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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 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. The motion is currently pending before the Court.

Salvatore Mancina - 02/25/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
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
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Philadelphia Forfeiture
http://ij.org/case/philadelphia-forfeiture/
Date: Aug. 11, 2014
By: Institute for Justice (Institute for Justice)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
3:16-cv-132 (W.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0009-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/24/2017
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
Judges Guaderrama, David Campos (W.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0009-0002 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Benoit, Christopher (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Brown, Porscha (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Coyle, Lynn (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Jacobi, William Brian (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-0001 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
Marziani, Mimi Murray Digby (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-0001 | CJ-TX-0009-9000
Moreno, Enrique (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Yang, Wayne Krause (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Benavides, Anelisa (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Gabaldon, Oscar Guillermo Jr. (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Gordon, Laura (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Gregory, Sue Ann (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
Martinez, Maria Guadalupe (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000
McKamie, William M (Texas)
CJ-TX-0009-9000

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