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Case Name Canaan v. City of El Paso CJ-TX-0009
Docket / Court 16-cv-00132 ( W.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Case Summary
On May 3, 2016, two indigent citizens who were jailed for not paying traffic and misdemeanor fines, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. The plaintiffs sued the City of El Paso under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Texas Constitution. Represented by lawyers ... read more >
On May 3, 2016, two indigent citizens who were jailed for not paying traffic and misdemeanor fines, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. The plaintiffs sued the City of El Paso under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Texas Constitution. Represented by lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project, the plaintiffs alleged that the City violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as their rights under the Texas Constitution. The plaintiffs requested declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking to enjoin the defendants from enforcing their current debt collection program.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the City adopted a 25-percent plan in 2006 that required those assessed fines, including fines from Class C Misdemeanors and traffic tickets, to either pay 25 percent of their fines or go to jail. The plan did not account for people unable to pay 25 percent of their fines. The repayment plan, alleged the plaintiffs, was adopted as a method of revenue generation for the city. The plaintiffs asserted in their complaint that the City made $19 million from such fines in 2015 and that the policy was pursued purposely, by training municipal court clerks to tell debtors that their only options were the 25-percent payment or jail. The plaintiffs were never informed of their right to assert indigence, and they alleged that the City became aware of issues with its debt collection process but failed to reform the system.

On January 12, 2017, Judge David Guaderrama issued an order denying in part and granting in part the City's motion to dismiss, which was filed on June 6, 2016. Judge Guaderrama only looked at the due process claims because the City failed to address the equal protection claims. The plaintiffs' main due process claim was that the City's clerks failed to inform indigent debtors of their right to assert indigence. The court dismissed this claim. Judge Guaderrama held that the city had no constitutional duty to inform the plaintiffs of their right to assert their indigence. Judge Guaderrama only addressed the § 1983 action concerning the violation of the plaintiffs' due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. He allowed the equal protection claims under the Fourteenth Amendment and Texas Constitution to stand because the City had failed to address them in their motion to dismiss.

On January 20, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, and on February 3, 2017, the City responded with a new motion to dismiss, which the Court denied on April 25, 2017. One month later, the Court scheduled a jury trial to take place in March of 2018. After some months of discovery disputes and negotiation between the parties, the defendants again moved to dismiss the case, but the Court rejected the motion as untimely on December 11, 2017.

The parties continued negotiating and ultimately did reach a settlement agreement, which led the parties to file for a stipulated dismissal on May 23, 2018. That same week, the Court reviewed the stipulated dismissal and entered an order dismissing the case.

The settlement agreement included the following: a full release of any and all claims by both sides; an agreement that each side would bear its own costs; and an agreement that the City would, for three years following the settlement, continue certain administrative practices. These administrative practices related to: (a) notices to defendants of policies and procedures; (b) forms and procedures associated with payment plans, including a policy that payment plans required no money down, and that defendants could request an extension at any time; (c) notices to defendants regarding court hearings and court schedules; (d) policies and procedures related to indigency hearings and the issuance of warrants; and (e) a promise by defendants not to create any notice, form, procedure or policy that is inconsistent with the notices, forms, policies, and procedures that were attached to the settlement agreement.

Salvatore Mancina - 02/25/2017
Chris Pollack - 03/16/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Courts
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Race, unspecified
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of El Paso, Texas
Plaintiff Description Two indigent citizens of El Paso, Texas who were jailed for failing to pay fines.
Class action status sought No
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
Order Duration 2018 - 2021
Filing Year 2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
3:16-cv-132 (W.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0009-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/29/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Original Complaint [ECF# 3]
CJ-TX-0009-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/03/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order (2017 WL 129027) (W.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0009-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/12/2017
Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint [ECF# 34]
CJ-TX-0009-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/20/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 41] (W.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0009-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/25/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 59] (W.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0009-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (878 F.3d 371)
CJ-TX-0009-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/26/2017
Source: Westlaw
Joint Stipulation of Dismissal of all Claims [ECF# 75]
CJ-TX-0009-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/23/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 75]
CJ-TX-0009-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/23/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Guaderrama, David Campos (W.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-0002 | CJ-TX-0009-0004 | CJ-TX-0009-0005 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
Williams, Ann Claire (N.D. Ill., Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-0008
Plaintiff's Lawyers Benoit, Christopher (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Brown, Porscha (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Cornelio, Natalia M (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-0006 | CJ-TX-0009-0009 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
Coyle, Lynn (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Jacobi, William Brian (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-0001 | CJ-TX-0009-0003 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
Marziani, Mimi Murray Digby (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-0001 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
Moreno, Enrique (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Steffensen, Peter B (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Yang, Wayne Krause (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Benavides, Anelisa (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Gabaldon, Oscar Guillermo Jr. (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Gordon, Laura (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Gregory, Sue Ann (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Martinez, Maria Guadalupe (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-0009 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
McKamie, William M (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-0006 | CJ-TX-0009-0009 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
Ruiz, Adolfo (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0009-9000

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