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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)
Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization Public Justice
Case Summary
On August 28, 2012, three Alabama residents filed a federal class lawsuit 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 ... read more >
On August 28, 2012, three Alabama residents filed a federal class lawsuit 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. Public Justice, Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, and private counsel represented the plaintiffs.

The residents' allegations were as follows: The defendant, Judicial Corrections Services (JCS) offered an "offender paid system" free of charge to the city government. At times, the defendant had acted under the color of state law in collecting fines, costs, and fees. In addition, it had acted as a quasi-judicial agency of the city at times. 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, holding them out as having the force of court orders. The city knew this, but allowed the company employees to collect fines, threaten members of the plaintiff class with incarceration, and incarcerate persons who had not paid the fines. Further, members of the plaintiff class had been placed on "probation" by the private company's employees, leading to payment of fines, costs, and fees. Moreover, the defendants had increased the amount of these fines from the amounts printed on the "probation" papers. The 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 classes consisting of the following on August 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 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." 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. 270 F.Supp.3d 1262. 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, 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 June 15, 2018, the court granted limited reconsideration to plaintiffs’ equal protection claim. According to the court, the claim could go forward on a § 1983 conspiracy theory because a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that there was a conspiracy to imprison plaintiffs based solely on their inability to pay fines and fees to JCS. 2018 WL 3012276.

On July 6, 2018, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint against JCS, seeking class certification for two classes: all individuals who were arrested or incarcerated after failing to pay fees, fines or costs to JCS statewide, and by Childersburg Municipal Court specifically. Plaintiffs brought three counts against JCS. First, they levied a due process challenge against JCS both as an independent actor and in conspiracy with Childersburg Municipal Court. Plaintiffs alleged that the imprisonment of plaintiffs who were unable to pay fees, fines, or costs to JCS and threats of arrest for nonpayment without any determination of willfulness or indigency constituted a deprivation of constitutional due process rights. Under JCS’s system, plaintiffs also alleged violation of Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Plaintiffs unable to pay JCS’s fines, fees, and costs were threatened with jail and actually imprisoned without access to counsel. Finally, the plaintiffs claimed denial of the right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment because plaintiffs were deprived of their rights solely based on their wealth without any determination of willfulness or ability to pay.

On September 26, 2019, the court denied the plaintiffs' class certification. According the court, it would not be administratively feasible or ascertainable to certify either of the classes proposed by plaintiffs. Additionally, the court found that class concerns did not predominate over individual legal questions for the putative class members. According to the court, many of the putative class members would have been placed on probation for reasons other than JCS’s unilateral action. Determination of this issue would require substantial individualized fact-finding and render the class unmanageable. 333 F.R.D. 552.

After class certification was denied, the two parties entered into settlement discussions. Judge Proctor periodically required the parties to provide status reports on settlement negotiations in this and a group of similar cases also filed in the Northern District of Alabama: Woods (2:15-cv-00493), Hall (4:15-cv-01656), Moore (4:16-cv-00914), Foshee (1:16-cv-01030), and Hamilton (2:18-cv-00933). Following a year of settlement discussions, the parties entered into a stipulation to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims against the single remaining defendant JCS with each party to bear their own costs. The stipulation did not indicate that the parties reached a settlement, and presumably, they did not. Thus, on September 29, 2020, the case was dismissed with prejudice. This case is closed.

Emily Goldman - 10/12/2012
Benjamin St. Pierre - 04/07/2015
Virginia Weeks - 01/26/2018
Dan Toubman - 05/27/2020
Matthew Feng - 04/08/2021


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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
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
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.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Public Justice
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Denied
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 08/28/2012
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
N.D. Ala.
09/29/2020
2:12−cv−02819
CJ-AL-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
S.D. Ala.
08/28/2012
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0006-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
N.D. Ala.
09/18/2012
Order [ECF# 10]
CJ-AL-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
04/26/2013
Second Amended and Restated Complaint [ECF# 50]
CJ-AL-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
09/26/2013
Memorandum Opinion [Granting in Part Denying in Part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 65] (2013 WL 5428360)
CJ-AL-0006-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
09/26/2013
Memorandum Opinion [ Granting in Part Denying in Part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss] [ECF# 67] (2013 WL 5428395)
CJ-AL-0006-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
10/09/2014
Memorandum Opinion [Granting in Part Denying in Part Motion to Quash Subpoena] [ECF# 133] (2014 WL 5090723)
CJ-AL-0006-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
07/27/2015
Third Amended and Restated Complaint [ECF# 256]
CJ-AL-0006-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
02/01/2016
Fourth Amended and Restated Complaint [ECF# 305]
CJ-AL-0006-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
02/17/2017
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 569] (2017 WL 660842)
CJ-AL-0006-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
09/12/2017
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 626] (270 F.Supp.3d 1262)
CJ-AL-0006-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
06/15/2018
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 685] (2018 WL 3012276)
CJ-AL-0006-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
07/06/2018
Fifth Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 691]
CJ-AL-0006-0012.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
09/26/2019
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 744] (333 F.R.D. 552)
CJ-AL-0006-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Ott, John E. (N.D. Ala.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0006-9000
Proctor, R. David (N.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
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Plaintiff's Lawyers Bailey, Leslie A. (California) show/hide docs
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Chemerinsky, Erwin (California) show/hide docs
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Dawson, William Monroe Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Evans, G. Daniel (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Evans, Maurine C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Evans, Daniel P. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Hardingham, Brian (California) show/hide docs
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Parrish, Alexandria (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Wiggins, Robert L Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Anderson, Lewis Conrad IV (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Boyd, David R. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Bromberg, C. Clayton Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Bromberg, Lee Carl (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
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Cook, Gregory C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Donahue, Timothy P. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Espy, Chase T (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Ezelle, Jay M. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Finch, Fredrick Lane Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Friedman, Christopher Knox (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Gray, William Patton Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Green, Wilson F. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Haden, Edgar Robert (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Israel, Adam Kent (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Jackson, Michael Leon (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Leavens, Ginny Willcox (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Logsdon, Larry Stephen (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Morse, Wayne Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Pickett, Daniel Robert (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Richardson, Brian C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Robertson, Douglas N. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Scott, A. Donald (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Sistrunk, Stephen A. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Tankersley, Will Hill (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Winborn, Wesley Kyle (Alabama) show/hide docs
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