University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Commonwealth v. Wagle CJ-MA-0003
Docket / Court 1613CR003391 ( State Court )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On August 5th, 2016, attorneys from the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts and from Equal Justice Under Law filed a petition in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County in Massachusetts. The attorneys represented an indigent woman charged with possession of a Class A ... read more >
On August 5th, 2016, attorneys from the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts and from Equal Justice Under Law filed a petition in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County in Massachusetts. The attorneys represented an indigent woman charged with possession of a Class A controlled substance who had been jailed for being unable to pay her $250 bail. The plaintiff's petition challenged her detention as unlawful due to the State's failure to consider her ability to pay when setting her bail and jailing her simply because she was poor. The plaintiff claimed a failure to make this inquiry violated her Equal Protection and Due Process rights.

On August 25th, 2016, Justice Geraldine S. Hines issued an order reducing the plaintiff's bail from $250 to $200 after taking into account her ability to pay. Though Justice Hines recognized that plaintiff's bail issue was now moot, she noted that plaintiff's petition raised important constitutional questions. The court gave the plaintiff's attorneys leave to file an amended petition within thirty days to address whether the Massachusetts bail statute and its application are constitutional and to request systemic relief on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals in the criminal justice system.

The plaintiff's attorneys filed an amended petition for relief on September 23, 2016, and the state filed its opposition on October 25. Justice Hines held hearings on January 27, 2017 and denied relief on August 8, 2017. Because the Court denied relief and because there has been no further activity on the docket, the case seems now to have ended, though it has not officially been closed.

Sarah Du - 10/18/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Excessive bail/fines
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Bail/Bond
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Criminal
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Massachusetts
Plaintiff Description An indigent woman with no income or bank account assets who was charged with Possession of a Class A controlled substance and who was jailed for being unable to pay her $250 bail
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Reduction of bail
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2016
Case Ongoing Perhaps, but long-dormant
Docket(s)
SJ-2016-0334 (State Supreme Court)
CJ-MA-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/08/2017
Source: Bloomberg Law
General Documents
Petition for Relief Pursuant to G.L. c. 211 ยง 3
CJ-MA-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/05/2016

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