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Case Name Carter v. City of Montgomery CJ-AL-0021
Docket / Court 2:15-cv-00555 ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Public Justice
Case Summary
The plaintiff, individually and on behalf of indigent individuals who have been sentenced by the Montgomery Municipal Court to probation with Judicial Correction Services, Inc. (“JCS”) for failure to pay fines, filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District ... read more >
The plaintiff, individually and on behalf of indigent individuals who have been sentenced by the Montgomery Municipal Court to probation with Judicial Correction Services, Inc. (“JCS”) for failure to pay fines, filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on August 3, 2015. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiff sued the City of Montgomery (“the City”) under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. The plaintiff alleged that the City exceeded its authority under Alabama law by requiring the municipal court to attach probation and fees to all court orders, even orders to pay fines. The plaintiff also alleged that the City violated the Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by allowing JCS, a private party hired by the City, to imprison indigent offenders for failing to pay fines without giving them a hearing or effective assistance of counsel. Lastly, the plaintiff alleged that the attorney hired by the City to represent indigent defendants failed to provide adequate counsel. The plaintiff requested declaratory judgment and injunctive relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202 and demanded that the Court void the contract between the City and JCS. The plaintiff also asked the Court to enjoin the City from outsourcing fine collection and probation services to a private party. Finally, the plaintiff sought damages for himself and all class members. The case was assigned to Judge Royce C. Lamberth.

The plaintiffs alleged that the City’s policy and practice of imprisoning indigent offenders for failing to pay fines without considering offenders’ ability to pay created a debtor’s prison where indigent offenders were forced to “sit out” their fines. This scheme allegedly benefited JCS and certain court-appointed officials, including the attorney that represented the plaintiff, and began when the City hired JCS to run the City’s probation services and to collect fines and fees from offenders. To compel offenders to pay their fines, JCS employees purportedly threatened to revoke offenders’ probation. After collection, JCS distributed a portion of the proceeds to itself and directed the rest toward the adjudged fines. When offenders failed to pay, JCS was empowered to establish payment and reporting schedules, impose additional fines, and revoke probation, despite JCS’s clear financial stake in these decisions. The plaintiffs alleged that the City rarely examined whether the fees and probation periods JCS imposed exceeded their statutory maximums. Finally, the plaintiffs asserted that the City failed to provide offenders with adequate representation, especially during indigency hearings.

The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 14, 2015 that added JCS as a defendant, as well as JCS’s successor, Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc. (“CHC”), and CHC’s parent company, CHC Companies, Inc. (“CHCC”). The amended complaint levied the same claims against the new parties and added a claim that the City and the JCS defendants engaged in racketeering under 18 U.S.C. 1962(a)–(d) by conspiring to use the municipal court’s authority and the City’s police power to extort money from the poor.

On March 10, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motions to dismiss. 2017 WL 957540. The Court noted the similarity between this case and several other cases involving the treatment of indigent persons in Alabama cities, most notably McCullough v. City of Montgomery. The Court indicated that its opinion should be read in conjunction with the opinion filed in that case and in similar cases before the Court. The Court preserved the plaintiff’s claims regarding denial of due process and Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations but struck down the plaintiff’s racketeering claims. The Court also upheld the plaintiff’s request for declaratory and injunctive relief.

The plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on August 28, 2018. This complaint replaced the racketeering claims with “money had and received” claims, which alleged that the City and the JCS defendants exceeded their authority by requiring offenders to pay illegal and exorbitant fees. The complaint also added claims of false imprisonment against these same parties.

On March 29, 2019, the Court denied the plaintiff’s motions to certify the class and for partial summary judgment, finding that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Court also found that the plaintiff’s claim for restitution was barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which prevents litigants from challenging state court orders in federal courts as a means of relitigating matters already decided by a court of competent jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court found it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the restitution claim and dismissed it.

On the same day, the Court also denied the City’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted the City’s motion to dismiss the money-had-and-received and false imprisonment claims. 2019 WL 1440284. In denying the City’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court concluded that this case was distinct enough from McCullough v. City of Montgomery to allow the plaintiff his day in court. With regard to the money-had-and-received, the Court found that the plaintiff did not state a claim because he did not adequately allege that the City retained the fees JCS collected. Finally, the Court held that the City was immune from liability for the plaintiff’s false imprisonment claim.

Several months later, on December 20, 2019, the Court denied the plaintiff’s motion for leave to file a third amended complaint, finding that the plaintiff delayed in filing the complaint and that filing it would unduly prejudice the defendants. 2019 WL 7170449.

In an extensive memorandum filed on July 7, 2020, the Court resolved defendants' independent motions for summary judgment. 2020 WL 3799690. First, the Court granted the City’s motion regarding the alleged Fourth or Eighth Amendment violations. Second, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s due process and equal protection claims that were based solely on the JCS-City contract or the alleged conspiracy between the City and JCS. Fourth, the Court found that the City was not liable for certain municipal court procedures. Finally, the Court partially granted the City’s motion on the due process, equal protection, and Sixth Amendment claims based on actions prior July 16, 2012, but denied the defendants' motion for all other due process, equal protection, and Sixth Amendment claims (which were the only remaining claims left after this order).

In the same order, the Court opined on claims pertaining to non-City defendants. The Court found that CHC was not liable for JCS’s activities and granted CHC’s motion for summary judgment. The Court also granted JCS’s motion regarding their alleged Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments violations and the money-had-and-received claim. The also Court found that JCS did not deny the plaintiff due process or equal protection as a result of alleged conspiracies between JCS and the City. The Court denied JCS’s motion as to all other aspects of the plaintiff’s due process, equal protection, Sixth Amendment, and false imprisonment claims. The Court denied the motion for summary judgment filed by the attorney hired by the City to represent indigent defendants.

This case remains ongoing.

Becca Rogers - 11/11/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Equal Protection
Excessive bail/fines
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Conflict of interest
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Over/Unlawful Detention
Poverty/homelessness
Quality of representation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq.
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. § 1589
Defendant(s) Attorney hired by City of Montgomery to represent indigent defendants
City of Montgomery
Corrections services company
Parent company to corrections services company
Successor to corrections services company
Plaintiff Description Indigent misdemeanant
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Public Justice
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Denied
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 08/03/2015
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)
  Evidence Shows Montgomery Residents Were Illegally Jailed for Inability to Pay Fines
Public Justice
Date: Jul. 16, 2020
By: Leslie Bailey
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
M.D. Ala.
11/09/2020
2:15-cv-00555
CJ-AL-0021-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
M.D. Ala.
08/03/2015
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0021-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Ala.
09/14/2015
First Amended and Restated Complaint [ECF# 18]
CJ-AL-0021-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Ala.
03/10/2017
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 97] (2017 WL 957540)
CJ-AL-0021-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Ala.
08/28/2018
Second Amended and Restated Complaint [ECF# 145]
CJ-AL-0021-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Ala.
03/29/2019
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 206] (2019 WL 1440284)
CJ-AL-0021-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Ala.
12/20/2019
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 246] (2019 WL 7170449)
CJ-AL-0021-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Ala.
07/07/2020
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 293] (2020 WL 3799690)
CJ-AL-0021-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Ala.
07/17/2020
Corrected Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 296] (473 F.Supp.3d 1273)
CJ-AL-0021-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Doyle, Stephen Michael Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Lamberth, Royce C. (FISC, D.D.C.) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-0003 | CJ-AL-0021-0005 | CJ-AL-0021-0006 | CJ-AL-0021-0007 | CJ-AL-0021-0008 | CJ-AL-0021-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bailey, Leslie A. (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Dawson, William Monroe Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-0001 | CJ-AL-0021-0002 | CJ-AL-0021-0004 | CJ-AL-0021-9000
Evans, Maurine C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Evans, G. Daniel (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-0001 | CJ-AL-0021-0002 | CJ-AL-0021-0004 | CJ-AL-0021-9000
Hardingham, Brian (California) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Marshall, Toby James (Washington) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Parrish, Alexandria (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-0001 | CJ-AL-0021-0002 | CJ-AL-0021-0004 | CJ-AL-0021-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brymer, Michael D. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Caldwell, Joel Thomas (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Fehl, Kimberly Owens (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Finch, Fredrick Lane Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Gill, Richard Hamilton (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Green, Wilson F. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Griffith, Jonathan (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Holliday, Shannon L. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Jackson, Michael Stewart (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Jackson, Michael Leon (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Logsdon, Larry Stephen (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Richardson, Brian C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Segall, Robert D. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000
Winborn, Wesley Kyle (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0021-9000

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