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Case Name Jenkins v. City of Jennings CJ-MO-0006
Docket / Court 4:15-cv-00252-CEJ ( E.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Criminalization of poverty
Attorney Organization ArchCity Defenders
Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On February 8th, 2015, a class of around 2,000 mostly black, impoverished residents of Jennings, Missouri filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The plaintiffs sued the City of Jennings under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 18 U.S.C. § 1595, and 28 U.S.C. § 2201, ... read more >
On February 8th, 2015, a class of around 2,000 mostly black, impoverished residents of Jennings, Missouri filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The plaintiffs sued the City of Jennings under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 18 U.S.C. § 1595, and 28 U.S.C. § 2201, as well as the First, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from Equal Justice Under Law, the ArchCity Defenders, and the St. Louis University School of Law, asked the court for a declaratory judgment acknowledging the City of Jennings violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, and an injunction to permanently alter the City’s policies and practices.

The plaintiffs claimed that the City of Jennings violated their constitutional rights by imprisoning them for failure to pay the city debts. The city jailed them in inhumane conditions and without adequate counsel. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the City of Jennings maintained a policy and practice of jailing residents over unpaid traffic fines, court fees, and other minor offenses. The plaintiffs alleged the City of Jennings used its municipal Court and jail as revenue generators for the city government, based many of its claims on invalid or arbitrary arrest warrants, held inmates in deplorable conditions, and created a hopeless cycle of debt and imprisonment for indigent residents.

The plaintiffs in this case are each residents of Jennings who, at some point, were imprisoned for their inability to pay a petty debt to the city. None of the plaintiffs were afforded legal counsel or an inquiry into their inability to pay, despite pleading indigence, and all were held in inhumane, unsafe conditions in the jail. This debtor's’ prison policy generated millions of dollars in revenue for the city government.

On September 16th, 2015, the court (District Judge Carol E. Jackson) partially granted a joint motion for relief, and implemented a permanent injunction on behalf of the plaintiffs. The injunction laid out lawful policies for the City of Jennings to assess the ability of indigent individuals to pay fees, to collect debts through the civil system, and to meet legal standards of care in the jail.

On July 13, 2016, Judge Jackson granted preliminary approval of a class action settlement agreement. According to the Washington Post, the defendants agreed to pay $4.7 million to the class of plaintiffs, available here.

The judge granted final approval of the class action settlement for $4.7 million on December 14, 2016.

Michael Abrams - 09/24/2016
Kelly Ehrenreich - 03/09/2017


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Conditions of confinement
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
Defendant(s) The City of Jennings, Missouri
Plaintiff Description A class of around 2,000 mostly black, impoverished residents of Jennings, Missouri who each were imprisoned for failure to pay court fees, traffic fines, or other minor debts.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ArchCity Defenders
Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Philadelphia Forfeiture
http://ij.org/case/philadelphia-forfeiture/
Date: Aug. 11, 2014
By: Institute for Justice (Institute for Justice)
[ Detail ]

  Jenkins v. The City of Jennings Settlement
By: ArchCity Defenders
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
4:15-cv-252 (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/13/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Settlement Agreement
CJ-MO-0006-0005.pdf | Detail
Date:
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Claim Form
CJ-MO-0006-0007.pdf | Detail
Date:
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-MO-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/08/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 16] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/16/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Permanent Injunction [ECF# 17] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/16/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement [ECF# 33] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Pendency of Class Action, Proposed Settlement, and Hearing
CJ-MO-0006-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/27/2016
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Order Granting Final Approval of Class Action Settlement [ECF# 40] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0006-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Jackson, Carol E. (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0006-0002 | CJ-MO-0006-0003 | CJ-MO-0006-0004 | CJ-MO-0006-0006 | CJ-MO-0006-0008 | CJ-MO-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ammann, John J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0006-0005 | CJ-MO-0006-9000
Hanlon, Stephen F (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0006-0001 | CJ-MO-0006-0005
Harvey, Thomas B. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0006-0001 | CJ-MO-0006-0005 | CJ-MO-0006-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0006-0001 | CJ-MO-0006-0005 | CJ-MO-0006-9000
Roediger, Brendan D. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0006-0001 | CJ-MO-0006-0005 | CJ-MO-0006-9000
Strode, Blake Alexander (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0006-0005 | CJ-MO-0006-9000
Voss, Michael-John (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0006-0001 | CJ-MO-0006-0005 | CJ-MO-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Henson, D. Keith (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0006-0005 | CJ-MO-0006-9000

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