonzalez (N.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0016-0002 | CJ-CA-0016-0003 | CJ-CA-0016-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hubbard, Katherine (District of Columbia)
CJ-CA-0016-0001 | CJ-CA-0016-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-CA-0016-9000
Telfeyan, Phil (District of Columbia)
CJ-CA-0016-0001 | CJ-CA-0016-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Baum, Brandon D. (California)
CJ-CA-0016-9000
Dhillon, Harmeet K. (California)
CJ-CA-0016-9000
Goldman, Jeremy Michael (California)
CJ-CA-0016-9000
Zelidon-Zapeda, Jose Alfonso (California)
CJ-CA-0016-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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