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Case Name Cleveland v. City of Montgomery & Watts v. City of Montgomery CJ-AL-0020
Docket / Court 2:13-cv-00732 ( M.D. Ala. )
Additional Docket(s) 2:13-cv-00733  [ 13-733 ]  Middle District of AL (U.S.)
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
On August 28, 2013, an indigent detainee in the Montgomery Municipal Jail filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama. The plaintiff sued the City of Montgomery and the Honorable Milton J. Westry under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The petitioner, represented by the Southern Poverty ... read more >
On August 28, 2013, an indigent detainee in the Montgomery Municipal Jail filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama. The plaintiff sued the City of Montgomery and the Honorable Milton J. Westry under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The petitioner, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, requested the court quash the Municipal Court order requiring the petitioner to serve an imprisonment term of 54 days. Petitioner claimed that the Municipal Court order violated Sixth Amendment, due process, and equal protection clause. The plaintiff was an indigent woman who accumulated $2,714.00 in fines and fees on traffic tickets that she received in 2008 and 2009. On August 20, 2013, the plaintiff was arrested and brought to the Montgomery Municipal Jail. The next day, the plaintiff appeared before Defendant Judge Westry, who told the plaintiff that she must pay $1,554.00 immediately or serve 31 days in jail. When the plaintiff informed Judge Westry that she would not be able to pay after only recently securing a part-time job, Judge Westry ordered the that her outstanding fines be converted into a term of imprisonment in the Montgomery Municipal Jail. Petitioner was not appointed a lawyer during the previously described court proceeding.

After filing an emergency petition for writ of certiorari, the case was removed from state court to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on October 4, 2013. On the same day, the petitioner filed an amended complaint, seeking declaratory relief. Another indigent detainee filed a similar suit after he was taken into custody to serve a 54 day sentence for his inability to pay his traffic fees. Cleveland v. City of Montgomery, 2014 WL 6461900, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Nov 17, 2014). On October 28, 2013, the petitioner filed a motion to consolidate both cases. On November 12, 2013, petitioners amended their complaint and additionally sought injunctive relief. Judge Mark E. Fuller granted the motion to consolidate both cases on November 14, 2013.

Discovery began on December 23, 2013. During discovery, a similar case raising comparable claims, Mitchell v. City of Montgomery, was filed. 2014 WL 6461900, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Nov 17, 2014). The court in Mitchell v. City of Montgomery entered a preliminary injunction that ordered the City of Montgomery to submit a comprehensive set of judicial procedures to implement for the collection of future fines. On May 14, 2014, petitioners motioned to have limited participation in the Mitchell v. City of Montgomery hearing regarding the proposed judicial procedures. 2014 WL 6461900, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Nov 17, 2014). On May 27, 2014, Judge Fuller granted the petitioners’ motion in part and denied it in part. Judge Fuller determined that the petitioners were only permitted to participate in the Mitchell hearings orally and through ancillary briefings to provide perspective on the legal sufficiency of the City’s proposed plan. Cleveland v. City of Montgomery, 300 F.R.D. 578, 581 (M.D. Ala. May 27, 2014).

Following the petitioners' participation, all parties decided to engage in private mediation to create judicial procedures that would satisfy federal and state-law requirements. 2014 WL 6461900, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Nov 17, 2014). On August 28, 2014, both parties submitted a joint motion to approve the proposed settlement agreement. In the initial agreement, both parties submitted an agreement to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and provide a list of basic premises and procedures that the Montgomery Municipal Court would abide by with regards to indigent defendants unable to pay any court-ordered monies, including fines, court costs, or restitution. The parties filed an amended joint motion for entry of agreed settlement order on September 12, 2014. The amended motion included a joint brief in support and requested that the court issue three declarations:
(1) Under the current status of the law, the constitutional principles set out in Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660, 103 S.Ct. 2064, 76 L.Ed.2d 221 (1983), regarding incarceration for non-payment, and Turner v. Rogers, 131 S.Ct. 2507, 180 L.Ed.2d 452 (2011), regarding notice, apply in municipal-court proceedings, and that, to the extent applicable in a particular case, the judges of the Montgomery Municipal Court are legally required to follow them.
(2) that the proposed judicial procedures facially comply with the constitutional principles set out in Bearden, regarding incarceration for non-payment, and Turner, regarding notice. In Bearden, the Supreme Court held that, under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause, a trial court cannot “automatically revok[e] probation because [a] petitioner could not pay his fine, without determining that petitioner had not made sufficient bona fide efforts to pay or that adequate alternative forms of punishment did not exist.” 461 U.S. at 662.
(3) the proposed judicial procedures facially comply with the requirements of the Fourteenth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution, §§ 13, 64, and 225 of the Alabama Constitution, and Rule 26.11 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure.
2014 WL 6461900, at *3-5 (M.D. Ala. Nov 17, 2014). Judge Myron H. Thompson submitted an opinion granting the parties’ joint motion for entry of agreed settlement order and subsequent final judgment on the docket on November 17, 2014. The case is closed.

Kimberly Goshey - 06/03/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Race, unspecified
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Montgomery
Honorable Milton J. Westry
Plaintiff Description Indigent individuals that owed outstanding traffic fines, fees, and costs to the Montgomery Municipal Court forced to serve time in jail for their inability to pay.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Poverty Law Center
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
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2013
Case Closing Year 2014
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:13-cv-00732 (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0020-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0020-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/03/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 10]
CJ-AL-0020-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/12/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Joint Motion for Agreed Settlement [ECF# 56]
CJ-AL-0020-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/12/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 58] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0020-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Amended Joint Motion for Settlement [ECF# 59] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0020-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Moorer, Terry Fitzgerald (M.D. Ala., S.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0020-9000
Thompson, Myron Herbert (N.D. Ala., M.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0020-0004 | CJ-AL-0020-0005 | CJ-AL-0020-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brooke, Samuel (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0020-0001 | CJ-AL-0020-0003 | CJ-AL-0020-9000
Dinielli, David Carter (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0020-0001 | CJ-AL-0020-9000
Zampierin, Sara (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0020-0001 | CJ-AL-0020-0002 | CJ-AL-0020-0003 | CJ-AL-0020-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Holliday, Shannon L. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0020-0003 | CJ-AL-0020-9000
Paulk, Jason Cole (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0020-0003 | CJ-AL-0020-9000
Segall, Robert D. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0020-0003 | CJ-AL-0020-9000

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