Case: United States v. City of Meridian

3:13-cv-00978 | U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

Filed Date: Oct. 29, 2012

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On December 1, 2011, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Divisions launched an investigation of the Meridian Police Department and the Lauderdale County Youth Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 14141 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. The DOJ expanded their investigation to include the Mississippi Division of Youth Services on June 29, 2012. On August 10, 2012, the DOJ published their findings that the agencies in question had violated the constitutional rights of the children under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fo…

On December 1, 2011, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Divisions launched an investigation of the Meridian Police Department and the Lauderdale County Youth Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 14141 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. The DOJ expanded their investigation to include the Mississippi Division of Youth Services on June 29, 2012. On August 10, 2012, the DOJ published their findings that the agencies in question had violated the constitutional rights of the children under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The DOJ provided the agencies an opportunity to cure the offending behavior but no negotiations occurred.

On October 24, 2012, the United States filed a lawsuit against the agencies in the Southern District of Mississippi under 42 U.S.C. §14141. The government alleged that the defendants in the investigation collectively helped to operate a "school-to-prison pipeline." The government sought declaratory relief, an order permanently enjoining defendants from the alleged unlawful practices, an order requiring defendants to effectuate corrected polices, and other equitable relief.

This was the first lawsuit brought under a "school-to-prison pipeline" legal theory. Under this theory, the government claimed that the defendants systematically incarcerated children in Meridian for allegedly committing minor offenses and punished children disproportionately without due process. The government alleged that the Meridian Police Department would automatically arrest students referred by the Meridian Public School District without assessing the nature of the referral and without probable cause. Students were not provided adequate information regarding their rights. Students were then commonly held for more than 48 hours while they awaited youth court "detention hearings" that did not meet the Due Process requirement of the Constitution. These acts violated the constitutional rights of the children under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

On December 7, 2012, defendants filed a motion to dismiss based on Younger abstention. On September 4, 2013, United States District Judge Henry T. Wingate denied the motion. Judge Wingate noted that the government's interest in eliminating a pattern or practice of constitutional violations was not necessarily identical to the interests of individual children facing delinquency proceedings in state court. Moreover, the government's interest was not so "intertwined" with such individuals so as to justify barring prospective relief to a person not a party to the challenged state actions. The government may have interests that transcends that of private state defendants.

On December 26, 2013, the case was transferred to the Northern Division and assigned a new case number.

During 2014 and early 2015, the parties engaged in discovery and negotiated out of court. The negotiations culminated in a March 4, 2015 telephone conference in which the parties, except for the defendant judges and Lauderdale County, announced that they had reached a settlement. After reviewing the settlements, Judge Wingate issued two opinions on September 18, 2015. The first granted a motion for settlement between the United States and the City of Meridian. The second granted a motion for settlement between the United States and the State of Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services. See DOJ 15-768 (D.O.J.), 2015 WL 3809399. Defendant Lauderdale County and the two individual defendants, judges of the Lauderdale County Youth Court, were not parties to either of the settlements.

The first settlement focused on improving the conduct of the Meridian Police Department (MPD) in Meridian's public schools. It limited MPD's authority to arrest juveniles at school, required additional documentation of school-based arrests, and instituted reforms related to MPD training, complaint procedures, data collection, and coordination with the Meridian Public School District Police Department. The parties agreed that a Police Independent Auditor would supervise compliance and that the agreement would terminate after 12 consecutive months of "substantial compliance" by the City of Meridian. On March 18, 2016, the parties agreed on who should serve as Police Independent Auditor after a budget dispute, and Judge Wingate approved their choice on March 25, 2016.

The second settlement focused on improving the conduct of the Mississippi Division of Youth Services (DYS), which managed probation for youths. It required DYS to inform youths on probation of the probation process and their rights within it, limited the ability of DYS to incarcerate youths for probation violations, increased procedural protections for youths on probation, and initiated training and community involvement programs. The parties agreed that a Probation Services Independent Auditor would supervise compliance and that the agreement would terminate after 12 consecutive months of "substantial compliance" by DYS. On January 5, 2016, the parties notified the court that they had agreed on the Probation Services Independent Auditor.

Meanwhile, the case against defendant Youth Court judges continued. The judges had moved to dismiss the claims against them on November 25, 2014. The court finally granted their motions on September 30, 2017. The judges argued that they were protected by judicial immunity and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which prevents parties that lost in state courts from re-litigating their claims in federal court. Judge Wingate found that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not apply because the United States did not seek to challenge a state court judgment against it. However, Judge Wingate granted defendants' motion under the theory of judicial immunity, which bars most claims against judges acting within their official capacities and jurisdiction, and declined the United States' invitation to apply 42 U.S.C. § 14141 to judges. The suit against Lauderdale County was dismissed as well, because it was "inextricably intertwined" with that against its judges. 2017 WL 6810621. On November 28, 2017, the United States appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. (Docket No. 17-60805). The Fifth Circuit finally issued an opinion on February 1, 2019, where it affirmed the district court. 914 F.3d 960. The case was subsequently dismissed.

In the meantime, throughout 2016 and 2017, the independent auditors monitored compliance with the settlement agreements and submitted a number of status updates. On January 16, 2018, the Police Independent Auditor filed a final report which stated that the City of Meridian and the Meridian Police Department were in substantial compliance with all of the settlement's requirements. The parties agreed to transfer the responsibility for monitoring compliance from the independent monitor to the United States. The United States submitted its first compliance report on September 12, 2018, which found that the City of Meridian and its police remained in substantial compliance.

In contrast, the Probation Services Independent Auditor's Fifth Report, filed on April 2, 2018, identified several areas in which the state was not in substantial compliance with the settlement agreement. While recognizing that the state had made progress, the Auditor found that the State had failed to fully meet its obligation to review its policies and procedures, draft new policies and procedures when necessary, and improve training as required by the agreement. The Auditor also noted that defendant Youth Court judges refused access to Youth Court files, possibly due to the continuing litigation against them. Both settlement agreements continued to be monitored.

On May 23, 2019, the parties filed a joint motion to terminate the first settlement, which governs MPD and Meridian public schools, on account of substantial compliance for 12 consecutive months. As of June 8, 2020, monitoring continues and the parties are awaiting a motion hearing on the motion to terminate.

Summary Authors

Richard Jolly (11/18/2014)

Timothy Leake (10/18/2018)

Alex Moody (4/20/2020)

Jack Hibbard (6/8/2020)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/7863902/parties/united-states-v-city-of-meridian/


Judge(s)

Anderson, Linda Randle (Mississippi)

Elrod, Jennifer Walker (Texas)

Wingate, Henry Travillion (Mississippi)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Austin, Roy L. (District of Columbia)

Cuncannan, Jacqueline (District of Columbia)

Davis, Gregory K. (Mississippi)

Dreiband, Eric S. (District of Columbia)

Goemann, Richard C. (District of Columbia)

Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia)

Hurst, D Michael (Mississippi)

Judge(s)

Anderson, Linda Randle (Mississippi)

Elrod, Jennifer Walker (Texas)

Wingate, Henry Travillion (Mississippi)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Austin, Roy L. (District of Columbia)

Cuncannan, Jacqueline (District of Columbia)

Davis, Gregory K. (Mississippi)

Dreiband, Eric S. (District of Columbia)

Goemann, Richard C. (District of Columbia)

Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia)

Hurst, D Michael (Mississippi)

Jackson, Shelley (District of Columbia)

Jernigan, Alfred B. Jr. (Mississippi)

Jones, Michelle A. (District of Columbia)

Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia)

Ogletree, Rashida J (District of Columbia)

Paige, Mitzi Dease (Mississippi)

Perez, Thomas E. (District of Columbia)

Porter, Forestine Nicole (District of Columbia)

Preston, Judy C. (District of Columbia)

Rifkin, Lori Ellen (District of Columbia)

Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia)

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Bailey, Robert Thomas (Mississippi)

Darsey, Reed C. (Mississippi)

Goggans, Michael D. (Mississippi)

Miracle, Douglas T. (Mississippi)

Palmer, Henry (Mississippi)

Pizzetta, Harold Edward III (Mississippi)

Thaggard, Lee (Mississippi)

Walton, Ronnie Leigh (Mississippi)

Wright, Charles W. Jr. (Mississippi)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Monroe, Rodney (North Carolina)

Shoenberg, Dana (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [PACER]

Feb. 27, 2020 Docket

Justice Department Releases Investigative Findings Showing Constitutional Rights of Children in Mississippi Being Violated

[Meridian Police Department]

No Court

Aug. 10, 2012 Press Release

Findings Letter (2012)

No Court

Aug. 10, 2012 Findings Letter/Report
1

Complaint

Oct. 24, 2012 Complaint

Justice Department Files Lawsuit in Mississippi to Protect the Constitutional Rights of Children

[City of Meridian]

No Court

Oct. 24, 2012 Press Release
20

Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Based on Younger Abstention

Sept. 4, 2013 Order/Opinion
78

Memorandum in Support of Joint Motion for Entry of Settlement Agreement

United States of America v. The City of Meridian

June 19, 2015 Pleading / Motion / Brief
81

Memorandum in Support of Joint Motion for Entry of Settlement Agreement

June 19, 2015 Pleading / Motion / Brief
77

Joint Motion for Entry of Settlement Agreement

United States of America v. The City of Meridian

June 19, 2015 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Justice Department Reaches Settlement Agreements to Address Unconstitutional Youth Arrest and Probation Practices in Meridian, Mississippi

[City of Meridian]

No Court

June 19, 2015 Press Release

Resources

Title Description External URL

United States v. City of Meridian

U.S. Department of Justice

In October 2012, the United States filed a lawsuit against the City of Meridian, Mississippi; Lauderdale County, Mississippi; Judges of the Lauderdale County Youth Court; and the State of Mississippi… Nov. 29, 2011 https://www.justice.gov/crt/case/united-states-v-city-meridian-county-lauderdale-judge-frank-coleman-judge-veldore-young#:~:text=In%20October%202012%2C%20the%20United,due%20process%20rights%20of%20juveniles.

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/7863902/united-states-v-city-of-meridian/

