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Case Name Edwards v. Leaders in Community Alternatives, Inc. CJ-CA-0022
Docket / Court 3:18-cv-04609-JSC ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On July 31, 2018, the plaintiffs, persons required to wear and pay for GPS ankle monitors, filed this class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued the company that created and distributed the ankle monitors, the parent company, ... read more >
On July 31, 2018, the plaintiffs, persons required to wear and pay for GPS ankle monitors, filed this class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued the company that created and distributed the ankle monitors, the parent company, several individual employees of the company, Alameda County, and the Chief Judge and Chief Probation Officer of Alameda County. Represented by Equal Justice Under the Law, the plaintiffs brought their claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the Fourteenth Amendment, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The case was assigned to Judge William Alsup.

The plaintiffs claimed that they, and others similarly situated, could not afford to pay the high fees required by the company that made and maintained the ankle monitors. The plaintiffs argued that because they were threatened with imprisonment if they did not make these payments, the high fees constituted a pattern of racketeering activity that caused the plaintiffs damage, including financial harm, disruption of family ties, deterioration of health, and mental stress. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant company violated their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by erecting unnecessary barriers and using deceptive and illegal practices to ensure supervisees lacked (a) access to fee adjustments to which they are lawfully entitled, (b) ability-to-pay-inquiries, (c) adequate notice of fee calculation, and (d) neutral judicial review of fee demands.

The plaintiffs also claimed that the company defendants violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by violating their right not to be imprisoned or punished simply because of their wealth status. The plaintiffs argued that the county defendants violated the plaintiffs' rights under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by allowing the company defendants to violate the plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Lastly, the plaintiffs claimed that the company defendants engage in abuse of process by using the Alameda County court system to extort fees from people sentenced to Leaders in Community Alternative's (LCA) ankle monitoring program who do not have the financial resources to meet LCA's demands for payment.

The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that subjecting the plaintiffs to the defendants' alleged conduct was unlawful; an order and judgment preliminarily and permanently enjoining the defendants from continuing the above-described policies and practices against the plaintiffs and the class of similarly situated people; a judgment compensating the plaintiffs and the class of similarly situated individuals for the damages that they suffered as a result of the defendants' unconstitutional and unlawful conduct; a judgment granting the treble and punitive damages authorized by statute based on the Defendants' willful and egregious violations of the law; and an order and judgment granting reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

On October 5, 2018, the plaintiffs voluntarily moved for dismissal of the Chief Judge of Alameda County, and Judge Alsup dismissed the charges on the same day.

On October 11, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs responded on November 1, 2018 and the case was referred to Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu for Mediation and Settlement.

Judge William Alsup granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss on December 14, 2018. 2018 WL 6591449. Judge Alsup first addressed issues of standing and abstention before moving to the plaintiffs’ Constitutional and RICO claims. Judge Alsup found that he could not grant injunctive relief because none of the plaintiffs are currently participating in the defendant ankle-monitoring company’s electronic-monitoring program. Additionally, Judge Alsup found that the plaintiffs cannot seek injunctive relief on behalf of the putative class even if they themselves lack standing. Judge Alsup then denied the defendants motion to dismiss on abstention grounds, citing the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in Almodovar v. Reiner, “Probation is not a pending criminal action for Younger purposes.”

Judge Alsup then moved to the Constitutional claims made by the plaintiffs. First, he determined that rational-basis review applied to the plaintiffs’ Equal Protection claim against Alameda County. He dismissed the Equal Protection claim because the complaint failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that Alameda County violated the Equal Protection Clause. Next, he dismissed the plaintiffs’ Due Process claim against Alameda County, finding that the complaint failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that Alameda County had notice of any alleged misconduct by LCA. Judge Alsup then found that the complaint failed to show a causal connection between Probation Chief Still’s conduct and any constitutional violation and therefore granted the Alameda defendants’ motion to dismiss the Section 1983 claims against Probation Chief Still. Turning to Constitutional claims made against LCA, Judge Alsup found that plaintiffs failed to state a cognizable claim for a violation of their due process or equal protection rights and therefore granted the motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims against LCA.

Judge Alsup then evaluated the RICO claim. The plaintiffs failed to allege facts showing a specific intent to defraud and therefore failed to allege that the defendants engaged in wire fraud. The plaintiffs' claim under the Travel Act failed because plaintiffs failed to allege that LCA used “any facility in interstate commerce” to extort funds from. However, the plaintiffs’ allegations are sufficient to state violations of the Hobbs Act and the Penal Code. The plaintiffs’ RICO allegations survived LCA’s motion to dismiss but the motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ RICO claim as to the remaining LCA defendants was granted.

Finally, Judge Alsup reached the Abuse of Process claim. The plaintiffs failed to allege facts showing that these reports were filed to scare program participants into paying LCA’s fees, and so they did not allege a claim for abuse of process. The motion to dismiss this claim was granted.

In conclusion, the Alameda County’s motion to dismiss was granted and LCA’s motion to dismiss was granted in part and denied in part. The only claim remaining against LCA is the plaintiffs’ RICO claim.

On June 6, 2019, the court denied class certification to the plaintiffs. 2019 WL 2394428. The plaintiffs had sought certification on behalf of “[a]ll individuals who have been or will be put on LCA’s Electronic Monitoring program by the Alameda County Court system from July 31, 2014, until this litigation is complete, who were threatened with jail by LCA or any of its employees, agents, or representatives.” The court found that the type and degree of LCA employees’ threats of jail to the plaintiffs varied dramatically. The court also found no evidence of a uniform LCA policy to threaten putative class members and that putative class members varied dramatically in income level, abating the common fact of plaintiffs’ poverty. For these reasons, the court held that there were not sufficient common questions of law and fact to hold together a class.

On December 19,2019, the court granted summary judgment to the defendants. 2019 WL 6911634. In order for the plaintiffs to make out a claim under the RICO act, they needed to show predicate offenses of extortion. In order for LCA employees’ threats of jailing plaintiffs to be extortionate, the court found, the statements must have threatened direct action to send plaintiffs to jail rather than reporting failure to pay for ankle monitors to the court, the latter of which was within defendant’s legal rights. The court found no evidence of the former and granted summary judgment to defendants.

On January 15, 2020, plaintiffs appealed this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Attempts at mediating the case failed. The status of this appeal is pending.

Anna Belkin - 04/06/2019
Dan Toubman - 03/22/2020
Ellen Aldin - 05/27/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Bail/Bond
Disciplinary procedures
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq.
State law
Defendant(s) Alameda County
Leaders in Community Alternatives
SuperCom, Inc.
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are African American men who are or were required by Alameda County to be part of LCA's GPS program and pay for it out of pocket.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None
Filed 07/31/2018
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)
  Edwards v. Leaders in Community Alternatives
https://equaljusticeunderlaw.org/
Date: Jul. 31, 2018
By: Equal Justice Under Law
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
3:18-cv-4609 (C.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/08/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-CA-0022-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/31/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re Motions to Dismiss [ECF# 42] (2018 WL 6591449) (N.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0022-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re Motion Class Certification [ECF# 100] (2019 WL 2394428) (N.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0022-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/06/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 119] (2019 WL 6911634) (N.D. Cal.)
CJ-CA-0022-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/19/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Alsup, William Haskell (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
CJ-CA-0022-0002 | CJ-CA-0022-0003 | CJ-CA-0022-0004 | CJ-CA-0022-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hatton, Marissa (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-CA-0022-0001 | CJ-CA-0022-9000
Sevcenko, Catherine B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-CA-0022-0001 | CJ-CA-0022-9000
Telfeyan, Phil (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-CA-0022-0001 | CJ-CA-0022-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Coleman, Susan E. (California) show/hide docs
CJ-CA-0022-9000
Gilbert, Kevin E. (California) show/hide docs
CJ-CA-0022-9000
Strottman, Kristina Doan (California) show/hide docs
CJ-CA-0022-9000

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