University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Wilson v. Allen County PD-IN-0002
Docket / Court 1:15-cv-00402 ( N.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Case Summary
On December 31, 2015, three indigent individuals residing in Indiana filed this putative class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint on August 19, 2016. The plaintiffs sued the Allen County Council, Allen ... read more >
On December 31, 2015, three indigent individuals residing in Indiana filed this putative class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint on August 19, 2016. The plaintiffs sued the Allen County Council, Allen County Board of Commissioners, and Allen County Public Defender Board under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to redress the alleged deprivation of their Constitutional rights. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief to restrain Defendants from violating the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Indiana State Constitution. Plaintiffs also sought an injunction that enjoined Defendants from making expenditures of funds on indigent defense services likely to result in violations of the constitutional rights. Lastly, plaintiffs sought costs and attorney fees. This case was initially assigned to Judge Philip P Simon.

The plaintiffs proposed a class defined as, “all individuals who have or will have misdemeanor criminal cases pending in the courts of Allen County, Indiana, who have or will have an attorney assigned to them due to indigency and have not been convicted or entered into a plea agreement.”

Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants, for years, operated a constitutionally, structurally, and systemically deficient public defender system for indigent individuals charged with misdemeanor crimes. They alleged that failures resulted in ineffective assistance of counsel and constructive denial of counsel of misdemeanants represented by the Allen County Public Defender Office. Defendants alleged that Plaintiffs knew about these deficiencies for at least 10 years. Plaintiffs also claimed that public defenders in Allen County had caseloads consisting of hundreds of additional misdemeanor cases; did not meaningfully conducted any legal research into Plaintiffs’ cases; did not meaningfully investigate Plaintiffs’ charges; did not file any substantive motions in the cases; did not hold a single confidential in-person meeting with Plaintiffs outside a courthouse; and devoted less than one year in whole to the defense of each of class Plaintiffs’ cases. The public defender system failed to provide clients with adequate advise, consultation, and communication with attorneys; the ability to make informed decisions about their legal rights; meaningful opportunity to present defenses against charges; proper attorney assistance prior to waiving of rights; and proper, prompt, and accurate information regarding plea alternatives, jail alternatives, and the consequences of plea agreements and criminal sentences.

Throughout 2016, the parties engaged in discovery and mediation talks. On February 15, 2017, a mediator reported that mediation talks had finished without resolution.

On May 1, 2017, the case was reassigned to Chief Judge Theresa L Springmann. The parties continued litigation, particularly addressing discovery and class certification.

Judge Springmann denied the plaintiffs motion for class certification on August 14, 2017. She held that the defendants had raised an issue as to the plaintiffs' standing and the court's jurisdiction over the case. As such, she ruled that she could not decide class certification until issues of standing and jurisdiction had been addressed. The defendants then filed a motion to dismiss on September 17, 2017.

On June 20, 2018, Magistrate Judge Susan Collins stayed proceedings on the defendants' motion to dismiss, sighting settlement conversations. A status conference is scheduled for August 22, 2018.

Nili Blanck - 06/10/2018


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Funding
Quality of representation
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Allen County
Allen County Board of Commissioners
Allen County Council
Allen County Public Defender Board
Plaintiff Description All individuals who have or will have misdemeanor criminal cases pending in the courts of Allen County, Indiana, who have or will have an attorney assigned to them due to indigency and have not been convicted or entered into a plea agreement.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis Faculty)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
Date: 2009
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University Faculty)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
1:15-cv-402 (N.D. Ind.)
PD-IN-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PD-IN-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/31/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 45]
PD-IN-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/19/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [ECF# 76] (N.D. Ind.)
PD-IN-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/14/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Springmann, Theresa Lazar (N.D. Ind.)
PD-IN-0002-0004 | PD-IN-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Frank, David W. (Indiana)
PD-IN-0002-0001 | PD-IN-0002-0002 | PD-IN-0002-9000
Myers, Christopher C. (Indiana)
PD-IN-0002-0002
Spurling-Newman, Skyler B. (Indiana)
PD-IN-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Feighner, John O (Indiana)
PD-IN-0002-9000
Feighner, J Spencer (Indiana)
PD-IN-0002-9000
Fishering, G William (Indiana)
PD-IN-0002-9000
Maser, Laura L. (Indiana)
PD-IN-0002-9000
Posey, James P (Indiana)
PD-IN-0002-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -