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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Fant v. City of Ferguson CJ-MO-0005
Docket / Court 4:15-cv-00253 ( E.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ArchCity Defenders
Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On February 8, 2015, this case was brought against the City of Ferguson in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The Plaintiffs were impoverished persons who were jailed for failing to pay legal fines imposed on them by the City. They made a number of allegations against ... read more >
On February 8, 2015, this case was brought against the City of Ferguson in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The Plaintiffs were impoverished persons who were jailed for failing to pay legal fines imposed on them by the City. They made a number of allegations against Ferguson, including: (1) that the City failed to conduct an inquiry into whether plaintiffs were able to pay their fines before jailing them, in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment (2) that the City failed to provide plaintiffs with legal counsel during the proceedings leading to their incarceration, in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments (3) that the City jailed plaintiffs indefinitely and without an adequate legal process through which they could challenge their detention, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (4) that the squalid and unhealthy conditions of Ferguson's jail constituted Cruel and Unusual Punishment, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (5) that the City used jail time and the threat of jail time to deny plaintiffs the substantive and procedural protections that Missouri debtors would have against private creditors, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (6) that the City issued arrest warrants against impoverished persons for failure to pay traffic fines without any finding of probable cause, in violation the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and (7) that the City detained plaintiffs arrested without a valid warrant for an extended period without a legitimate government interest, in violation the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Represented by the public interest group Equal Justice Under Law, lawyers from St. Louis University School of Law, and private counsel, the plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C §1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201. They sought class action certification to represent similarly situated impoverished persons, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief requiring Ferguson to change its practices and policies to stop violating the U.S. Constitution, damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Audrey G. Fleissig.

On May 26, 2015, the court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss in part, dismissing plaintiffs’ claims (5) and (6). 2015 WL 3417420. However, on July 13, 2015, the court granted plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration, reversing the May 26 order. 2015 WL 4232917.

On January 29, 2016, the parties were told to select neutral parties to act as mediators and to schedule mediation to see if they could come to a settlement agreement. On May 10, 2016, the neutral parties reported that though they had mediated in good faith, they were unable to reach a settlement.

On April 13, 2016, the plaintiffs filed an amended class action complaint. The defendants subsequently filed a partial motion to dismiss two weeks later in response. The plaintiffs in July filed a motion with the court to compel production of emails from the defendants in support of its claim that the City of Ferguson engaged in a "widespread scheme" of jailing individuals who could not afford small debts. While the motion to dismiss the amended complaint was denied in November, the court subsequently granted the defendant's claim of privilege on the documents and held a hearing on that issue. The motion to compel documents was eventually granted in part and denied in part to the extent that plaintiffs sufficiently narrow search terms for the electronic documents. The case proceeded through discovery in 2017.

Plaintiffs sought class certification again in June 2017 and simultaneously moved to disqualify defendant's counsel due to a conflict of interest. In August, the court granted the motion to disqualify counsel and extended a stay on the issue of class certification. The court denied class certification on January 29, 2018 without prejudice to refiling.

Once the defendant obtained replacement counsel in September, it moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on Counts I, II, III, and V due to sovereign immunity. This further stayed proceedings until resolution on the issue on February 13, 2018, when the court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss. On February 15, the defendant filed an interlocutory appeal to the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals of the decision against sovereign immunity.

Subsequently, the defendants moved to stay proceedings pending appeal. The plaintiffs had opposed the motion to stay, claiming that there was no ruling for defendants to appeal. The original trial date in April was vacated. On March 12, 2018, the court granted the stay. The case has been administratively closed until resolution of the interlocutory appeal.

Ryan Berry - 07/11/2016
Chelsea Rinnig - 02/28/2018
Chelsea Rinnig - 03/25/2018


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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
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Conflict of interest
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
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 Ferguson
Plaintiff Description Impoverished persons who were jailed for failing to pay legal fines imposed on them by the City of Ferguson.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ArchCity Defenders
Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
4:15-cv-253 (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-MO-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 19] (2015 WL 3417420) (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/26/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 27] (2015 WL 4232917) (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/13/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint
CJ-MO-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/13/2016
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 79] (2016 WL 6696065) (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/15/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 84] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/02/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 136] (2017 WL 3392073) (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/07/2017
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 173] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/13/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 189] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Fleissig, Audrey Goldstein (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0005-0002 | CJ-MO-0005-0003 | CJ-MO-0005-0005 | CJ-MO-0005-0006 | CJ-MO-0005-0007 | CJ-MO-0005-0008 | CJ-MO-0005-0009 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ammann, John J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-0001 | CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Atri, Sima (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Carroll, Nathaniel R. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Diamond, Jessica Lynn (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Hall, Edward James (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Hanlon, Stephen F (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0005-0004
Harvey, Thomas B. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Moscowitz, Lawrence Crane (New York)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Murphy, Sonia Williams (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Panchyson, Dorian K. (New York)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Prasad, Vivake (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Roediger, Brendan D. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-0001 | CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Ryals, Stephen M. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Sawyer, Martin Bingham (New York)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Spicer, Margaret Jane (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Strode, Blake Alexander (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Tomback, Andrew Ernst (New York)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Tsier, Alice (New York)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Voss, Michael-John (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-0001 | CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brinker, Jeffrey J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Carey, Aarnarian (Apollo) D. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Dunne, Peter J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Graham, Maurice B. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Norwood, Ronald A. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Plunkert, Robert T. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Reeves, John Michael (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Stallings, Michelle V. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0005-9000

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