University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Thomas v. City of St. Ann CJ-MO-0018
Docket / Court 4:16-cv-01302 ( E.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ArchCity Defenders
Case Summary
On August 9, 2016, a group of individuals who were placed in jail because of an inability to pay fines, penalties, and other charges, filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. On November 30, 2016, they filed an amended complaint. The plaintiffs ... read more >
On August 9, 2016, a group of individuals who were placed in jail because of an inability to pay fines, penalties, and other charges, filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. On November 30, 2016, they filed an amended complaint. The plaintiffs sued thirteen St. Louis County municipalities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 2201. The plaintiffs, represented by ArchCity Defenders and private counsel, asked the court for declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief, claiming violations of the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant municipalities, through their police departments, municipal court systems, city prosecuting attorneys’ offices, and jails, engaged in a deliberate and coordinated conspiracy to fill their coffers by extorting money from thousands of poor, disproportionately African-American people in the St. Louis region. Specifically, they claimed that the municipalities imprisoned people for a failure to pay debts owed for minor offenses without inquiring as to their ability to pay in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; failed to provide adequate legal counsel at hearings in which indigent people were ordered to be imprisoned in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments; incarcerated people indefinitely and without adequate procedural protections in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; sought, issued, and served warrants without probable cause in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; and imposed unduly restrictive methods of debt collection, through incarceration and the threat of incarceration, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Prior to plaintiffs' filing of their amended complaint, the defendants moved to dismiss. However, on December 2, 2016, in response to the amended complaint, the court (Judge Rodney W. Sippel) dismissed the motions to dismiss filed by the defendants.

The defendants again moved to dismiss the complaint on December 14, 2016. On April 24, 2017, Judge Sippel dismissed the claims against all defendant municipalities except the City of St. Ann, finding that the amended complaint failed to state a claim for conspiracy. Judge Sippel ordered the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint against the City of St. Ann and to limit their claims to actions taken by St. Ann. The plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of the conspiracy claim and the dismissal of all other defendants aside from St. Ann, which Judge Sippel denied on July 5, 2017.

On July 21, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint limited to the actions and policies of the City of St. Ann. On September 8, 2017, the City filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's Section 1983 claims for lack of jurisdiction, claiming that the real defendant in interest in the matter was the St. Ann municipal division of the Missouri State Circuit Court, an arm-of-the-state entitled to sovereign immunity. The same day, the City filed a motion to dismiss the remaining count alleging fourteenth-amendment violations for failure to state a claim.

As of March 25, 2018, the case is ongoing and the court has not rendered a decision regarding the motions to dismiss. A status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2018.

Julie Singer - 02/28/2017
Sarah McDonald - 03/25/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
Equal Protection
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Courts
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Placement in detention facilities
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 Bel-Ridge
City of Bellefontaine Neighbors
City of Beverly Hills
City of Calverton Park
City of Cool Valley
City of Edmundson
City of Normandy
City of Pagedale
City of St. Ann
City of St. John
City of Velda City
City of Velda Village Hills
City of Wellston
Plaintiff Description Individuals imprisoned because of an inability to pay fines, penalties, and other charges
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ArchCity Defenders
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
4:16-cv-1302 (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0018-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint
CJ-MO-0018-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/09/2016
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
First Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 50]
CJ-MO-0018-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/30/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 78] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0018-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 96]
CJ-MO-0018-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/21/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Sippel, Rodney W. (W.D. Mo., E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0018-0003 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Atri, Sima (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Bergman, Daniel B. (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0018-0001 | CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-0004 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Carroll, Nathaniel R. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-0001 | CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-0004 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Fayne, S. Zachary (California)
CJ-MO-0018-0001 | CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-0004 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Hall, Edward James (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-0001 | CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Harvey, Thomas B. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-0001 | CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-0004 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Robinson, John (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Roediger, Brendan D. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-0001 | CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-0004
Strode, Blake Alexander (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-0004 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Teng, Albert (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Voss, Michael-John (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-0001 | CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-0004 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Waldron, John McCann (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Weiner, Robert N. (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0018-0001 | CJ-MO-0018-0002 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Wiener, Seth Jason (District of Columbia)
CJ-MO-0018-0004 | CJ-MO-0018-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brinker, Jeffrey J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Dunne, Peter J. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Hellmich, William A. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Henson, D. Keith (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Hill, Blake Daniel (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Housley, Casey O. (Kansas)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Krehbiel, Robert J (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Plunkert, Robert T. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Reeves, John Michael (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Roggow, Curtis O. (Kansas)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Stallings, Michelle V. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000
Other Lawyers Graham, Maurice B. (Missouri)
CJ-MO-0018-9000

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