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Case Name Cain v. New Orleans CJ-LA-0011
Docket / Court 2:15-cv-04479-SSV-JCW ( E.D. La. )
Additional Docket(s)   E.D. La.
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Attorney Organization Civil Rights Corps
Case Summary
On September 17, 2015, indigent former criminal defendants filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs sued the City of New Orleans, the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court (OPCDC), the court’s judges, judicial ... read more >
On September 17, 2015, indigent former criminal defendants filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The plaintiffs sued the City of New Orleans, the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court (OPCDC), the court’s judges, judicial administrators, and the city’s sheriff department, all under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by the Civil Rights Corps and private counsel, sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief, claiming violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had a practice of imprisoning individuals who had failed to pay court debts without meaningfully determining whether the individuals had the ability to pay the debt. Moreover, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants issued unlawful warrants for their arrest and illegally kept them imprisoned.

The defendants moved to dismiss the sheriff from the lawsuit on October 3, 2015, and later on November, 2, 2015, the defendants moved to dismiss several of individual defendants from the lawsuit. The defendants argued three points: first, that there was a lack of jurisdiction to retain the defendants in this lawsuit, second, that the plaintiff did not join indispensable parties to the lawsuit, and third, that the judicial defendants enjoyed qualified immunity. On April 21, 2016, Judge Sarah Vance denied the defendants request to dismiss the defendants on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction and failure to join indispensable parties. 186 F.Supp.3d 536.

On May 3, 2016, Judge Vance granted in part and denied in part the defendants' request to dismiss the judicial defendants on the grounds that they enjoyed absolute and qualified immunity. On May 11, 2016, the court dismissed the judicial administrator along with several other defendants from the lawsuit. However, the court still allowed the plaintiffs to seek declaratory relief. 184 F.Supp.3d 349. The parties began settlement negotiations.

On December 13, 2017, Judge Vance granted partial summary judgement in favor of the plaintiff. The Court found that (1) judges had a policy/practice of failing to conduct any inquiry into plaintiffs’ ability to pay court debts before plaintiffs are imprisoned for non-payment; (2) this failure to inquire violated due process; (3) judges’ control over both fines and fees revenue and ability-to-pay determinations violated due process; and (4) judges faced a substantial conflict of interest when they were determining the ability to pay fines and fees.

On April 24, 2018, the plaintiffs and the Orleans Parish Sheriff reached a compromise about two related civil actions, and so the court ordered partial dismissal without costs and without prejudice to the right to reopen those actions, retaining jurisdiction to enforce that settlement if it was not consummated within 60 days.

On August 2, 2018, Judge Vance granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification as all persons who owe or will incur court debts arising from cases adjudicated in OPCDC, with the subclass of all members whose debts are at least partly owed to the OPCDC Judicial Expense Fund. On August 3, 2018, the court filed a declaratory judgment, holding that the Judges’ policy or practice of not inquiring into the ability of the persons falling within the certified class to pay before they are imprisoned for non-payment of court debts was unconstitutional, and that the Judges’ failure to provide a neutral forum for determination of such persons’ ability to pay was also unconstitutional. The court invoked the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits a state actor from arresting or detaining a criminal defendant solely for failure to pay a court-imposed debt absent a determination of ability to pay, and which also requires a state court to provide a neutral forum in which to adjudicate ability to pay. 2018 WL 3657447.

On August 21, 2018, defendants appealed to Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and as of October 2018, the appeal is ongoing.

Sean Whetstone - 05/25/2018
Dawn Lui - 11/02/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Bail/Bond
Conditions of confinement
Conflict of interest
Courts
False arrest
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Funding
Over/Unlawful Detention
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) New Orleans City
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court
Orleans Parish Sheriff
Plaintiff Description Indigent criminal defendants of Louisiana that were jailed pursuant to New Orlean's policy of imprisoning individuals who cannot pay court fees and costs.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Civil Rights Corps
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
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
2:15-cv-4479 (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-LA-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 7]
CJ-LA-0011-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/21/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 8]
CJ-LA-0011-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/22/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 61] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/05/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 109] (186 F.Supp.3d 536) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/21/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 111] (184 F.Supp.3d 349) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/22/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 119] (184 F.Supp.3d 379) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/03/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 123] (2016 WL 2742374) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/11/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 124] (2016 WL 2753356) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0015.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/11/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 125] (2016 WL 2849498) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0016.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 126] (2016 WL 2849478) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0017.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 136] (2016 WL 2962912) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/23/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motion [ECF# 179] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/04/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 228] (2017 WL 467685) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0021.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/03/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Certify a Class [ECF# 230]
CJ-LA-0011-0022.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/10/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 249] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0025.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/19/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 279] (281 F.Supp.3d 624) (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0028.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/13/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion to Certify a Class [ECF# 296]
CJ-LA-0011-0030.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/23/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Partial Dismissal [ECF# 298] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0031.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/24/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order and Reasons [ECF# 318] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0034.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/02/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Declaratory Judgment [ECF# 319] (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0035.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/03/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Vance, Sarah S. (E.D. La.)
CJ-LA-0011-0008 | CJ-LA-0011-0010 | CJ-LA-0011-0011 | CJ-LA-0011-0012 | CJ-LA-0011-0014 | CJ-LA-0011-0015 | CJ-LA-0011-0016 | CJ-LA-0011-0017 | CJ-LA-0011-0018 | CJ-LA-0011-0021 | CJ-LA-0011-0025 | CJ-LA-0011-0028 | CJ-LA-0011-0031 | CJ-LA-0011-0034 | CJ-LA-0011-0035 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Wilkinson, Joseph C. Jr. (E.D. La.) [Magistrate]
CJ-LA-0011-0019 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fuad, David P. (California)
CJ-LA-0011-0030 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Greenbaum, Jon M. (District of Columbia)
CJ-LA-0011-0022 | CJ-LA-0011-0030 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Guy, Jonathan P. (District of Columbia)
CJ-LA-0011-0022 | CJ-LA-0011-0030 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Hanley, Christine Elizabeth (Washington)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
CJ-LA-0011-0001 | CJ-LA-0011-0002 | CJ-LA-0011-0003 | CJ-LA-0011-0022 | CJ-LA-0011-0030 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Kelley, Mateya (District of Columbia)
CJ-LA-0011-0022 | CJ-LA-0011-0030 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Kwan, Judy (California)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Lellelid, Anna (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-0001 | CJ-LA-0011-0002 | CJ-LA-0011-0003 | CJ-LA-0011-0022 | CJ-LA-0011-0030 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Lo, Hsiwen (California)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Quigley, William Patrick (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-0001 | CJ-LA-0011-0002 | CJ-LA-0011-0003 | CJ-LA-0011-0022 | CJ-LA-0011-0030 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Ratner, Emily Faye (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Ryan, Hallie (District of Columbia)
CJ-LA-0011-0022 | CJ-LA-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Arcuri, Blake J (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Brustowicz, Celeste (California)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Darnell, Michael Charles (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Doubleday, Elizabeth A. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Hansell, Churita H. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Matthews, Freeman Rudolph (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
O'Boyle, Inemesit U. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Phayer, Dennis J. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Richardson, Timothy R (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Sherman, Matthew Arthur (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Swensek, Adam J. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Tankersley, Christopher Kent (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Taplin, Cherrell Simms (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Williams, James M. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Williams, Sharonda R. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Other Lawyers Andrews, Emily G. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000
Carbonette, Madeline S. (Louisiana)
CJ-LA-0011-9000

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