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Case Name Dixon v. City of St. Louis CJ-MO-0023
Docket / Court 4:19-cv-00112 ( E.D. Mo. )
Additional Docket(s) 19-2251  [ 19-2251 ]  Federal Court of Appeals
19-2254  [ 19-2254 ]  Federal Court of Appeals
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Advancement Project
ArchCity Defenders
Civil Rights Corps
Case Summary
On January 28, 2019, several arrestees from St. Louis filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. None of the four named plaintiffs could afford to pay their monetary release conditions, which ranged from $10,000 to $30,000, and were thus ... read more >
On January 28, 2019, several arrestees from St. Louis filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. None of the four named plaintiffs could afford to pay their monetary release conditions, which ranged from $10,000 to $30,000, and were thus incarcerated at one of the City’s two detention centers without access to showers or medical care and forced to endure unconscionable conditions, including extreme heat and cold, rat and cockroach infestations, mold, and abuse of inmates by jail guards.

The Plaintiffs sued the City of St. Louis, its officers, and judges responsible for setting release conditions in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The Plaintiffs alleged violations of their Equal Protection and Due Process rights through the Defendants’ policy of setting arbitrary monetary release conditions that exceeded an individual’s ability to pay and by detaining the Plaintiffs solely on their inability to pay. They claimed that holding the Plaintiffs in pretrial detention violated their Substantive Due Process rights by failing to consider each detainee’s particular likelihood to appear and their threats of danger to the community. Finally, they claimed that the Defendants violated the Plaintiffs’ Procedural Due Process rights by detaining them for weeks before giving them a hearing or opportunity to challenge or modify their release conditions. Represented by a collection of public interest organizations including ArchCity Defenders, the Advancement Project, Civil Rights Corps, and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, the Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to permanently enjoin the Defendants from implementing a wealth-based pretrial detention system. They sought class certification as “all arrestees who are or will be detained in the Medium Security Institution (referred to as ‘the Workhouse’) or the City Justice Center (‘CJC), operated by the City of St. Louis, post-arrest because they are unable to afford to pay a monetary release condition.” In addition, the Plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order requiring the Sheriff and Commissioner of Corrections to release the Plaintiffs unless they were provided a hearing. The case was ultimately assigned to Judge Audrey G. Fleissig.

On January 30, 2019, the parties reached a Stipulation Agreement (which obviated the Plaintiffs’ need for a hearing on the request for a temporary restraining order). The Agreement provided that a Judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit would hold a hearing for each Named Plaintiff regarding his conditions of release before the end of the day on January 31, 2019. The Agreement also provided that the Defendant Judges would comply with the Missouri Supreme Court Rules regarding the conditions of release, as well as a number of procedural requirements, including (1) allowing Plaintiffs to present evidence and contest evidence, (2) having the hearings on the record in open court, and (3) maintaining and making the records available for review. The next day, the Defendant Judges held bond hearings for the named Plaintiffs. Two were released without bond, with other conditions. Two did not receive a reduction in bond. Plaintiff’s counsel posted bail for the two detained Plaintiffs, and on February 5, 2019, they were also released.

On February 21, 2019, the Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, seeking to enjoin the Defendant Jail Commissioner from enforcing any bail order that operated as a de facto detention order due to an arrestee’s inability to pay (unless accompanied by a determination that there are no less restrictive alternatives to ensure the arrestee’s future court appearance and public safety). Specifically, the Plaintiffs sought the following procedural protections:
1. notice of the nature and significance of the financial information required,
2. a prompt hearing, on the record, regarding the person’s inability to pay
3. legal counsel at such hearings
4. findings on the record as to whether the person has the ability to pay
5. clear and convincing evidence supporting the necessity of detention
Shortly after, the City Defendants and the Defendant Judges separately filed motions to dismiss the case on March 1, 2019. The City Defendants asserted that they had no authority to establish bail conditions and no policy or custom of silencing arrestees in initial appearances. The Defendant Judges asserted theories of immunity and abstention.

