University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Harold v. Richards CJ-PA-0005
Docket / Court 2:18-cv-00115-RK ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On January 10, 2018, two Philadelphia residents convicted for possession of small amounts of drugs filed this class lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs sued three secretaries of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the governor of ... read more >
On January 10, 2018, two Philadelphia residents convicted for possession of small amounts of drugs filed this class lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs sued three secretaries of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the governor of Pennsylvania because they believed a criminal state statute was unconstitutional. This statute automatically suspended a person's drivers' licenses in tandem with the conviction of a drug offense. Represented by Equal Justice Under Law, the plaintiffs sought a declaration that the statute was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, they claimed that the statute targeted drug offenders as a disfavored class of persons without a rational basis; that the process of suspending their driver’s licenses was not sufficient to satisfy Due Process; and that the statute abridged their substantive Due Process rights to travel on interstate roadways. They also sought injunctive relief to enjoin state officials from implementing the statute.

The plaintiffs sought class certification on behalf of all individuals whose Pennsylvania driver’s licenses were suspended or would be suspended due to conviction of a drug offense. They also sought preliminary injunctive relief to immediately stop the Pennsylvania government from enforcing the statute while the litigation proceeded. The plaintiffs filed both of these motions filed the day after this action was initiated.

The defendants moved to dismiss the case, or in the alternative to strike the class action motion, on April 16, 2018. The court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss on September 25, 2018. The court dismissed the original complaint with prejudice, preventing the plaintiffs from amending their complaint. Judge Cynthia Rufe found that there was a rational basis for the Pennsylvania legislature’s discrimination against drug offenders by suspending their licenses, which negated the Equal Protection claim. She also ruled against the procedural and substantive Due Process claims, stating that the criminal process which convicted the plaintiffs was sufficient process. The statute did not deny the plaintiffs the right to interstate travel—just the right to a Pennsylvania driver’s license, which was not a fundamental right. Judge Rufe concluded that the plaintiffs had raised meritorious policy arguments against the statute, but that the court was limited to only striking down unconstitutional statutes, not unwise ones.

This ended the action and the case is now closed.

Nathan Santoscoy - 02/06/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Forfeiture
Racial profiling
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Deputy Secretary for Driver and Vehicle Services
Executive Deputy Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Governor of Pennsylvania
Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Plaintiff Description Two Philadelphia residents, both convicted of possession of drugs, who had their drivers' licenses suspended under 75 Pa. Cons. Stat §1532(c).
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
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2018
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:18-cv-00115-RK (E.D. Pa.)
CJ-PA-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-PA-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/10/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 37] (334 F.Supp.3d 635) (E.D. Pa.)
CJ-PA-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Rufe, Cynthia M. (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-0002 | CJ-PA-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Goldstein, Zak (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-0001 | CJ-PA-0005-9000
Hatton, Marissa (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-0001 | CJ-PA-0005-9000
Ramaswamy, Rebecca R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-0001 | CJ-PA-0005-9000
Sevcenko, Catherine B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-0001 | CJ-PA-0005-9000
Telfeyan, Phil (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-0001 | CJ-PA-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Aryani, Hedya (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-9000
Bassman, Barak (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-9000
Kovatis, Stephen R. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-9000
Pratt, A Michael (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-9000
Yaniak, Janine P (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-9000
Yu, Kay Kyungsun (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-9000
Zaffarese, Joseph (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
CJ-PA-0005-9000

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