University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
view search results
page permalink
Case Name Roberts v. Black CJ-LA-0005
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-11024 ( E.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Criminalization of poverty
Attorney Organization Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
On June 21, 2016, individuals who had been subject to a $50 "extension fee" for inability to pay their monetary penalties in full, under threat that they would otherwise go to jail for non-payment of court fines and costs, brought this putative class action in the U.S. District Court for the ... read more >
On June 21, 2016, individuals who had been subject to a $50 "extension fee" for inability to pay their monetary penalties in full, under threat that they would otherwise go to jail for non-payment of court fines and costs, brought this putative class action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs sued the Bogalusa City Court and the sole judge who sits on the Bogalusa City Court for violations of their Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. They claimed that the defendants: systematically jailed and threatened to jail individuals who cannot pay fines and court costs that were used to fund expenditures of the city court; and have created an illegal extension fee to generate additional revenue.

Represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, as well as to certify a class and subclass for equitable relief and a separate class for damages. The class for equitable relief was to be defined as "all individuals who will appear in the Bogalusa City Court for criminal cases or who have unpaid fines and costs assessed by and opened by the City Court. The Subclass was to be defined as "all individuals who were or will be adjudicated guilty in the Bogalusa City Court, who have been worn will be given a future date by which to return to City Court, and who have not paid the assessed fines and costs in full prior to returning to City Court." The class seeking damages included those individuals who paid an extension fee between June 22, 2015 to the time of the complaint.

In a June 23, 2016 order, U.S. District Court Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle denied the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order, and held their request for a preliminary injunction in abeyance. Shortly thereafter, the parties agreed to explore a possible settlement.

As settlement negotiations were getting under way, the parties reached an interim agreement, which they filed on June 27, 2016. Once approved by the Court, it was to govern the next 75 days. During this time period, the defendant judge agreed not to incarcerate any Bogalusa City Court defendant on the sole basis of nonpayment of fines or costs or contempt fee, nor assess or collect (i) any court cost authorized by La. Stat. Ann. § 13:1899; (ii) any “extension fees” or similar payments required by the City Court to allow a defendant additional time to pay court debt; or (iii) any contempt fees that are retained by the City Court and deposited into the City Court’s judicial expense account.

In addition, for the same interim time period, the defendant judge agreed to provide to the plaintiffs’ counsel a copy of daily jail logs for the Bogalusa City Jail, and an up-to-date copy of the Bogalusa City Court’s “Criminal Account-Citizens Income Statement.” Both parties agreed to submit a joint written status report in 45 days to report on the status of settlement discussions and the parties’ respective positions on how the Court should proceed with the pending motions for preliminary injunction and class certification. This agreement was repeatedly renewed through motions to continue until the parties reached a full settlement on September 5, 2017.

On June 28, 2016, Judge Lemelle granted the joint motion and further ordered that the plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class and their Motion for Preliminary Injunction to be dismissed without prejudice.

On January 17, 2017, plaintiffs amended their complaint with allegations that defendants, without the authorization of state law and after agreeing to halt the $50 dollar “extension fee,” began assigning community service as a sanction for non-payment, instead of jail-time, and established a $25 “enrollment fee” for individuals to complete community service.

On June 7, 2017, a partial settlement agreement was reached. The defendants agreed to issue $50 dollar refunds to all parties who paid the “extension fee” on and after June 21, 2015. The plaintiffs agreed to dismiss the fifth claim for relief of their first amended complaint, which sought compensatory damages for the payment of the extension fee, and agreed to dismiss defendant Bogalusa City Court from the suit.

On June 21, 2017, plaintiff’s motion for class certification was dismissed without prejudice.

On September 5, 2017, a full settlement was reached. Plaintiffs agreed to dismiss their lawsuit against the defendant. In exchange, the defendant agreed, for a period of thirty months, to stop jailing indigent individuals for failure to pay court debt solely due to their inability to pay the debt, agreed to discontinue use of any extension fees except as explicitly authorized by state law, and agreed to discontinue use of an enrollment fee for community service. The defendant also agreed to implement warrant amnesty days that would enable individuals with arrest warrants for failure to comply with an order to appear, subpoena, or summons to appear at the city court to receive a new hearing date and clear any warrants.

