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Case Name Johnson v. Jessup CJ-NC-0008
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-00467 ( M.D. N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
On May 30, 2018, two low-income citizens facing permanent license revocation filed this class action in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Thomas D. Schroeder. The plaintiffs sued the commissioner of the North Carolina Division of ... read more >
On May 30, 2018, two low-income citizens facing permanent license revocation filed this class action in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Thomas D. Schroeder. The plaintiffs sued the commissioner of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) under §1983 for alleged violations of Fourteenth Amendment Due Process. The plaintiff class was represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU of North Carolina.

The parties sought class action status for a statewide class of those whose driver’s licenses had been indefinitely revoked for failure to pay traffic tickets. The state's statute required automatic license revocation 40 days after a court judgment and nonpayment of the traffic ticket. This affected hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents. The class claimed the DMV’s enforcement of the statute failed to assess the plaintiffs’ abilities to pay or whether their non-payment was willful, because the DMV revoked licenses before conducting pre-deprivation hearings. The plaintiff class sought declaratory relief stating that the North Carolina statute and the DMV’s enforcement was unconstitutional. They also sought to enjoin the DMV from revoking future licenses with a preliminary and permanent injunction, and to mandate the DMV to lift prior revocations. The plaintiffs requested to certify two classes of individuals: first, those in danger of having their licenses indefinitely revoked in the near future, and second, those who already had their licenses indefinitely revoked.

On August 7, 2018, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that added two plaintiffs to the suit and a second motion for preliminary injunction. On August 21, 2018 the defendant filed an answer to the amended complaint and a motion for judgment on the pleadings.

On March 31, 2019, Judge Schroeder filed an opinion and order on the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings and class certification. 381 F.Supp.3d 619. He granted judgment in favor of the defendants on the substantive due process and equal protection claims, saying that because the right to possess a drivers license does not impede a constitutionally enshrined right, like access to counsel or the courts, it is not subject to fundamental fairness review. He added that this policy easily passes rational basis review, since it is meant to compel compliance with traffic laws. However, he noted that the defendants did not ask for judgment on the plaintiff's due process claims, so those claims continued. He certified both classes.

The plaintiffs appealed Judge Schroeder's decision to enter judgment in favor of the defendants on the substantive due process and equal protection claims on April 17, 2019, Fourth Circuit docket 19-1421. One week later, Judge Schroeder granted a motion to stay proceedings until the appeals court makes a decision on the case.

The appeal has been fully briefed, and oral argument was initially set for March 17, 2020, but it was rescheduled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 2020, a new oral argument date has not yet been set. The case is ongoing.

Hannah Basalone - 10/10/2018
Ellen Aldin - 06/05/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Commissioner
Plaintiff Description A class of individuals whose driver's licenses will be revoked in the future and a class of individuals whose driver's licenses have been revoked without an inquiry into the individual's ability to pay.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 05/30/2018
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)
  Johnson v. Jessup
https://www.aclu.org
Date: May 30, 2018
By: American Civil Liberties Union
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:18−cv−00467−TDS−LPA (M.D. N.C.)
CJ-NC-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-NC-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/30/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 35]
CJ-NC-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Second Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 36]
CJ-NC-0008-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Second Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 38]
CJ-NC-0008-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 65] (381 F.Supp.3d 619) (M.D. N.C.)
CJ-NC-0008-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/31/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Auld, Patrick Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000
Schroeder, Thomas D. (M.D. N.C.) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-0005 | CJ-NC-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Becker, Cristina M. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-0001 | CJ-NC-0008-0002 | CJ-NC-0008-0003 | CJ-NC-0008-0004 | CJ-NC-0008-9000
Brook, Christopher (North Carolina) show/hide docs
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Brooke, Samuel (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Choudhury, Nusrat Jahan (New York) show/hide docs
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Como, Irena (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000
Danjuma, R. Orion (California) show/hide docs
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Davis, Danielle E. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Early, Emily C.R. (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Graunke, Kristi L. (Georgia) show/hide docs
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Johnson, Ivy A (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000
Loperfido, Jeffrey (North Carolina) show/hide docs
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Seawell, Emily Elizabeth (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000
Shah, Sneha M. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Brennan, Stephanie A. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000
Dalton, Neil C. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000
Hathcock, Kathryne E. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000
Matthews, Ann W. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000
Peters, Alexander Mcclure (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-NC-0008-9000

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