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Case Name Schultz v. Alabama CJ-AL-0022
Docket / Court 5:17-cv-00270-MHH ( N.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Civil Rights Corps
Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
This is a federal class-action lawsuit challenging Alabama’s bail system, specifically the fact that indigent defendants are routinely jailed pre-trial due to their inability to afford a predetermined bail bond required for release, which the plaintiffs allege deprives indigent defendants of ... read more >
This is a federal class-action lawsuit challenging Alabama’s bail system, specifically the fact that indigent defendants are routinely jailed pre-trial due to their inability to afford a predetermined bail bond required for release, which the plaintiffs allege deprives indigent defendants of their right to due process, equal protection and pre-trial liberty. The ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Civil Rights Corps joined in the suit seeking to end the allegedly unlawful detention scheme. The plaintiffs brought suit against the State of Alabama, a number of court administrative offices and personnel, the sheriff, and a number of magistrate and district judges.

On February 21, 2017, four named plaintiffs filed a proposed class-action lawsuit representing indigent and incarcerated individuals at the Cullman County Detention Center in the Northern District of Alabama against the State of Alabama. The plaintiffs alleged that they are being detained solely because of their indigence and, if they were not impoverished and were able to post cash bail, they would not be incarcerated awaiting their trial. In sum, the plaintiffs argued that cash bail is unconstitutionally excessive when imposed on indigent defendants. On April 18, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding additional defendants in their individual capacity as well as their official capacity. The complaint also named all predecessors and successors for these individuals.

The complaint took issue with Alabama’s bail schedule and bail statute, set forth in 15-13-111 of the Alabama Code and Rule 7 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, which the plaintiffs alleged are routinely applied to indigent defendants in an unconstitutional manner. Appellate courts in Alabama have held that cash bail is a permissible form of bail for pretrial detention and that the Constitution of Alabama does not prohibit cash bail post-conviction.

Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the State of Alabama imposed excessive bail in the form of cash bail, which kept indigent defendants incarcerated in pre-trial detention awaiting a hearing, as well as post-conviction proceedings enforcing payments of court costs and fines. The plaintiffs alleged that Alabama routinely sets cash bail for defendants charged with non-capital crimes, who failed to appear for court appearances, or who were arrested on failure to pay court costs and fines after conviction. The complaint further alleged that this bail process violated the defendants’ constitutional protection against excessive bail and constitutional right to Due Process of Law. The complaint proceeded under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, and the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint sought certification as a class action for any criminal defendants affected by pretrial detention due to failure to post cash only bail. The complaint requested declaratory relief and injunctive relief to permanently enjoin the State of Alabama from imposing cash only bail and declare that the courts in Alabama are in violation of the Constitution of the United States when imposing cash-only bail for indigent defendants and when imposing bail in minor misdemeanor prosecutions.

The case proceeded before Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala. On June 5, 2017, the plaintiffs filed for a temporary restraining order, though the court denied the request on June 8, 2017. The case proceeded through discovery.

On June 15, 2017, six additional individual plaintiffs filed an amended intervenor complaint. This complaint also added a number of defendants, including three judges, two magistrates, the Circuit Clerk of Cullman County, four Sheriffs of the Cullman County Sherriff’s Office, three county commissioners, the Alabama Administrative Office of the Court, and the Director of the Alabama Administrative Office of the Court.

This amended intervenor complaint alleged that the defendants set and enforced bail at $1,000,000 in all first-degree drug trafficking/manufacturing cases without any regard to the financial ability of the accused, allegedly in order to assure that the accused remain in jail. This practice was in line with the policy of the Alabama Administrative Offices of the Court, which directed all state magistrates to set bail within the “Bail Schedule” without regard to the financial status and ability of the accused or whether the bail, as set, ensured the appearance of the accused for hearing or trial. Further, it was alleged that the Alabama Administrative Offices of the Court failed to properly train, oversee, and supervise the courts and court officials with respect to bail policies. Ultimately, on July 17, 2017, the Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss and dismissed four of the named plaintiffs and four of the named defendants.

On March 9, 2018, plaintiff Bradley Hester filed an intervenor complaint. The plaintiff, Hester, was represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Alabama, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Civil Rights Corps. The intervenor complaint alleged that the money bail practices in Cullman County and Alabama generally detained people based on their wealth rather than on their suitability for release. In addition to claims based on an allegedly unconstitutional bail schedule, the complaint also alleged that the court magistrates and judges did not review the predetermined financial conditions of release for weeks or months, leaving individuals who could not afford the predetermined bail amount detained for weeks or months without any opportunity for an individualized release hearing. This detention occurred for many defendants before they had been convicted of a crime. The plaintiffs argued that non-financial conditions of release alone or in combination with unsecured money bail would be as effective or more effective than secured money bail. This intervenor complaint sought declaratory relief and injunctive relief, specifically, an injunction against the Sheriff from prospectively jailing arrestees unable to pay secured monetary bail without an individualized hearing with adequate procedural safeguards.

On March 27, 2018, the court terminated 11 plaintiffs. Six named plaintiffs and intervenor plaintiffs, all defendants in the Cullman County Court System, remained in the suit against the State of Alabama and a number of individuals, including the Cullman County Sherriff, one Magistrate judge, two District Court Judges, the Circuit Clerk of Cullman County, the Cullman County Commission and three individual commissioners, the Alabama Administrative Office of the Court, two Magistrates, and the Director of the Alabama Administrative Office of the Court.

On September 4, 2018, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction, enjoining the Cullman County Sheriff from detaining indigent defendants who cannot afford to post a property bond or a surety bond as a condition of pretrial release. The following day, the court denied the Sherriff’s motion to dismiss, originally filed on March 28, 2018. The following week, on September 13, 2018, the defendants filed a notice of appeal in the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, appealing the judgment on the preliminary injunction and the order dismissing the Sheriff’s motion to dismiss. The court did not stay the preliminary injunction pending resolution of the appeal. As of November 2020, the appeal on the preliminary injunction remains ongoing. Oral argument is scheduled for December 16, 2020. The district court case also remains ongoing.

Rebecca Fisher - 11/05/2020


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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
Equal Protection
Excessive bail/fines
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Courts
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Over/Unlawful Detention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Alabama Administrative Office of the Court
Circuit Clerk of Cullman County
Circuit Court Judge
Cullman County Commission
Cullman County Commissioner
Director of the Alabama Administrative Office of the Court
District Court Judge
Magistrate
Sheriff of Cullman County, Alabama
State of Alabama
Plaintiff Description Criminal defendants in Cullman County, Alabama
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Civil Rights Corps
Southern Poverty Law Center
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 Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 02/21/2017
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)
  Cullman County, AL: Bail
http://www.civilrightscorps.org/
Date: Mar. 6, 2019
By: Civil Rights Corps
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D. Ala.
09/15/2020
5:17-cv-00270-MHH
CJ-AL-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/20/2020
18-13894
CJ-AL-0022-9001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Ala.
02/21/2017
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0022-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
04/18/2017
Amended Complaint [ECF# 14]
CJ-AL-0022-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
06/15/2017
Amended Complaint [ECF# 52]
CJ-AL-0022-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
03/09/2018
Intervenor Complaint [ECF# 95]
CJ-AL-0022-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
09/04/2018
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 159] (330 F.Supp.3d 1344)
CJ-AL-0022-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
09/05/2018
Order [ECF# 161] (2018 WL 4253645)
CJ-AL-0022-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
09/14/2018
Intervenor-Plaintiff Hester's Amended Complaint [ECF# 173]
CJ-AL-0022-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
11/01/2018
Order Clarifying Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 197]
CJ-AL-0022-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Haikala, Madeline Hughes (N.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0004 | CJ-AL-0022-0005 | CJ-AL-0022-0007 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boone, Brock (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0003 | CJ-AL-0022-0006 | CJ-AL-0022-9000
Brooke, Samuel (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0003 | CJ-AL-0022-0006 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Buskey, Brandon (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0003 | CJ-AL-0022-0006 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Drake, Thomas E II (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0008 | CJ-AL-0022-9000
Hasting, J Melvin (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0001 | CJ-AL-0022-0002 | CJ-AL-0022-9000
Hubbard, Katherine (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0003 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Jordan, Alexandra Marie (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0006 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0003 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Marshall, Randall C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0003 | CJ-AL-0022-0006 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Sawhney, Neil (Louisiana) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000
West, Micah (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0003 | CJ-AL-0022-0006 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Woods, Andrea (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-0003 | CJ-AL-0022-0006 | CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Chynoweth, Brad A. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Davis, James William (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Howell, Laura Elizabeth (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000
Kidd, Jamie Helen (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Marshall, Steven T. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
McNeill, J Randall (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Naramore, John W. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000
Smith, Brenton Merrill (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000
Walker, Jordan Dorman (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Webb, Kendrick E. (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9000 | CJ-AL-0022-9001
Other Lawyers Clement, Paul D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Conry, Rachel Ann (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Espy, Chase T (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Funk, Kellen R (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Haden, Edgar Robert (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Lawrence, Andrew C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
McCord, Mary B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Robertson, James Bradley (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Rucker, Candice Leigh (Mississippi) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Spears, George Brian (Georgia) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001
Taylor, Jonathan Ellis (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-AL-0022-9001

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