University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)

This collection features a number of recent lawsuits challenging the practice of jailing poor people who cannot afford to pay bail, fines, or fees. This wealth-based detention takes a variety of forms. In some instances, indigent defendants accused of minor crimes are held for months before trial, not because they are a flight risk or a danger to the community, but because they cannot afford to pay some amount necessary to secure their release. In other cases, courts impose fines as punishment for traffic violations and other low-level (civil) offenses. Sometimes, those who cannot pay--or who fail to appear at the relevant hearings--are immediately or eventually jailed until they settle the debt. Advocates argue that these practices effectively amount to jailing those too poor to pay for their freedom.
The below cases represent a special subset of the full Clearinghouse collection.
Your search returned 111 results
1 Evenson-Childs v. Ravalli County Sheriff's Office
9:21-cv-00089 (D. Mont.)
Filed 08/09/2021 - Case Ongoing
Ravalli County Sheriff's Office
Ravalli County Sheriff's Office
Criminal Justice (Other)
Ravalli County
Coding Complete
Plaintiff, a homeless resident of the state of Montana, filed this putative class action against Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office on August 9, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. She challenged the Office’s practice of charging pre-trial arrestees released on bail for various forms of pre-trial supervision, such as ... [view]
2 Freeman v. Riverside County
RIC2001772 (State Court)
Filed 06/01/2020 - Case Ongoing
Riverside County
Riverside County
Juvenile Institution
Criminal Justice (Other)
Riverside County
Coding Complete
This case is about whether the parents of children who interact with the juvenile justice system can be forced to pay the costs of those services in the absence of legal process. The plaintiffs in this case, parents and grandparents of children who were involved in the juvenile justice system in Riverside County, California, alleged that they were ... [view]
3 Nashville Community Bail Fund v. Gentry
3:20-cv-00103 (M.D. Tenn.)
Filed 02/05/2020 - Case Ongoing
Davidson County
Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk
Criminal Justice (Other)
Davidson County
Coding Complete
This federal civil rights case successfully challenged a Davidson county Tennessee rule requiring garnishment of bail bonds, as applied to a non-profit bail bond service. Davidson County, TN, has a local rule that allows the County Criminal Court to garnish bond deposits made by criminal defendants to pay prior judgment fees--including fines, ... [view]
4 E.B. v. Landry
3:19-cv-00862 (M.D. La.)
Filed 12/13/2019 - Case Ongoing
Clerk of Court
East Baton Rouge Parish
Criminal Justice (Other)
East Baton Rouge Parish
Coding Complete
Plaintiffs, three persons seeking to expunge various criminal records in Louisiana, filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana on December 13, 2019, challenging Louisiana’s expungement fees. In particular, the plaintiffs challenged the $550 fee per expungement “event”—that is, ... [view]
5 White v. Hesse
5:19-cv-01145-R (W.D. Okla.)
Filed 12/10/2019 - Case Ongoing
Canadian County District Court 26th Judicial District
Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Criminal Justice (Other)
Coding Complete
On December 10, 2019, a group of arrestees detained by Canadian County who have a financial condition of release that they cannot afford and was set without the presence of counsel and the NAACP of Oklahoma, on behalf of its members, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs sued the ... [view]
6 Allison v. Allen
1:19-cv-01126 (M.D. N.C.)
Filed 11/12/2019 - Case Ongoing
Alamance County District Court Judges
Criminal Justice (Other)
Alamance County
Coding Complete
This is a class-action lawsuit challenging the detention of indigent individuals awaiting trial who are unable to post bail in exchange for their freedom. On November 12, 2019, three confined individuals in the Alamance County Detention Center, North Carolina, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ... [view]
7 Moran v. Landrum-Johnson
2:19-cv-13553-CJB-KWR (E.D. La.)
Filed 11/11/2019 - Case Ongoing
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judges
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court
Criminal Justice (Other)
New Orleans
Coding Complete
On November 11, 2019, a pretrial detainee filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana alleging that twelve judges of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court ("OPCDC") unlawfully imposed secured financial conditions of release in an amount that individuals cannot afford, without any inquiry ... [view]
8 Jones v. DeSantis
4:19-cv-00300 (N.D. Fla.)
Filed 06/15/2019 - Case Ongoing
Ten Florida Counties
Supervisor of Elections
Election/Voting Rights
Criminal Justice (Other)
Coding Complete
In the fall of 2018, Florida voters amended the Florida Constitution, restoring voting rights to most people convicted of felonies “upon completion of all terms of sentence, including parole or probation.” (This excluded people convicted of murder or sexual offenses.) On June 28, 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066 into law, ... [view]
9 Abiala v. Barr
7:19-cv-00082-HL (M.D. Ga.)
Filed 06/06/2019 - Case Ongoing
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Department of Justice
Immigration and/or the Border
Coding Complete
On June 6, 2019, a noncitizen detained in Irwin County Detention Center filed this putative class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The plaintiff alleged that the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) had a practice of setting unaffordable bonds. The complaint stated that such individuals often ... [view]
10 Fernandez v. St. Louis County
4:19-cv-01638-SNLJ (E.D. Mo.)
Filed 06/05/2019 - Closed 2021
St. Louis County, Missouri
Speech and Religious Freedom
Coding Complete
This case successfully challenged county-level statutes restricting roadside solicitation. A homeless man filed suit against St. Louis County in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on June 5, 2019. Plaintiff was represented by private counsel. Plaintiff was a self-described “poor, homeless, unemployed single man” who ... [view]
11 Davis v. City of Chicago
1:19-cv-03691 (N.D. Ill.)
Filed 04/29/2019 - Case Ongoing
City of Chicago
City of Chicago
Criminal Justice (Other)
Cook County
Coding Complete
This lawsuit is a constitutional challenge the city of Chicago’s vehicle impound program. The plaintiffs, individuals whose cars had been impounded by the city, filed this putative class action suit in Illinois state court (Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division) on April 29, 2019. Represented by attorneys from the Institute for Justice ... [view]
12 Ross v. Blount
2:19-cv-11076-LJM-EAS (E.D. Mich.)
Filed 04/14/2019 - Case Ongoing
State of Michigan
36th District Court
Criminal Justice (Other)
Wayne County
Coding Complete
On April 14, 2019, several pre-trial detainees in Wayne County Jail filed this class-action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued the 36th District Court in Detroit, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office (WCSO), the Chief Judge, and five Magistrates of the 26th District Court in their ... [view]
13 Dixon v. City of St. Louis
4:19-cv-00112 (E.D. Mo.)
Filed 01/28/2019 - Case Ongoing
City of St. Louis
Criminal Justice (Other)
Coding Complete
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 ... [view]
14 Russell v. Harris County, TX
4:19-cv-00226 (S.D. Tex.)
Filed 01/21/2019 - Case Ongoing
Harris County
Harris County Jail
Jail Conditions
Criminal Justice (Other)
Harris County
Coding Complete
COVID-19 Summary: This is a preexisting class action addressing issues in Harris County Jail with indigent felony detainees who remain detained solely because they cannot pay the amount necessary for release on secured money bail. On March 27, 2020, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order because they are in extreme danger of being ... [view]
15 Feenstra v. Sigler
4:19-cv-00234 (N.D. Okla.)
Filed 2019 - Case Ongoing
no defendants on record
Criminal Justice (Other)
Coding In Process
The Complaint's factual allegations arise from three separate, but related, courses of conduct: (1) the imposition of fines, fees, and costs at sentencing, (2) appearances at the “cost docket,” and (3) incarceration for failure to pay outstanding fines, fees, and costs.* [view]
16 Florida v. Cummings
docket unknown (State Court)
Filed 2019 - Case Ongoing
no defendants on record
Criminal Justice (Other)
Coding In Process
An unhoused individual was arrested after being found sleeping outdoors and admitting he was homeless. He was charged with “Open Lodging,” a municipal ordinance violation, for which entered a guilty plea. He was sentenced to 5 days and a total of $273 in costs. After the costs remained unpaid, the Clerk of Court sent notice of a Criminal ... [view]
17 Rodriguez v. Mach
5:18-cv-01265 (W.D. Tex.)
