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Case Name Still v. El Paso County CJ-CO-0004
Docket / Court 1:17-cv-02656 ( D. Colo. )
State/Territory Colorado
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On November 7, 2017, a former pretrial detainee who was incarcerated for several weeks in the El Paso County Colorado Jail filed suit against that county in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff, represented by the ACLU Foundation of Colorado, ... read more >
On November 7, 2017, a former pretrial detainee who was incarcerated for several weeks in the El Paso County Colorado Jail filed suit against that county in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff, represented by the ACLU Foundation of Colorado, sought compensatory damages and attorney’s fees, claiming violations of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.

The plaintiff claimed that El Paso County had an official policy and actual practice of denying pretrial liberty to defendants granted a personal recognizance (PR) bond by a state court judge, solely for their inability to pay a $55 pretrial service fee to the county. While incarcerated, the plaintiff was separated from her newborn child when child custody proceedings were initiated against her that she was unable to competently contest while she was in jail. The plaintiff also claimed that state court judges in the county believed that they could not waive this fee without express permission from a bond commissioner of El Paso County Pretrial Services; they argued that employees of that agency were disincentivized from doing so because the $55 fee is chargeable before release funded the county’s pretrial supervision program.

A little over a week after the complaint was filed, the Denver Channel reported that Chief Judge William Bain of the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Colorado, which includes all state courts in El Paso County, had ordered that detainees granted a personal recognizance bond but unable to pay the $55 pretrial services fee must be released from jail that same day.

On December 28, 2017, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint with an expanded fact section, emphasizing that El Paso County, through its sheriff, was the sole party blocking the release of detainees unable to pay the $55 fee to the county under the former policy.

The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on January 11, 2018. The county alleged that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Specifically, the county argued that the plaintiff could not demonstrate that there was such a county policy or that the county was the “moving force” of the policy as described. Before Judge Wiley Young Daniel could make a decision on this motion, the parties informed him that they were working on a private settlement. Over the next several months the judge extended several deadlines for the parties to allow them to continue exploring a private settlement.

According to the ACLU’s website, the parties agreed to settle out of court for $190,000 on August 13, 2018. According to the Gazette, the agreement was finalized once it was approved by the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners on August 14, 2018. The settlement provided $60,000 to compensate the plaintiff for her incarceration and for attorney costs. The remaining $130,000 was allocated for 183 other individuals who the parties identified who had been held in the El Paso County Jail solely for inability to pay the $55 fee. Each of them are eligible for compensation based on $125 per day of incarceration. The parties eligible for this compensation must contact the county within two years to recover these funds.

On August 17, 2018, Judge Daniel dismissed the lawsuit with consent of the parties. The case is now closed.

Veronica Portillo Heap - 09/28/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Bail/Bond
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) El Paso County
Plaintiff Description Former pretrial detainee in El Paso County, Colorado granted a personal recognizance bond by a state court judge but unable to pay a $55 county processing fee as a condition of release.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filing Year 2017
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:17-cv-2656 (D. Colo.)
CJ-CO-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/17/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-CO-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 10]
CJ-CO-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Daniel, Wiley Young (D. Colo.)
CJ-CO-0004-9000
Mix, Kristen L. (D. Colo.) [Magistrate]
CJ-CO-0004-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Silverstein, Mark (Colorado)
CJ-CO-0004-0001 | CJ-CO-0004-0002 | CJ-CO-0004-9000
Wallace, Rebecca Teitelbaum (Colorado)
CJ-CO-0004-0001 | CJ-CO-0004-0002 | CJ-CO-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hodges, Kenneth Richard (Colorado)
CJ-CO-0004-9000
Lichtman, Peter August (Colorado)
CJ-CO-0004-9000

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