University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Edwards v. Cofield CJ-AL-0016
Docket / Court 3:17-cv-00321 ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
On May 18, 2017, a 29-year old pregnant army veteran filed this class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. The plaintiff sued the Sheriff, Court Clerk, Court Magistrate, and District Court Judge of Randolph County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S ... read more >
On May 18, 2017, a 29-year old pregnant army veteran filed this class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. The plaintiff sued the Sheriff, Court Clerk, Court Magistrate, and District Court Judge of Randolph County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201. The plaintiff, represented by Equal Justice Under Law, the ACLU, Civil Rights Corps, and Southern Poverty Law Center, sough declaratory and injunctive relief. She claimed that the county practice of setting predetermined bail amounts without considering a person's flight risk, the danger they present to the community or whether the person can afford the bail, violated her 14th amendment rights. The plaintiff had been arrested on May 17, 2017. She was not able to afford the $7,500 bail, and so she was told she would remain in jail until June 6, 2017.

The plaintiff also submitted a motion for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and class certification. The proposed class was defined as "all arrestees who are or who will be jailed in Randolph County who are unable to pay the secured monetary bail amount required for their release."

The same day that the plaintiff filed her complaints and motions, the court (Magistrate Judge Terry F. Moorer) granted her motion for a temporary restraining order releasing her from jail. Later documents in the case indicate that by the time Judge Moorer had granted the temporary restraining order, Grover Poole Bail Bonding Company had already issued a surety agreement to cover her bond. On May 24th, the defendant judge ordered this bond be converted into a personal recognizance signature bond - meaning the plaintiff would not have to make any payments to the bond company. Based on her release, Judge Watkins held the motion for a preliminary injunction was moot on May 25.

On June 1, 2017, Judge Watkins ordered mediation. As the mediation carried on, the defendants moved to dismiss the case arguing that the defendants had immunity and that the claims were moot because the plaintiff had been released. Judge Watkins denied these motions on July 14th, holding that they did not have immunity and that the controversy was not moot because it met the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" standard. 265 F. Supp. 3d 1344.

On September 8, 2017, defendant Randolph County District Court Judge issued a standing bond order providing that those who cannot afford to pay bonds are entitled to a bond hearing within 72 hours of arrest to "obviate the need for a preliminary injunction."

On December 5, 2017, Judge Grover ordered the parties to show cause as to why the case shouldn't be stayed pending resolution of Walker v. City of Calhoun (CJ-GA-0012), a similar Georgia case, by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On March 21, 2018, Judge Watkins declined to stay the case pending Walker, rejected plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, and refused defendant's motion to dismiss the case as moot. Judge Watkins found that defendants had corrected many of the wrongs that a preliminary injunction could address in their September 8, 2017, except for the standing bond order. Moreover, Judge Watkins held that plaintiff failed to established "a substantial likelihood of success" on her remaining claims that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires procedural safeguards in bond hearings such as an attorney, the opportunity to present evidence, and clear and convincing evidence that pretrial detention is necessary. 301 F.Supp.3d 1136.

Nevertheless, Judge Watkins also found that defendants' new procedures did not render the case moot. The parties continued to dispute whether defendants' standing bond order passed constitutional muster and disagreed in particular over whether 72 hours was a permissible limit on detention without a bond hearing. Even if the new order was constitutionally adequate, it would not moot the case under a three-factor test from Flanigan's Enters., Inc., of Ga. v. City of Sandy Springs, because (1) "there do not appear to be any explanations independent of this litigation" for the order; (2) there is "some concern that Defendants...will revert to those prior practices" after the litigation; and (3) the changes consist only of "unilateral actions and statements" by one defendant. Therefore, Judge Watkins allowed the case to proceed.

On September 10, 2018, Judge Watkins approved plaintiff's class certification request under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) and 23(b)(2):

  1. There are enough class members to make joining all of them in a single lawsuit impractical;

  2. Class members share common questions of law or fact;

  3. Plaintiff's claims are typical of the class;

  4. Plaintiff will adequately represent the class' interests; and

  5. Defendants have acted similarly towards all class members.


Judge Watkins also rejected defendants' proposal to create one class of arrestees who cannot afford bonds despite hearings and another of arrestees who cannot afford bonds and were jailed for at most 72 hours. 2018 WL 4323920.

On September 13, 2018, Judge Moorer was removed from the case, likely due to his elevation from magistrate judge to district judge for the Southern District of Alabama. Judge Gray M. Borden was assigned as the new magistrate judge. The case is ongoing.

Gabriela Hybel - 01/14/2018
Timothy Leake - 10/25/2018


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Bail/Bond
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Over/Unlawful Detention
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Randolph County, Alabama
Plaintiff Description A pregnant army veteran who was arrested and who could not afford to pay bail. She sought to represent a class of “all arrestees who are or who will be jailed in Randolph County who are unable to pay the secured monetary bail amount required for their release.”
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing CJ-GA-0012 : Walker v. City of Calhoun (N.D. Ga.)
Docket(s)
3:17-cv-00321 (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/26/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0016-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/18/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 9] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0016-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/18/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 49] (265 F.Supp.3d 134) (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0016-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/14/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Declaration of Judge Clay Tinney [ECF# 67-1]
CJ-AL-0016-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/08/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 97] (301 F.Supp.3d 1136) (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0016-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/21/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 119] (2018 WL 4323920) (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0016-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/10/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Moorer, Terry Fitzgerald (M.D. Ala., S.D. Ala.) [Magistrate]
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Watkins, William Keith (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0016-0002 | CJ-AL-0016-0003 | CJ-AL-0016-0004 | CJ-AL-0016-0005 | CJ-AL-0016-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boone, Brock (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Brooke, Samuel (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-0001 | CJ-AL-0016-9000
Buskey, Brandon (New York)
CJ-AL-0016-0001 | CJ-AL-0016-9000
Hubbard, Katherine (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0016-0001 | CJ-AL-0016-9000
Jordan, Alexandra Marie (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0016-0001 | CJ-AL-0016-9000
Marshall, Randall C (Florida)
CJ-AL-0016-0001 | CJ-AL-0016-9000
Naramore, John W. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
West, Micah (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-0001 | CJ-AL-0016-9000
Woods, Andrea (New York)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Albritton, Benjamin Howard (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Chynoweth, Brad A. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Davis, James William (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Howell, Laura Elizabeth (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Kidd, Jamie Helen (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Walker, Jordan Dorman (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000
Webb, Kendrick E. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0016-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -