On June 16, 2015, a recent arrestee in Dothan, Alabama, filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Represented by attorneys from Equal Justice Under Law, the plaintiff sue the city of Dothan. The plaintiff filed the lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ...
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On June 16, 2015, a recent arrestee in Dothan, Alabama, filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Represented by attorneys from Equal Justice Under Law, the plaintiff sue the city of Dothan. The plaintiff filed the lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The plaintiff alleged that Dothan had instituted a money-based detention scheme, where individuals who were arrested for minor traffic offenses and misdemeanors were released from custody almost immediately upon payment of a generically set bail amount. However, individuals who were too poor to pay this amount remained imprisoned for up to seven days while they awaited their docket to be called. Dothan did not allow for unsecured bonds, where an individual is released by promising to pay the amount if the person later does not appear. Furthermore, Dothan held the hearings for these imprisoned individuals in an empty courtroom which was closed to the public; the individuals appeared via video while still in jail. The plaintiff claimed that as a result Dothan had violated the Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection of the plaintiff (and those similarly situated) by jailing him because he could afford to pay the generic bail amount. The plaintiff requested injunctive and declaratory relief, compensation for the damages suffered as a result of Dothan's conduct, and attorneys' fees.
With the complaint, the plaintiff also filed a motion for class certification and a temporary restraining order (TRO) granting the plaintiff's release and halting Dothan's policies. On June 18, 2015, Chief Judge William Keith Watkins granted in part the plaintiff's motion for a TRO, ordering the plaintiff's release, but denied all other respects of the motion. Judge Watkins also set a hearing to determine whether to convert the TRO to a preliminary injunction.
However, on June 25, 2015, Dothan filed a motion to deny the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction as moot since Dothan had begun allowing unsecured bonds for release from prison for minor traffic offenses and misdemeanors. Dothan noted that the plaintiff had conceded that this bail system cured any constitutional problems. Judge Watkins subsequently issued an order on June 26, 2015, requiring that Dothan and its employees, officers, and agents comply with the new bail system as outlined in Dothan's June 25 motion and dissolved the TRO while the parties pursued settlement on the remaining issues.
This case is still pending in the U.S. District Court.John He - 10/16/2015