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Case Name Caliste v. Cantrell CJ-LA-0008
Docket / Court 2:17-cv-06197 ( E.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
MacArthur Justice Center, New Orleans
Case Summary
On June 27, 2017, pre-trial detainees at the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s office filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the magistrate judge of the Criminal District Court alleging unlawful bail setting ... read more >
On June 27, 2017, pre-trial detainees at the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s office filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the magistrate judge of the Criminal District Court alleging unlawful bail setting practices. Plaintiffs claimed that defendant violated the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause by keeping them in jail post-arrest when they could not afford the bail set by defendant. Plaintiffs alleged that defendant’s practice of regularly setting a $2,500 minimum financial condition, without considering arrestees' inability to pay or other non-financial alternatives, violated plaintiffs’ fundamental rights. Plaintiffs further claimed that defendant violated the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause by holding a dual role of determining pre-trial release conditions and managing the court's finances, thereby creating an institutional conflict of interest and depriving plaintiffs of a neutral tribunal. By requiring detainees pay their bail amounts as a commercial surety instead of in cash, plaintiffs allege that defendant enforced a mechanism whereby bail payments generated revenue for the court and directly benefited defendant’s office. Plaintiffs sought declaratory judgement.

The next day, plaintiffs moved to certify their class for all similarly situated detainees who were unable to pay the financial condition imposed by defendant as a requirement for their immediate release.

In July 2017, defendant moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for two reasons. First, the defendant claimed that that putative class members whose criminal proceedings had ended no longer had standing and were therefore unlikely to be injured. Secondly, the defendant claimed that because there were ongoing state court criminal proceedings against named plaintiffs and other class members, a federal proceeding would interfere with the state court’s ability to handle these proceedings.

On August 25, 2017, Judge Eldon E. Fallon denied the defendant's motion to dismiss, reasoning that there were still named and proposed class members with ongoing criminal cases who had ongoing and actual injuries. The court also found that the plaintiffs did not have an adequate opportunity to raise issues of bond policies in the relevant state courts, and so the issue of federal proceedings interfering with state court did not apply.

On November 7, 2017, the defendant again moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that the defendant magistrate judge was not the proper defendant on plaintiffs’ claim of unconstitutionality.

Over the next several months, the parties engaged in settlement talks but did not reach an agreement. The court denied the defendant's second motion to dismiss in December, 2017.

On March 16, 2018, the Court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The class was certified as: "all presumptively innocent arrestees who are now before or will come before Defendant Magistrate Judge of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court for proceedings concerning pretrial release or detention and who are unable to pay the financial condition that Defendant imposes as a requirement for their immediate release." 2018 WL 1365809.

On August 06, 2018, Judge Eldon E. Fallon granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and provided the declaratory relief requested. The Court stated that the defendant's bail procedures had not provided notice of the importance of the issue of the criminal defendant’s ability to pay, and consideration of alternative conditions of release, or application of a legal standard in the determination of the necessity of pretrial detention. Hence, these procedures violated plaintiffs’ procedural due process rights. On August 14, 2018, Judge Fallon issued an order granting summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and providing declaratory relief as follows:
(i) in the context of hearings to determine pretrial detention Due Process requires: (a) an inquiry into the arrestee’s ability to pay, including notice of the importance of this issue and the ability to be heard on this issue; (b) consideration of alternative conditions of release, including findings on the record applying the clear and convincing standard and explaining why an arrestee does not qualify for alternative conditions of release; and (c) representative counsel;
(ii) defendant's institutional incentives created a substantial and unconstitutional conflict of interest when he determined their ability to pay bail and set the amount of that bail.

The defendant filed a notice of appeal on August 21, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. (Docket No. 18-30954). The defendant appealed only the determination that his setting of bonds that help fund his court violated due process.

On June 13, 2019, Judge Fallon entered an Order governing the protocol that the defendant will use in determining the conditions of pre-trial release for arrestees. The order directed the defendant to consider the need for pre-trial release or detention based on the flight risk and/or danger posed by the arrestee. The defendant must also consider whether there are any nonfinancial conditions of release that would satisfy concerns of public safety and/or future appearances at court. The order also instructed that if a financial condition for release is set and the arrestee cannot meet it, the court must provide clear and convincing evidence that the financial condition is necessary to guard against risks of flight and danger to public safety.

On August 29, 2019, the appeals court affirmed the decision of the district court (Circuit Judges Patrick Higginbotham, Edith Jones, and Gregg Costa). See 937 F.3d 525 (2019). The appeals court concluded that the defendant had a direct and personal interest in maintaining the fiscal health of his court through the generation of bonds fees. The defendant also held a dual role because he generated and appropriated funds for the court through his bail procedures. The appeals court found that the combination of the dual role and personal interest in benefitting from bond fees “may make the magistrate ‘partisan to maintain the high level of contribution’,” thus violating due process.

On September 12, 2019, the defendant filed a motion for rehearing en banc in the appeals court. This motion was denied by the appeals court on October 1, 2019.

This case is now closed.

Elena Malik - 11/17/2017
Daniele de Oliveira Nunes - 10/23/2018
Aaron Gurley - 10/17/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Bail/Bond
Conflict of interest
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Harry E. Cantrell
Plaintiff Description All presumptively innocent arrestees who are now before or who will come before Defendant for proceedings concerning pretrial release or detention and who are unable to pay the financial condition that Defendant imposes as a requirement for their immediate release.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
MacArthur Justice Center, New Orleans
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2017
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
2:17-cv-06197 (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/13/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-LA-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/26/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Magistrate Judge Harry E. Cantrell's FRCP 21 b(1) Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 12]
CJ-LA-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/17/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Memorandum In Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 25]
CJ-LA-0008-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/15/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order & Reasons [ECF# 44] (2017 WL 3686579) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0008-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/25/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) Defenses, Answer, Affirmative Defenses, and Jury Request In Response to Class Action Complaint [ECF# 66]
CJ-LA-0008-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order & Reasons [ECF# 99] (2018 WL 1365809) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0008-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/16/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order & Reasons [ECF# 131] (2018 WL 3727768) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0008-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/06/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Declaratory Judgment [ECF# 132] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0008-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 158] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0008-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/13/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (937 F.3d 525)
CJ-LA-0008-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/29/2019
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Costa, Gregg Jeffrey (S.D. Tex., Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0009
Fallon, Eldon E. (E.D. La.) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0004 | CJ-LA-0008-0006 | CJ-LA-0008-0007 | CJ-LA-0008-0008 | CJ-LA-0008-0010 | CJ-LA-0008-9000
North, Michael B. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Craig, James W. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-9000
Foley, Eric Andrew (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0001 | CJ-LA-0008-0003 | CJ-LA-0008-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0001 | CJ-LA-0008-0003 | CJ-LA-0008-9000
Schwartzmann, Katie M (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0001 | CJ-LA-0008-0003 | CJ-LA-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brustowicz, Celeste (California) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0002 | CJ-LA-0008-0005 | CJ-LA-0008-9000
Doubleday, Elizabeth A. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0002 | CJ-LA-0008-0005 | CJ-LA-0008-9000
Duffourc, Mindy Nunez (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-9000
Phayer, Dennis J. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0002 | CJ-LA-0008-0005 | CJ-LA-0008-9000
Tankersley, Christopher Kent (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-LA-0008-0002 | CJ-LA-0008-0005 | CJ-LA-0008-9000

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