University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Dade v. City of Sherwood CJ-AR-0004
Docket / Court 4:16-cv-00602-JM ( E.D. Ark. )
State/Territory Arkansas
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Lawyers Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law
Case Summary
On August 23, 2016, five individuals incarcerated due to bounced checks filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. They proceeded under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against Sherwood and Pulaski Counties, and various officials including the Sherwood District ... read more >
On August 23, 2016, five individuals incarcerated due to bounced checks filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. They proceeded under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against Sherwood and Pulaski Counties, and various officials including the Sherwood District Court Judge, court clerks, and other administrative personnel. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Arkansas, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and private counsel, claimed that the defendants created and operated an unlawful system of debtors' prisons that convicted plaintiffs who had bounced checks, sometimes for amount as little as $10 to $15, through "hot check convictions,” in violation of the Due Process clause and Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that at their hearings, Sherwood District Court Judges would threaten to jail the arrestee if he or she did not make the payments and would directed the arrestee either to arrange for payments or to contact family members who could make the payment on the person's behalf. If the individual was sent to jail in order to coerce payment, that individual was handcuffed and transported to the Pulaski County Jail (the "Jail") for 60, 90, or 120 days until the outstanding court costs, fines, and fees were paid. The plaintiffs alleged that this practice was unconstitutional because it led to weeks or months in the Jail due to their inability to pay, and because it trapped the city's poorest and most disadvantaged individuals in a cycle of ever-increasing court costs, fines, and fees owed to Sherwood beyond their ability to pay.

The plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge James M. Moody.

On September 30, 2016, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that sought to add the prosecuting attorney for the Sixth Judicial District as an additional defendant. On October 19, 2016, the defendants sought to dismiss that additional defendant.

On January 24, 2017, Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe issued proposed findings and recommendations that granted the defendants' motion to dismiss in part. He found that it was appropriate for the federal court to "abstain," under the Younger abstention doctrine. Younger abstention bars federal intervention in (1) ongoing state proceedings that (2) evidence important state interests and provide an (3) adequate opportunity to raise any relevant federal questions. Judge Volpe found all three factors to be met, and therefore recommended that the district court decline to interfere in the "hot check" hearings. Judge J. Volpe recommended that Judge Moody dismiss all claims. 2017 WL 2486087.

On June 8, 2017, Judge Moody accepted the recommendation and ordered that all claims be dismissed with prejudice. 2017 WL 2486078. On July 5, the plaintiffs moved to amend or alter the judgment of dismissal.

On November 14, 2017, the parties filed stipulation of dismissal, indicating that they had reached a settlement. The settlement mandated that the Sherwood court would cease jailing individuals who could not afford court fines and fees due to bounced checks. Specifically, the Sherwood court was to: (1) conduct individualized inquiries into each defendant's ability to pay; (2) give defendants unable to pay the option of a community service sentence; (3) advise defendants of their right to counsel prior to entering a plea; (4) follow particular procedures for Orders to Show Cause and accompanying hearings; (5) stop revoking drivers' licenses for defendants who could not pay; (6) provide an adjustment or waiver of remaining payments for defendants who fall behind in payments.

The case is now closed, though the court retains jurisdiction over the settlement.

MJ Koo - 02/05/2017
Virginia Weeks - 01/28/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Commitment procedure
Courts
Disciplinary procedures
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Over/Unlawful Detention
Placement in detention facilities
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) City of Sherwood
Plaintiff Description Debtors who were held or will be sentenced to be held in the custody of Sherwood and/or Pulaski county as a result of their inability to cover the cost of bounced checks, as well as debt for court costs, fines, and fees despite their inability to pay.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Lawyers Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2016
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
4:16-cv-00602-JM (E.D. Ark.)
CJ-AR-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/04/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint - Class Action [ECF# 1]
CJ-AR-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/23/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint - Class Action [ECF# 13]
CJ-AR-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/30/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Proposed Findings and Recommendations Instructions [ECF# 59] (2017 WL 2486087)
CJ-AR-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Settlement Agreement [ECF# 112]
CJ-AR-0004-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/14/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Moody, James Maxwell Jr. (E.D. Ark.)
CJ-AR-0004-9000
Volpe, Joe J (E.D. Ark.) [Magistrate]
CJ-AR-0004-0003
Plaintiff's Lawyers Braden, Myesha (District of Columbia)
CJ-AR-0004-0004 | CJ-AR-0004-9000
Brownstein, Bettina E. (Arkansas)
CJ-AR-0004-0001 | CJ-AR-0004-0002 | CJ-AR-0004-0004 | CJ-AR-0004-9000
Cohen, Jayson L. (New York)
CJ-AR-0004-9000
Koch, Reggie (Arkansas)
CJ-AR-0004-0001 | CJ-AR-0004-0002 | CJ-AR-0004-0004 | CJ-AR-0004-9000
Lawrence, J. Alexander (New York)
CJ-AR-0004-0001 | CJ-AR-0004-0002 | CJ-AR-0004-0004 | CJ-AR-0004-9000
Ryan, Hallie (District of Columbia)
CJ-AR-0004-0001 | CJ-AR-0004-0002 | CJ-AR-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Depper, Margaret Diane (Arkansas)
CJ-AR-0004-9000
Fuqua, David M. (Arkansas)
CJ-AR-0004-9000
Hall, John Wesley Jr. (Arkansas)
CJ-AR-0004-9000
Hollingsworth, Patrick E. (Arkansas)
CJ-AR-0004-9000
Mosley, Michael Allen (Arkansas)
CJ-AR-0004-9000
Spivey, Patrick L. (Arkansas)
CJ-AR-0004-9000

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