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link
1

Complaint

1 Civil Cover Sheet

View on PACER

Oct. 24, 2012 PACER
2

Summons Issued

Oct. 24, 2012 PACER
3

Motion for Extension of Time to File Answer

Nov. 14, 2012 PACER
4

Notice of Appearance

Nov. 14, 2012 PACER
5

Summons Returned Executed

Nov. 16, 2012 PACER
6

Answer to Complaint

Nov. 20, 2012 PACER
7

Answer to Complaint

Nov. 20, 2012 PACER
8

Answer to Complaint

Nov. 20, 2012 PACER
9

Answer to Complaint

Nov. 30, 2012 PACER
10

Motion to Dismiss

Dec. 7, 2012 PACER
11

Pretrial Memorandum

Dec. 7, 2012 PACER
12

Motion to Stay Proceedings

Dec. 7, 2012 PACER
13

Order on Motion to Stay Proceedings

Dec. 11, 2012 PACER
14

Response in Opposition

Dec. 20, 2012 PACER
15

Rebuttal

Jan. 14, 2013 PACER
16

Motion to Strike

Jan. 31, 2013 PACER
17

Memorandum in Support of Motion

Jan. 31, 2013 PACER
18

Motion to Substitute Attorney

March 7, 2013 PACER
19

Order on Motion to Strike

Sept. 4, 2013 PACER
20

Order on Motion to Dismiss

Sept. 4, 2013 PACER
21

Rule 16(a)Initial Order

Sept. 5, 2013 PACER
22

Notice of Appearance

Sept. 5, 2013 PACER
23

Case Management Order

Oct. 7, 2013 PACER
24

Notice of Appearance

Oct. 10, 2013 PACER
25

Notice of Service of Disclosure

Nov. 12, 2013 PACER
26

Notice of Appearance

Nov. 12, 2013 PACER
27

Notice of Service of Disclosure

Nov. 12, 2013 PACER
28

Notice of Appearance

Nov. 12, 2013 PACER
29

Notice of Service of Disclosure

Nov. 12, 2013 PACER
30

Notice of Service of Disclosure

Nov. 12, 2013 PACER
31

Notice of Service of Disclosure

Nov. 22, 2013 PACER
32

Motion for Protective Order

Dec. 6, 2013 PACER
33

Order on Motion for Protective Order

Dec. 9, 2013 PACER
34

Motion to Withdraw as Attorney

Dec. 16, 2013 PACER
35

Notice of Service of Request for Production

Feb. 14, 2014 PACER
36

Notice of Service of Request for Production

Feb. 18, 2014 PACER
37

Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

March 20, 2014 PACER
38

Order on Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

April 1, 2014 PACER
39

Notice of Service of Response to Production

April 4, 2014 PACER
40

Notice of Service of Response to Production

April 14, 2014 PACER
41

Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

April 17, 2014 PACER
42

Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

April 17, 2014 PACER
43

Memorandum in Support of Motion

April 18, 2014 PACER
44

Notice of Service of Response to Production

April 25, 2014 PACER
45

Notice of Service of Response to Production

April 25, 2014 PACER
46

Notice of Service of Response to Production

April 25, 2014 PACER
47

Notice of Service of Request for Production

April 29, 2014 PACER
48

Notice of Service of Interrogatories

April 29, 2014 PACER
49

Notice to Take Deposition

April 30, 2014 PACER
50

Notice to Take Deposition

April 30, 2014 PACER
51

Notice of Appearance

April 30, 2014 PACER
52

Order on Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

May 6, 2014 PACER
53

Notice of Service of Response to Production

May 7, 2014 PACER
54

Notice of Service of Designation of Experts

May 9, 2014 PACER
55

Notice of Service of Response to Production

May 15, 2014 PACER
56

Notice of Appearance

Sept. 10, 2014 PACER
57

Motion to Dismiss

Nov. 25, 2014 PACER
58

Motion to Dismiss

Nov. 25, 2014 PACER
59

Memorandum in Support

Nov. 25, 2014 PACER
60

Joinder in Document

Nov. 28, 2014 PACER
61

Joinder in Document

Nov. 28, 2014 PACER
62

Response in Opposition to Motion

Dec. 12, 2014 PACER
63

Memorandum in Support

Dec. 12, 2014 PACER
64

Response in Opposition to Motion

Dec. 12, 2014 PACER
65

Memorandum in Support

Dec. 12, 2014 PACER
66

Response in Opposition

Dec. 12, 2014 PACER
67

Memorandum in Support

Dec. 12, 2014 PACER
68

Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply

Dec. 19, 2014 PACER
69

Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply

Dec. 19, 2014 PACER
70

Reply to Response to Motion

Dec. 26, 2014 PACER
71

Reply to Response to Motion

Dec. 26, 2014 PACER
72

Reply to Response to Motion

Dec. 26, 2014 PACER
73

Reply to Response to Motion

Dec. 27, 2014 PACER
74

Notice (Other)

Dec. 29, 2014 PACER
75

Order

March 9, 2015 PACER
76

Notice of Appearance

March 30, 2015 PACER
77

Motion for Settlement

June 19, 2015 PACER
78

Memorandum in Support

June 19, 2015 PACER
79

Motion for Settlement

June 19, 2015 PACER
80

Memorandum in Support

June 19, 2015 PACER
81

Memorandum in Support

June 19, 2015 PACER
82

Motion to Withdraw as Attorney

July 9, 2015 PACER
83

Order on Motion for Settlement

Sept. 18, 2015 PACER
84

Order on Motion for Settlement

Sept. 18, 2015 PACER
85

Response to Order

Oct. 9, 2015 PACER
86

Response in Opposition

Oct. 19, 2015 PACER
87

Attachment

Oct. 20, 2015 PACER
88

Status Report

Dec. 1, 2015 PACER
89

Status Report

Dec. 3, 2015 PACER
90

Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

Dec. 29, 2015 PACER
91

Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

Dec. 29, 2015 PACER
92

Status Report

Jan. 5, 2016 PACER
93

Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

Jan. 13, 2016 PACER
94

Response to Motion

Feb. 24, 2016 PACER
95

Notice of Appearance

March 3, 2016 PACER
96

Notice (Other)

March 7, 2016 PACER
97

Motion to Appoint Expert

March 16, 2016 PACER
98

Amended Document

March 16, 2016 PACER
99

Order on Motion for Miscellaneous Relief

March 28, 2016 PACER
100

Status Report

Sept. 6, 2016 PACER

State / Territory: Mississippi

Case Type(s):

Juvenile Institution

Key Dates

Filing Date: Oct. 29, 2012

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, on behalf of youths arrested, tried, and detained in Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

City of Meridian (Lauderdale), City

County of Lauderdale (Lauderdale), County

Lauderdale County Youth Center (Lauderdale), County

Mississippi Department of Human Services, State

Mississippi Division of Youth Services, State

Named Judges (Meridian, Lauderdale), None

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

34 U.S.C. § 12601 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 14141)

Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Unreasonable search and seizure

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 2015 - None

Issues

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Disparate Treatment

Juveniles

Type of Facility:

Government-run