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Case Name Varden v. City of Clanton CJ-AL-0009
Docket / Court 2:15-cv-00034-MHT-WC ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On January 15, 2015, an arrested individual who was unable to pay her bail filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Represented by the non-profit Equal Justice Under Law and by private counsel, the plaintiff sued the City of Clanton under 42 U.S ... read more >
On January 15, 2015, an arrested individual who was unable to pay her bail filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Represented by the non-profit Equal Justice Under Law and by private counsel, the plaintiff sued the City of Clanton under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Her complaint alleged that she was jailed because she was too poor to pay a small amount of bail money as automatically required by the City's bail schedule. Those able to pay the amount of the bond always obtained immediate release. Those unable to pay were required to wait in jail until the next court date, typically held on Tuesday afternoons. The bail schedule required payment upfront and provided no option to secure release on recognizance or by an unsecured bond. The plaintiff claimed this violated the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments; she sought declaratory, injunctive and compensatory relief. The case was assigned to Judge Myron Thompson.

On February 13, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in support of the plaintiff. The statement pointed out that the federal Bail Reform Act requires federal judges and magistrates to conduct an individualized analysis of each defendant prior to ordering pretrial detention. DOJ argued that this is constitutionally required--that fixed-sum bail systems are unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On April 3, 2015, the plaintiff filed her first amended class-action complaint. Subsequently, the defendants moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. However, before the court could rule on the motion, the parties settled the case, except for the issue of damages. The defendants agreed to a modified bail schedule and to hold a hearing within 48 hours for those unable to pay their bail.

Accordingly, on May 14, 2015, the court denied all pending motions without prejudice and cancelled all pending hearings. On September 14, 2015, the court (Judge Myron H. Thompson) issued an opinion and order granting final judgment and adopting the settlement agreement as an order of the court. The court retained jurisdiction for three years to enforce the terms of the settlement and to resolve the matter of attorney's fees. 2015 WL 5387219 (M.D. Ala. Sept. 14, 2015).

There has been no further activity as of May 30, 2018, and the case is closed though the court still retains jurisdiction over the settlement.

Jessica Kincaid - 04/08/2016
Virginia Weeks - 01/27/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Over/Unlawful Detention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Clanton
Plaintiff Description Arrestee jailed for inability to pay automatically set bail amount
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
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
Order Duration 2015 - 2018
Filing Year 2015
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
2:15-cv-00034-MHT-WC (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0009-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/14/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0009-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/15/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 26]
CJ-AL-0009-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/13/2015
First Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 55]
CJ-AL-0009-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/03/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 71-1]
CJ-AL-0009-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/29/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (2015 WL 5387219) (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0009-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/14/2015
Source: Bloomberg Law
Judges Capel, Wallace Jr. (M.D. Ala.)
Thompson, Myron Herbert (N.D. Ala., M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0009-0005 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dawson, William Monroe Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0002 | CJ-AL-0009-0004 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0009-0002 | CJ-AL-0009-0004 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
McGuire, Joseph Mitchell (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0002 | CJ-AL-0009-0004 | CJ-AL-0009-0006 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Swerdlin, Matthew (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0002 | CJ-AL-0009-0004 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Copeland, Lee Hall (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0006 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Holliday, Shannon L. (Alabama)
Kinney, Richard Warren (Alabama)
Porter, James Wallace II (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0009-0006 | CJ-AL-0009-9000
Other Lawyers Anderson, Robert G. (Mississippi)
Beck, George (Alabama)
Brett, Sharon (District of Columbia)
Bullock, Robert B. (District of Columbia)
Foster, Lisa A. (District of Columbia)
Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia)
Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia)
Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia)
Katzman, Jennifer (District of Columbia)
Killebrew, Paul (District of Columbia)
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
Stanner, Andrew (District of Columbia)

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