The defendant also permanently agreed to no longer collect or assess any court costs that would be deposited into an account controlled directly by the city court. Instead, these costs or fees would be deposited into a special account maintained by the City of Bogalusa, who would have control of the account and any disbursements made therefrom. The court was also required to submit a yearly budget request to fund operations of the city court, which the mayor and city council must approve in accordance with the city charter. The City of Bogalusa would maintain discretion to allocate funds from the special account to the court to fund operations of the court.

Finally, the defendant agreed to a six-month reporting period wherein the defendant would notify the plaintiff’s counsel when any city court defendant was being placed in jail for nonpayment of a fine, costs, or failure to complete a form of alternative payment.

The court maintained jurisdiction over the case. There has been no action on the docket since September 5, 2017.

Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 11/17/2016
Cade Boland - 10/22/2017


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Conflict of interest
Courts
Funding
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Bogalusa City Court
Plaintiff Description Individuals who will appear in the Bogalusa City Court for criminal cases or who have unpaid fines and costs assessed by and owed to the City Court, who were or will be adjudicated guilty in the Bogalusa City Court, who have been or will be given a future date by which to return to City Court, and who have not paid the assessed fines and costs in full prior to returning to City Court, and/or have paid an extension fee between June 22, 2015 and the present.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2016 - 2020
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  Philadelphia Forfeiture
http://ij.org/case/philadelphia-forfeiture/
Date: Aug. 11, 2014
By: Institute for Justice (Institute for Justice)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:16-cv-11024 (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/05/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-LA-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/21/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion to Continue and to Enforce Agreed Stipulation
CJ-LA-0005-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/27/2016
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order [Denying Motion to Certify Class and the Motion for Preliminary Injunction Without Prejudice] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/28/2016
Source: Bloomberg Law
Order [Granting Motion to Continue to Enforce the Parties' Stipulations] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/17/2016
Source: Bloomberg Law
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 67]
CJ-LA-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/10/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Settlement Agreement Related to Fifth Claim for Relief [ECF# 91-1]
CJ-LA-0005-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 95] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0005-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 105] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0005-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/22/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Settlement Agreement [ECF# 113-1]
CJ-LA-0005-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/01/2017
Order of Dismissal [ECF# 114] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0005-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/05/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Lemelle, Ivan L. R. (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0005-0003 | CJ-LA-0005-0004 | CJ-LA-0005-0007 | CJ-LA-0005-0008 | CJ-LA-0005-0010 | CJ-LA-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brooke, Samuel (Alabama)
CJ-LA-0005-0002 | CJ-LA-0005-0005 | CJ-LA-0005-0006 | CJ-LA-0005-9000
Early, Emily C.R. (Alabama)
CJ-LA-0005-0002 | CJ-LA-0005-0005 | CJ-LA-0005-0006 | CJ-LA-0005-9000
Wang, Ivy (Alabama)
CJ-LA-0005-0001 | CJ-LA-0005-0002 | CJ-LA-0005-0005 | CJ-LA-0005-0006 | CJ-LA-0005-9000
West, Micah (Alabama)
CJ-LA-0005-0002 | CJ-LA-0005-0005 | CJ-LA-0005-0006 | CJ-LA-0005-0009 | CJ-LA-0005-9000
Zampierin, Sara (Alabama)
CJ-LA-0005-0002 | CJ-LA-0005-0005 | CJ-LA-0005-0006 | CJ-LA-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Dirmann, Shannon Bates (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0005-9000
Dittmer, Edward Brewster II (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0005-0002 | CJ-LA-0005-0006 | CJ-LA-0005-0009 | CJ-LA-0005-9000
Sanders, David Glen (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0005-0006 | CJ-LA-0005-9000
Wilton, Patricia Hill (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0005-0006 | CJ-LA-0005-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
view search results
page permalink

- top of page -