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Case Name Ray v. Judicial Corrections Services CJ-AL-0006
Docket / Court 2:12-cv-02819 ( N.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Case Summary
On August 28, 2012, three Alabama residents filed a federal class action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the city of Childersburg, Alabama and the private, for-profit law enforcement company the city used to collect law-enforcement related fines, costs, and fees. The plaintiffs sued in the U.S ... read more >
On August 28, 2012, three Alabama residents filed a federal class action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the city of Childersburg, Alabama and the private, for-profit law enforcement company the city used to collect law-enforcement related fines, costs, and fees. The plaintiffs sued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction. They asserted claims under both federal and state law.

The for-profit defendant, Judicial Corrections Services (JCS) offered an "offender paid system" free of charge to the city government. At times it had acted under the color of state law in collecting fines, costs, and fees, and had acted at times as a quasi-judicial agency of the city. The company officers had the appearance of state authority and were referred to as "probation officers," although they had no such authority under Alabama statutes. The employees of the private company constructed documents that appeared to be court orders, and they held them out as having the force of court orders. The city knew of this, but allowed the company employees to collect fines, threaten members of the plaintiff class with incarceration, and incarcerate persons who had not paid. Members of the plaintiff class had been placed on "probation" by the private company's employees, leading to payment of fines, costs, and fees. Further, the defendants had increased the amount of these fines from the amounts printed on the "probation" papers. Defendants did not have due process protections or procedures in place.

The lawsuit, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleged denial of due process in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and the Alabama Constitution. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants imposed incarceration for failure to pay fines and costs without a hearing to determine indigency. They also alleged that defendants imposed terms of incarceration and other costs and fines beyond the statutory maximum allowed under Alabama law. The suit further alleged denial of equal protection. The plaintiffs claimed that defendants, acting under color of state law, automatically imposed incarceration upon those unable to pay fines and costs without a hearing to determine indigency.

Further, the suit alleged that defendants unlawfully arrested, prosecuted, and detained people when they had no jurisdiction or authority under Alabama law. Finally, the plaintiffs alleged that the enterprise itself was unconstitutional and illegal, because the city allowed a private company to operate a quasi-judicial system for private profit.

On April 26, 2013, plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint preserving and expounding upon their allegations against JCS and Childersburg. The complaint sought the certification of two classes: 1) past and future individuals who received fines from JCS that were or could be converted to probation, and 2) all individuals who were incarcerated, or may be subject to incarceration for failure to pay charges and fees without consideration of their indigency.

JCS and Childersburg moved separately to dismiss the second amended complaint. On September 26, 2013, Judge R. David Proctor issued opinions granting in part and denying in part defendants' motions to dismiss. Judge Proctor sustained all of the plaintiffs' allegations and claims for relief, except for the plaintiffs' request that any currently incarcerated indigent persons jailed for nonpayment of fines be released. He found that federal habeas corpus law was the only avenue for this form of relief.

Following this opinion, the parties began discovery. Over the next several years, discovery proceeded, as did various discovery disputes.

Childersburg moved for summary judgment on July 28, 2016. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs moved to certify two class consisting of the following on Aug. 11, 2016: "All individuals who, as of August 28, 2010 or thereafter, were assigned by municipal courts in Alabama to 'probation' with JCS for the collection of fines, fees and costs. A subclass of this class which would include those individuals within the above class who received, such treatment before the Childersburg Municipal Court" and also "[a]ll individuals who, after being assigned to JCS by August 28, 2010 or thereafter, were incarcerated, or may be subject to incarceration, without consideration of their indigency for failure to pay fines, fees and costs. A subclass of this class which would include those individuals within the above class who received such treatment in Childersburg." The plaintiffs then moved for partial summary judgment on September 19, 2016 to declare Childersburg's probation practice an unconstitutional denial of equal protection as well as to declare void the contract between the city and JCS. Over the next several months, the parties submitted various motions for summary judgment as to particular claims.

On October 28, 2016, the court terminated the motion for class certification, though it allowed it to be re-filed subject to its resolution of the summary judgment motions.

On February 17, 2017, the court granted the city's motions for summary judgment, dismissing the plaintiffs' claims against the city. The court found that "no City policy or custom is at issue in this case because Plaintiffs complain of judicial acts for which the Municipal Court is responsible." The court found that city police officers were "entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity for executing facially valid court orders" and that the plaintiffs had not identified a final decision-maker from the city who was ultimately "responsible for issuing a policy or custom directing officers to arrest probationers." The court also did not find a causal link between the city's policies the plaintiffs' constitutional violation claims. Finally, the court held that some of the plaintiffs' claims were barred by a two-year statute of limitations. 2017 WL 660842.