Filed 12/05/2018 - Closed 2019
Chairman for the Texas Department of Public Safety Commission
Texas Department of Public Safety Commission
Public Benefits / Government Services
Austin County
Coding Complete
The plaintiffs in this action are Texas residents whose driver’s licenses had been suspended. They brought suit against the Chairman of the Texas Department of Public Safety Commission in his official capacity on December 5, 2018. The Commission suspended the plaintiffs’ licenses through a Driver Responsibility Program. The program had forced 1 ... [view]
18 Cook v. Taylor
2:18-cv-00977 (M.D. Ala.)
Filed 11/19/2018 - Closed 2019
Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
Criminal Justice (Other)
Montgomery County
Coding Complete
Here is the summary I posted on the Clearinghouse, 6/23/2020: On November 19, 2018, individuals whose driver’s licenses were suspended because of failure to pay traffic tickets filed this putative class action against the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Represented by the Southern ... [view]
19 Mendoza v. Garrett
3:18-cv-01634-HZ (D. Or.)
Filed 09/07/2018 - Case Ongoing
Oregon Department of Transportation
Criminal Justice (Other)
Public Benefits / Government Services
Coding Complete
On September 7, 2018, five Oregon residents filed this class-action lawsuit against members of the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Oregon Transportation Commission, and the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. The plaintiffs, represented by the Oregon Law Center, sued the defendants under 42 U.S.C. §1983. They alleged that Oregon’s ... [view]
20 Edwards v. Leaders in Community Alternatives, Inc.
3:18-cv-04609-JSC (N.D. Cal.)
Filed 07/31/2018 - Case Ongoing
Leaders in Community Alternatives
Criminal Justice (Other)
Alameda County
Coding Complete
On July 31, 2018, the plaintiffs, persons required to wear and pay for GPS ankle monitors, filed this class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued the company that created and distributed the ankle monitors, the parent company, several individual employees of the company, ... [view]
21 Black Love Resists in the Rust v. City of Buffalo
1:18-cv-00719 (W.D.N.Y.)
Filed 06/28/2018 - Case Ongoing
City of Buffalo
Buffalo Police Department
Criminal Justice (Other)
Erie County
Coding Complete
On June 28, 2018, Black Love Resists in the Rust and four individual plaintiffs filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. The plaintiffs sued the City of Buffalo under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment, and under Title VI of the Civil ... [view]
22 Howard v. City and County of Denver
18-cv-02593 (D. Colo.)
Filed 06/09/2018 - Closed 2018
City and County of Denver
Criminal Justice (Other)
Coding Complete
On June 9, 2018, the plaintiff in this case was arrested in Denver, Colorado; he was then unable to make his $10 bond, because the government imposed numerous additional fees. He brought this law suit against the City and County of Denver on October 10, 2018 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. He proceeded under 42 U ... [view]
23 Parga v. Tulsa County
4:18-cv-00298-CVE-JFJ (N.D. Okla.)
Filed 06/06/2018 - Case Ongoing
Tulsa County
Criminal Justice (Other)
Tulsa County
Coding Complete
Individuals incarcerated in the Tulsa jail sued Tulsa County, the Tulsa County Sheriff, fifteen Special Judges and a district court judge in challenging the constitutionality of the county's wealth-based pretrial detention system. On June 6, 2018, the four plaintiffs, represented by Civil Rights Corps, filed this class-action lawsuit in the ... [view]
24 Johnson v. Jessup
1:18-cv-00467 (M.D. N.C.)
Filed 05/30/2018 - Case Ongoing
North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles
Criminal Justice (Other)
Coding Complete
On May 30, 2018, two low-income citizens facing permanent license revocation filed this class action in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Thomas D. Schroeder. The plaintiffs sued the commissioner of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) under §1983 for alleged ... [view]
25 Brucker v. The City of Doraville
1:18-cv-02375 (N.D. Ga.)
Filed 05/23/2018 - Case Ongoing
The City of Doraville
Criminal Justice (Other)
De Kalb County
Coding Complete
The city of Doraville relied on its municipal court as a source of revenue. The city received millions of dollars of its budget from court fines and forfeitures. As Doraville’s City Council heavily relied on these revenues to balance the city’s budget, its municipal court personnel, who serve at the pleasure of the City Council, had a ... [view]
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