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. ...
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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).Jessica Kincaid - 04/08/2016