On September 12, 2017, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, granted defendant Correctional Healthcare summary judgment, and granted in part and denied in part summary judgment for defendant JCS. Specifically, the court denied the plaintiffs' request that it declare (1) the defendants' probation practices unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, (2) the contract between JCS and the city void, and (3) void probation sentences "initiated by a blank order or premised upon an offense that was not adjudicated by the Municipal Court’s judge." The court found insufficient evidence "that the City agreed with JCS (or anyone else) to violate probationers’ constitutional rights."

The court also dismissed the plaintiffs' requests for injunctive and declaratory relief as moot because JCS was no longer conducting business in Alabama but subject to re-pleading if that should change. The court granted the defendants' summary judgment motion on some due process claims as well as claims relating to the Fourth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, and excessive fines. The defendants were denied summary judgment as to the plaintiffs' due process challenge to JCS's extension of their probation sentences beyond the statutory maximum because "a reasonable jury could find that JCS’s case handling customs and policies -- rather than the conduct of its employees -- was the moving force behind the procedural due process violations." 2017 WL 4012933.

On October 13, 2017, the defendants moved for summary judgment.

The case is ongoing.

Emily Goldman - 10/12/2012
Benjamin St. Pierre - 04/07/2015
Virginia Weeks - 01/26/2018


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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
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Corrections
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
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State law
Defendant(s) Childersburg, Alabama
Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc.
Judicial Correction Services, Inc.
Plaintiff Description 1) past and future individuals who received fines from JCS that were or could be converted to probation, and 2) all individuals who were incarcerated, or may be subject to incarceration for failure to pay charges and fees without consideration of their indigency.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
2:12−cv−02819 (N.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint
CJ-AL-0006-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 08/28/2012
Order [ECF# 10] (N.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/18/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended and Restated Complaint [ECF# 50]
CJ-AL-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/26/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [Granting in Part Denying in Part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 65] (2013 WL 5428360) (N.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0006-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/26/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ Granting in Part Denying in Part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 67] (2013 WL 5428395) (N.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0006-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/26/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [Granting in Part Denying in Part Motion to Quash Subpoena] [ECF# 133] (2014 WL 5090723) (N.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0006-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/09/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended and Restated Complaint [ECF# 256]
CJ-AL-0006-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/27/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fourth Amended and Restated Complaint [ECF# 305]
CJ-AL-0006-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 569] (2017 WL 660842) (N.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0006-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/17/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 626] (2017 WL 4012933) (N.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0006-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/12/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Ott, John E. (N.D. Ala.) [Magistrate]
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Proctor, R. David (N.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0006-0002 | CJ-AL-0006-0004 | CJ-AL-0006-0005 | CJ-AL-0006-0006 | CJ-AL-0006-0009 | CJ-AL-0006-0010 | CJ-AL-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bailey, Leslie A. (California)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Chemerinsky, Erwin (California)
CJ-AL-0006-0007 | CJ-AL-0006-0008 | CJ-AL-0006-9000
Dawson, William Monroe Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-0001 | CJ-AL-0006-9000
Evans, G. Daniel (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-0001 | CJ-AL-0006-0003 | CJ-AL-0006-0007 | CJ-AL-0006-0008 | CJ-AL-0006-9000
Evans, Daniel P. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-0007 | CJ-AL-0006-0008 | CJ-AL-0006-9000
Hardingham, Brian (California)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Parrish, Alexandria (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-0001 | CJ-AL-0006-0003 | CJ-AL-0006-0007 | CJ-AL-0006-0008 | CJ-AL-0006-9000
Wiggins, Robert L Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-0007 | CJ-AL-0006-0008 | CJ-AL-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Anderson, Lewis Conrad IV (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Boyd, David R. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Bromberg, Lee Carl (Massachusetts)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Bromberg, C. Clayton Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Cook, Gregory C. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Donahue, Timothy P. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Espy, Chase T (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Ezelle, Jay M. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Finch, Fredrick Lane Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Friedman, Christopher Knox (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Gray, William Patton Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Green, Wilson F. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Haden, Edgar Robert (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Israel, Adam Kent (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Jackson, Michael Leon (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Leavens, Ginny Willcox (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Logsdon, Larry Stephen (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Morse, Wayne Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Pickett, Daniel Robert (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Richardson, Brian C. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Robertson, Douglas N. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Scott, A. Donald (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Sistrunk, Stephen A. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Tankersley, Will Hill (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Winborn, Wesley Kyle (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0006-9000

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