University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name DiFrancesco v. Bullock PB-MT-0003
Docket / Court 2:17-cv-00066-SEH ( D. Mont. )
State/Territory Montana
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On August 31, 2017, a resident of Bozeman, Montana, who was unable to pay his court debt that grew to nearly $4,000 out of a small $185 civil infraction, filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. The plaintiff sued the governor of Montana, the Attorney ... read more >
On August 31, 2017, a resident of Bozeman, Montana, who was unable to pay his court debt that grew to nearly $4,000 out of a small $185 civil infraction, filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. The plaintiff sued the governor of Montana, the Attorney General of Montana, the administrator of the Motor Vehicle Division of Montana, and the Bureau Chief of the Driver Services Bureau of Montana all under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff, represented by Equal Justice Under Law, sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. The plaintiff claimed that, by indefinitely suspending the driver's licenses of people who failed to pay court-ordered fines, costs, and restitution, even where nonpayment was solely due to indigence and thus not willful, the defendants had violated the equal protection, substantive due process, and procedural due process rights. The case was assigned to Judge Sam E. Haddon.

On October 17, 2017, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, arguing that the plaintiff had filed after the applicable statute of limitations had expired. Judge Haddon denied this motion without prejudice to allow renewal following the determination of class certification.

On March 2, 2018, the plaintiff moved to certify class, defining the class as “All Montana drivers who currently have, or will have, at least one driver’s license suspension because of unpaid court debts and who did not, or will not, receive an ability-to-pay hearing before the suspension.”

Later in March, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal, requesting that the court dismiss the governor of Montana as a defendant. The parties proffered this voluntary dismissal after agreeing that the governor was not a proper defendant in this action because he does not administer the statutes challenged in the suit. The court has not yet approved this stipulation.

In April 2018, the court entered an order specifying due dates for discovery and supplemental briefs regarding the motion to certify class. The case is ongoing.

Jake Parker - 06/11/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Right to travel
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Drivers Licenses
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) The State of Montana
Plaintiff Description All Montana drivers who currently have, or will have, at least one driver’s license suspension because of unpaid court debts and who did not, or will not, receive an ability-to-pay hearing before the suspension.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Challenging Unconstitutional Driver’s License Suspensions
https://www.law.upenn.edu
Date: March 2018
By: Harmann Singh (University of Pennsylvania Law School Law Student)
Citation: https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/news/7910-challenging-unconstitutional-drivers-license
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:17-cv-66 (D. Mont.)
PB-MT-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PB-MT-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/31/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Haddon, Sam E. (D. Mont.)
PB-MT-0003-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Farris−Olsen, Robert (Montana)
PB-MT-0003-0001 | PB-MT-0003-9000
Peterson, Scott L. (Montana)
PB-MT-0003-0001 | PB-MT-0003-9000
Ramaswamy, Rebecca R. (District of Columbia)
PB-MT-0003-0001 | PB-MT-0003-9000
Sevcenko, Catherine B. (District of Columbia)
PB-MT-0003-0001
Telfeyan, Phil (District of Columbia)
PB-MT-0003-0001 | PB-MT-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cameron, Robert Thomas (Montana)
PB-MT-0003-9000

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