University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Sentinel Offender Services, LLC v. Glover CJ-GA-0007
Docket / Court S14A1033 ( State Court )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Case Summary
This case is the Georgia Supreme Court determination of five consolidated cases from Columbia County and eight cases from Richmond County, Georgia. All thirteen plaintiffs were individuals who had been convicted of at least one misdemeanor offense in local court and received a sentence of probation, ... read more >
This case is the Georgia Supreme Court determination of five consolidated cases from Columbia County and eight cases from Richmond County, Georgia. All thirteen plaintiffs were individuals who had been convicted of at least one misdemeanor offense in local court and received a sentence of probation, requiring the payment of probation fees to Sentinel Offender Services, LLC, a private, for-profit probation services company that has contracts with localities in the state of Georgia.

The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief and damages, alleging that Sentinel unlawfully collected probation supervision fees and violated their due process rights. They alleged that Georgia's statute authorizing private probation was unconstitutional, that the statute unlawfully tolled misdemeanor sentences, and challenged Sentinel's ability to provide misdemeanor services in Georgia and sought recovery of unlawfully acquired fees.

The thirteen actions were assigned as companion cases to Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Craig of the Augusta Judicial Circuit, who conducted joint hearings on various motions filed by the individual plaintiffs and by Sentinel. The trial court held that, while Georgia's law authorizing private probation was not unconstitutional, it did not permit Sentinel to toll misdemeanor sentences or collect fees for electronic monitoring and that plaintiffs were entitled to recover unlawfully extracted fees. It also held that Sentinel's contract with Columbia County was not properly authorized.

On April 8, 2014, the Georgia Supreme Court accepted the case on appeal.

On November 24, 2014, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding that the statute authorizing private probation services was not unconstitutional because it did not violate due process or unconstitutionally condone imprisonment for debt. It reasoned that the mere act of privatizing a traditionally state service did not deprive plaintiffs of due process and that the plaintiffs' injuries came not from the existence of Sentinel itself, but from Sentinel's failure to adhere to the statutory scheme. Nothing in the statutory scheme inherently permitted the imposition of unreasonable fees.

The Court also held that the tolling of a misdemeanor probationer's sentence is not permitted under Georgia law and reversed the trial court's ruling against electronic monitoring, finding that Sentinel could impose electronic monitoring against the plaintiffs because it was not prohibited by the statutory scheme. Finally, the Court held that the plaintiffs were entitled to recover the fees that Sentinel unlawfully collected because Sentinel imposed fees it had no right to collect and that plaintiffs had no lawful obligation to pay. Sentinel entered "no cost" contracts with the two counties where it promised to provide probation services for no cost to the courts and instead would fund through probationer fees; however, it had no lawful right to do so. It also held that even though Sentinel's contract with Columbia County was invalid, plaintiffs could still recover fees.

Craig Streit - 02/16/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Sentinel Offender Services, LLC
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are misdemeanor probationers who were charged probation supervision fees by defendant Sentinel Offender Services, LLC.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2014
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
S14A1033 (State Supreme Court)
CJ-GA-0007-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/08/2014
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Opinion (766 S.E.2d 456)
CJ-GA-0007-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/24/2014
Judges Thompson, Hugh P. (State Supreme Court)
CJ-GA-0007-0001 | CJ-GA-0007-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cathey, Thomas L. (Georgia)
CJ-GA-0007-9000
Garroway, Nathan L. (Georgia)
CJ-GA-0007-9000

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