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Case Name Whitner v. City of Pagedale CJ-MO-0010
Docket / Court 4:15-cv-01655 ( E.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Case Summary
On November 4, 2015, residents of Pagedale who had received warnings that they may receive tickets, have been ticketed, or will be ticketed by the city filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The plaintiffs sued the City of Pagedale under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ... read more >
On November 4, 2015, residents of Pagedale who had received warnings that they may receive tickets, have been ticketed, or will be ticketed by the city filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The plaintiffs sued the City of Pagedale under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201, alleging violations of the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs, represented by both private counsel and a public interest law firm, asked the court for certification of their proposed Ticket and Warning Recipients class, declaratory and injunctive relief, nominal damages, and attorneys’ fees.

The plaintiffs claimed that the City of Pagedale used its code enforcement and municipal court to generate revenue, violating the Due Process and Excessive Fines Clauses of the Constitution and abusing the City’s police powers. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the City’s search for revenue resulted in government intrusion into the homes of residents by dramatically increasing the number of non-traffic tickets issued, ticketing for conditions it terms “nuisances,” regulating things not included in its Code, and fining or imprisoning residents for minor infractions (including such things as basketball hoops or dish antennas in the front of houses, not walking on the right side of crosswalks, or wearing one’s pants below the waist in public). The plaintiffs also alleged that Pagedale’s municipal court system, through its opacity and inaccessibility, denies ticketed residents their right of due process.

On December 7, 2015, the City filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ class allegations. On December 21, 2015, the City also moved to dismiss one of the individual plaintiffs' claims for lack of justiciable controversy.

On January 22, 2016, the court (Judge Rodney W. Sippel) denied the City’s motion to strike the class allegations from the plaintiff’s complaint. The court determined that, while the class is quite broad, it does not lack any possible relation or logical connection to the subject matter, so a motion to strike is not appropriate.

On March 10, 2016, Judge Sippel denied the defendant's motion to dismiss in part and granted it in part. Only Count IV of the plaintiff's complaint, which alleged a Section 1983 violation based on the "city's practice of treating harmless activities and conditions as nuisances and fining Pagedale residents for harmless activities and conditions exceeds the City's police powers and causes irreparable injury to plaintiffs' constitutional rights," was dismissed. Judge Sippel found that Count IV failed to identify any violation of a right protected under the Constitution or federal law, an essential element of a Section 1983 claim. The rest of the plaintiff's case proceeded to discovery. 2016 WL 915303.

On September 2, 2016, Judge Sippel referred the case to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The parties selected Stephen J. Limbaugh as the Neutral. On October 17, 2016, the Neutral reported that the parties participated in ADR in good faith but did not reach settlement.

The parties proceeded with discovery, and the plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification on October 18, 2017. On January 10, 2018, the parties entered a proposed consent decree, which provided for steps for reform of Pagedale municipal court practices and city prosecutions as well as eliminating part of the municipal code the city deemed "nuisance" behavior. The consent decree did not require Pagedale to refund money to citizens who were ticketed, but those who were ticketed will not face jail unless they have an attorney or have waived their right to an attorney. Pagedale was to submit reports for five years after the decree was entered. Following a February 2, 2018 hearing on the proposed consent decree, Judge Sippel granted preliminary approval of the proposed consent decree.

In a February 6, 2018 order, Judge Sippel also certified the plaintiff's proposed class, which is defined as "all persons who, at any time since January 1, 2010, have received warning that they may receive tickets, have been ticketed, or will be ticketed by the city of Pagedale." A hearing regarding the final certification of the consent decree is scheduled for May 18, 2018.

Katrina Fetsch - 02/10/2016
Sarah McDonald - 03/25/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Conflict of interest
Courts
Disciplinary procedures
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Pattern or Practice
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 Pagedale
Plaintiff Description All persons who, at any time since January 1, 2010, have received warning that they may receive tickets, have been ticketed, or will be ticketed by the city of Pagedale.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
4:15-cv-01655-RWS (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0010-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/07/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Civil Rights Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-MO-0010-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/04/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant City of Pagedale’s Motion to Dismiss Count IV and Plaintiff Mildred Bryant’s Claims from Plaintiffs’ Civil Rights Class Action Complaint [ECF# 21]
CJ-MO-0010-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/21/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 28] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0010-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/22/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 31] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0010-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/10/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Decree [ECF# 105-1] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0010-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/11/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 109] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0010-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/06/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Sippel, Rodney W. (E.D. Mo., W.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0010-0002 | CJ-MO-0010-0004 | CJ-MO-0010-0005 | CJ-MO-0010-0006 | CJ-MO-0010-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Clark, J. Bennett (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-0001 | CJ-MO-0010-9000
House, Joshua (Virginia)
CJ-MO-0010-0001 | CJ-MO-0010-0005 | CJ-MO-0010-9000
Lanahan, Michael Brendan (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-9000
Maurer, William R. (Washington)
CJ-MO-0010-0001 | CJ-MO-0010-0005 | CJ-MO-0010-9000
Russell, Jeffrey S. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-9000
Smith, Barbara A. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-0005 | CJ-MO-0010-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Alton, Sam Jonathan (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-0005
Hyde, Ryan M. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-9000
Reichardt, Timothy J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-0003 | CJ-MO-0010-0005 | CJ-MO-0010-9000
Tangaro, Andrew T. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-0003 | CJ-MO-0010-9000
Vitale, Joseph C. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0010-0003 | CJ-MO-0010-9000

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