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Case Name Brucker v. The City of Doraville CJ-GA-0015
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-02375 ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Institute for Justice
Case Summary
The city of Doraville relied on its municipal court as a source of revenue. The city received millions of dollars of its budget from court fines and forfeitures. As Doraville’s City Council heavily relied on these revenues to balance the city’s budget, its municipal court personnel, who serve ... read more >
The city of Doraville relied on its municipal court as a source of revenue. The city received millions of dollars of its budget from court fines and forfeitures. As Doraville’s City Council heavily relied on these revenues to balance the city’s budget, its municipal court personnel, who serve at the pleasure of the City Council, had a financial incentive to convict defendants. In addition, the city’s law enforcement personnel, who also ultimately serve at the pleasure of its City Council, had an incentive to ticket and prosecute to raise revenue.

On May 23, 2018, four individuals who had been ticketed or threatened to be ticketed by the City of Doraville filed this lawsuit in U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia. The case was assigned to Judge Richard W. Story. Represented by Strickland Brockington Lewis, LLP, and the Institute for Justice, the plaintiffs sued the City of Doraville under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the Declaratory Judgments Act. The plaintiffs alleged that the City’s policy and practice of using its law enforcement and municipal court system for revenue generation violated the plaintiffs' due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, the complaint claimed that the “financial incentive to ticket and prosecute injects an unconstitutional financial bias or an appearance of such bias into law enforcement and prosecutorial discretion.” The plaintiffs sought declarative and injunctive relief from Doraville’s policy and practice of budgeting to receive revenues from fines and fees.

The defendant sought to dismiss the complaint on July 2, 2018, claiming that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and the complaint failed to state a claim as a matter of law. On April 1, 2019, the court (Judge Richard Story) denied in part the motion to dismiss. The court found that the plaintiffs successfully alleged standing, as the complaint is replete with allegations showing that plaintiffs were personally harmed, and are likely to be harmed in the future, from the city’s allegedly unlawful actions. Regarding the complaint’s failure to state a claim as a matter of law, the court found itself “unable to adequately assess whether Plaintiffs’ claims are legally cognizable...as a result of the paucity of relevant case law.” As such, the court ordered a hearing to address the proper standard of review and its application in this case. 2019 WL 3557893. This hearing was held on June 4, 2019.

After reconsidering the motion to dismiss, the court denied the motion on July 9, 2019. Stating that “to state a plausible due process claim for institutional bias, Plaintiffs must allege sufficient facts to establish two things: (1) that there is a conflict of interest and (2) that the conflict of interest is substantial”, the court found that the plaintiffs established both. 391 F.Supp.3d 1207.

As of June 2020, this case is ongoing.

Michael Beech - 01/27/2019
Bogyung Lim - 06/08/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) The City of Doraville
Plaintiff Description Four individuals threatened with tickets or ticketed by the City of Doraville.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Institute for Justice
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 05/23/2018
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)
  "Hate speed traps and tickets? These people are fighting back."
https://finesandfeesjusticecenter.org
Date: May 24, 2018
(Fines and Fees Justice Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:18-cv-02375 (N.D. Ga.)
CJ-GA-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/05/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-GA-0015-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/23/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 30] (2019 WL 3557893) (N.D. Ga.)
CJ-GA-0015-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/01/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 39] (391 F.Supp.3d 1207) (N.D. Ga.)
CJ-GA-0015-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/09/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Story, Richard W. (N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
CJ-GA-0015-0002 | CJ-GA-0015-0003 | CJ-GA-0015-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers House, Joshua (Virginia) show/hide docs
CJ-GA-0015-0001 | CJ-GA-0015-9000
Maurer, William R. (Washington) show/hide docs
CJ-GA-0015-9000
Sanders, Anthony (Minnesota) show/hide docs
CJ-GA-0015-0001 | CJ-GA-0015-9000
Strickland, Frank B. (Georgia) show/hide docs
CJ-GA-0015-0001 | CJ-GA-0015-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Gray, Harvey Scott (Georgia) show/hide docs
CJ-GA-0015-9000
Joseph, Alexandra M (Georgia) show/hide docs
CJ-GA-0015-9000
Lee, Dianna J. (Georgia) show/hide docs
CJ-GA-0015-9000

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