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Case Name Mitchell v. City of Montgomery CJ-AL-0007
Docket / Court 2:14-cv-00186 ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Attorney Organization Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On March 8th, 2014, several citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, who had been imprisoned for failing to pay traffic fines, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, under 42 U.S.C. §1983, against the City of Montgomery, Alabama. The plaintiffs, represented by Equal ... read more >
On March 8th, 2014, several citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, who had been imprisoned for failing to pay traffic fines, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, under 42 U.S.C. §1983, against the City of Montgomery, Alabama. The plaintiffs, represented by Equal Justice Under Law and private counsel, asked the court for a declaratory judgment that the plaintiffs' rights were violated, compensation for the damages caused by the city's conduct, and attorneys' fees. The plaintiffs alleged they did not have the ability to pay for the traffic tickets and that the City should not have imprisoned them for failing to pay the traffic tickets when they did not attempt to determine whether the plaintiffs had an ability to pay.

On May 1, 2014, the district court (Judge Mark E. Fuller) granted a motion for a preliminary injunction. The injunction enjoined the city from attempting to collect monies owed to the city associated with traffic tickets by the plaintiffs. The city was also required to submit a comprehensive plan on how they will determine an individual's ability to pay for traffic fines. On August 20, 2014, the case was reassigned to Judge Myron H. Thompson, and on August 21, 2014, Judge Thompson extended the injunction until the court ordered a change.

On October 31, 2014, the parties jointly moved to dismiss the case because they entered into a settlement agreement about the claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The court granted this dismissal on November 17, 2014, and the court agreed to the plaintiffs’ request to maintain jurisdiction over the settlement in case of any breaches by the defendant.

Within the settlement, the Municipal Court of the City of Montgomery agreed to numerous changes in its operations, including using a microphone in its courtroom proceedings, notifying this plaintiff's counsel within 12 hours of a defendant being jailed for nonpayment of a fine, and training public defenders and prosecutors on compliance with Bearden v. Georgia and Turner v. Rodgers. The terms of the settlement agreement lasted up to three years.

On December 12, 2014, Judge Thompson formally closed the case, though the court retained jurisdiction over the settlement and allowed the parties to resolve the issue of attorneys' fees, which was subsequently resolved on January 16, 2015.

On April 2, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a notice with the court that the defendants willfully violated the settlement agreement. The matter seemed to be resolved quickly because on April 7, 2015, Judge Thompson ordered that no further action would be taken on the notice because defendants had taken corrective action.

The case is now closed.

Steve Vnuk - 09/25/2014
Bryce Freeman - 10/30/2017
Virginia Weeks - 01/27/2018


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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
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Courts
Placement in detention facilities
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Montgomery
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs were jailed for an inability to pay traffic tickets.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Order Duration 2014 - 2017
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:14-cv-00186-MEF-CSC (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0007-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0007-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/18/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Prelimary Injunction Order [ECF# 18] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0007-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment Granting Final Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 51] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0007-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Willful Violation of Court Order [ECF# 61]
CJ-AL-0007-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/02/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Coody, Charles S. (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0007-9000
Fuller, Mark E. (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0007-0002
Thompson, Myron Herbert (N.D. Ala., M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0007-0003 | CJ-AL-0007-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0007-0004 | CJ-AL-0007-9000
McGuire, Joseph Mitchell (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0007-0004 | CJ-AL-0007-9000
Swerdlin, Matthew (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0007-0001 | CJ-AL-0007-0004 | CJ-AL-0007-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Holliday, Shannon L. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0007-9000
Segall, Robert D. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0007-9000
Smithee, Stephanie L (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0007-9000
Other Lawyers Morgan, Martha Irene (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0007-9000

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