On June 11, 2019, the Court issued an opinion granting class certification, denying the Defendants’ motions to dismiss, and granting the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. 2019 WL 2437026. With regard to class certification, the Court decided that the class met all the requirements under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; furthermore, the Court held that although the named Plaintiffs had received bond hearings and were no longer detained, this did not moot the claims of the unnamed members of the class. The class was certified as “all arrestees who are or will be detained in the Medium Security Institution (the Workhouse) or the City Justice Center (CJC), operated by the City of St. Louis, post-arrest because they are unable to afford to pay a monetary release condition,” and the Plaintiffs’ counsel was appointed counsel for the class. With regard to the Defendant Judges’ motion to dismiss, the Court found that the Plaintiffs could seek a declaratory judgment against a judge in his or her official capacity under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and that the Plaintiffs could seek injunctive relief because they did not necessarily have an adequate remedy at law. With regard to the City’s motion to dismiss, the Court found that the Plaintiffs had successfully stated a claim for municipal liability under Monell by alleging facts to draw an inference that the constitutional violation occurred as a result of the City’s alleged policy or custom to inform detained individuals that they are not allowed to speak during their initial appearances. Finally, with regard to the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, the Court concluded that the motion was meritorious, finding that the Plaintiffs had a high probability of success on their claim and the prolonged incarceration would result in irreparable harm to the Plaintiff class.

Both the City Defendants and the Defendant Judges separately appealed the preliminary injunction order to the Eighth Circuit on June 13, 2019, and the docket numbers 19-2251 and 19-2254 were assigned.

The Defendants also moved to stay the preliminary injunction pending the appeal. On June 17, 2019, the District Court denied the motion to stay the preliminary injunction. 2019 WL 2509792. However, the District Court granted a limited extension of time to conduct hearings for the approximately 700 arrestees already in detention. The parties were to confer and submit a joint plan for hearings for the backlog detainees. In the meantime, Judge Fleissig ordered the Defendant Judges to conduct 30 hearings a day, Monday through Wednesday.

Two days later, both the City Defendants and the Defendant Judges filed motions in the Eighth Circuit to stay the injunction pending the appeal. On July 3, 2019, the Eighth Circuit granted the Defendants motion for a stay of the preliminary injunction pending the outcome of the appeal.

On July 23, 2019, the Defendants filed a motion to stay proceedings pending the outcome of the appeals to the Eight Circuit. As of August 13, 2019, this motion remained pending in the District Court and the appeals, likewise, remained unresolved. This case is ongoing.

Sara Stearns - 06/22/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Bail/Bond
Conditions of confinement
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) City of St. Louis
Judges in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri
Plaintiff Description All arrestees who are or will be detained in the Medium Security Institution (the Workhouse) or the City Justice Center (CJC), operated by the City of St. Louis, post-arrest because they are unable to afford to pay a monetary release condition
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Advancement Project
ArchCity Defenders
Civil Rights Corps
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing CJ-MO-0017 : Eldridge v. City of St. John (State Court)
Docket(s)
4:19-cv-00112 (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0023-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/12/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-MO-0023-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation of the Parties [ECF# 19]
CJ-MO-0023-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/30/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 95] (2019 WL 2437026) (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0023-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/11/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 110] (2019 WL 2509792) (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0023-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/17/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 124] (E.D. Mo.)
CJ-MO-0023-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/03/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Fleissig, Audrey Goldstein (E.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0003 | CJ-MO-0023-0004 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Gans, Michael E. Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Atri, Sima (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0001 | CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Friedman, Robert D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Harvey, Thomas B. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0001 | CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0001 | CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Kutnik-Bauder, Jacqueline Marie (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0001 | CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Langum, Jacki J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-9000
McCord, Mary B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-9000
Strode, Blake Alexander (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0001 | CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Voss, Michael-John (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0001 | CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Waldron, John McCann (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0001 | CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Wayne, Seth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0001 | CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Albus, Thomas C. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Bruyns, Megan Kathleen G. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-9000
Dierker, Robert H. Jr. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-0002 | CJ-MO-0023-9000
Isaacson, Robert J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-9000
Pritchett, Michael (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-9000
Reed, Peter T. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-9000
Sauer, Dean John (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-9000
Shull, Charles D. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0023-9000

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