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Case Name Ingram v. County of Wayne PN-MI-0011
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-10288-AJT-EAS ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization Institute for Justice
Case Summary
On February 4, 2020, three Michigan residents whose vehicles were seized and impounded by police filed this putative class action lawsuit against Wayne County in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs, represented by the public interest organization Institute ... read more >
On February 4, 2020, three Michigan residents whose vehicles were seized and impounded by police filed this putative class action lawsuit against Wayne County in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs, represented by the public interest organization Institute for Justice and private counsel, sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983; they contended that Wayne County's vehicle seizure policies and practices are unconstitutional. They sought declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief for violations of the 4th Amendment, the excessive fines clause of the 8th Amendment, and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The complaint alleged that Wayne County's policies create incentives for "the seizure of property without probable cause" and are designed to "maximize revenue" rather than fight crime. Wayne County allegedly seized and impounded cars "based simply on their proximity to crimes" committed by someone other than the driver. Once confiscated, plaintiffs were allegedly forced to pay "arbitrary fees" or go through a lengthy nuisance-abatement proceeding without the opportunity to assert an "innocent owners" defense.

For the named plaintiff, her car was allegedly impounded because her boyfriend was suspected of engaging in prostitution-related activities. She alleged that her car was impounded twice merely because it was in proximity to prostitution and drug-related activities, and that she was ultimately forced to pay a flat redemption fee to reclaim her vehicle, without an opportunity to assert that she was not present or involved in the alleged activity that prompted the seizure. This process ultimately forced her to file for bankruptcy and lose her car.

The plaintiffs seek to certify a class of "persons who own a vehicle (or other property within a vehicle) that has been or will be seized by Defendant Wayne County on or after February 5, 2018 and before the date of class
certification, whether pursuant to Michigan’s Controlled Substances Act (MCL 333.7521, et seq.), the Public Nuisances chapter of the Revised Judicature Act of 1961 (MCL 600.3801, et seq.), or the so-called Omnibus Forfeiture Act (MCL 600.4701, et seq.)," as well as a subclass of individuals who had their vehicles so seized when they were not present or present but not suspected of any wrongdoing.

The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on March 12, 2020. They argued that the named plaintiff lacked standing and suffered no constitutional violation because she waived any challenge to the seizure of her property. Further, they contended that there was probable cause - the car was suspected of being connected to prostitution-related activities - to seize her vehicle, and that therefore she had no legal claim.

On May 1, 2020, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to specify that the police did not have probable cause to suspect any prostitution-related activities. Additionally, the amended complaint added an new plaintiff to the lawsuit and greater detail about Wayne County's alleged unconstitutional processes and their impact on the defendants.

As of May 31, 2020, the case is ongoing with Judge Arthur J. Tarnow presiding.

Graham Rotenberg - 05/31/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Forfeiture
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) County of Wayne
Plaintiff Description Three Detroit residents who had their cars seized and impounded by Wayne County.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Institute for Justice
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 02/04/2020
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)
  Detroit Civil Forfeiture
Institute for Justice
Date: Feb. 5, 2020
By: Institute for Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:20−cv−10288−AJT−EAS (E.D. Mich.)
PN-MI-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-MI-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/04/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 12]
PN-MI-0011-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Stafford, Elizabeth A. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PN-MI-0011-9000
Tarnow, Arthur J. (E.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PN-MI-0011-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cavanaugh, Jaimie N (Minnesota) show/hide docs
PN-MI-0011-0002 | PN-MI-0011-9000
Hottot, Wesley (Washington) show/hide docs
PN-MI-0011-0001 | PN-MI-0011-0002 | PN-MI-0011-9000
Morris, Barton W Jr (Michigan) show/hide docs
PN-MI-0011-0001 | PN-MI-0011-0002 | PN-MI-0011-9000
West, Kirby Thomas (Virginia) show/hide docs
PN-MI-0011-0001 | PN-MI-0011-0002 | PN-MI-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Stella, Davidde Alessandro (Michigan) show/hide docs
PN-MI-0011-9000

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