Filed Date: May 27, 2015
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On May 27, 2015, this lawsuit was brought in the United States for the Eastern District of Missouri by a person arrested by the City of St. Ann (the City), Missouri, who was jailed for a prolonged period after he was unable to pay the fee demanded for his release under the city’s “secured bail” policy. Under that policy, persons arrested for ordinance violations were required to post a bail from $150-350 or spend upwards of 3 days in jail, without any consideration of the person’s ability to pay. The plaintiff argued that the City’s policy violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Represented by public interest organizations ArchCity Defenders and Equal Justice Under Law, the plaintiff brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff asked the court for class certification to represent other similarly situated individuals, for a declaration that the City had violated the constitutional rights of arrestees who were unable to pay the City’s secured bail, for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief requiring the City to stop jailing arrestees for their inability to pay the City’s secured bail, for damages to the named plaintiff to compensate for his period of confinement, and for legal costs and attorneys’ fees.
That same day, plaintiffs moved for class certification for the proposed class: "all arrestees unable to pay for their release pursuant to St. Ann's fixed bail schedule who are or will become in the custody of St. Ann."
The next day, the parties asked the judge assigned to the case, Judge Rodney W. Sippel, to grant them a stay in proceedings so that they could conduct settlement negotiations. To that end, plaintiffs dropped their request for preliminary injunctive relief pending the outcome of the negotiations. The day after that, on May 29, 2015, Judge Sippel granted a stay, and asked the parties to report the outcome of the negotiations to him by August 3, 2015.
On September 2, 2015, Judge Sippel asked the parties, who had failed to meet his August 3 deadline, to show cause for why he shouldn’t dismissed the case with prejudice or issue sanctions. That same day, the parties issued a joint motion showing the judge their provisional settlement agreement, and explaining that they wanted to see how the changes that the agreement required in the City’s policies worked over the coming year. The next day, Judge Sippel agreed to give the parties twelve months to test the effects of the policy changes, and ordered the defendants to comply with the provisional settlement agreement during that period.
Under the provisional settlement agreement, the plaintiffs agreed to drop most of their non-equitable claims (the claims for monetary damages). The defendants agreed to meet most of plaintiff’s demands for injunctive relief, and to give the named plaintiff a $10,000 fee for acting as a class representative. Namely, the defedants agreed to stop requiring arrestees to post a secured bail for release. Instead, they agreed to release arrestees if they agreed to provide an unsecured bond (a bond which requires persons to pay the court only if they fail to adhere to the conditions of their bail) or a recognizance (an alternative set of conditions for preventing persons from violating the terms of their bail to the payment of a monetary fee), except for cases in which the arrestee was a threat and detention was required to protect the community. The defendants also agreed to improve their procedures for notifying arrestees of their court dates, and to release persons arrested for failure to attend court dates on unsecured bonds.
The parties agreed that the plaintiff and their counsel would notify defendants of any perceived breach in the agreement, and that the plaintiff and their counsel reserved the right to pursue judgment against defendants if they failed to remedy the breach. The parties also reserved the right to seek modification of the agreement, and if they fail to reach an agreement on modification, to terminate the agreement and resume litigation.
On June 5, 2017, Judge Sippel ordered the parties to show cause for why their respective cases should not be dismissed. He noted that both parties had failed to file official settlement documents by the required date he had set. Both parties responded, and a status conference was set.
A consent judgment was filed by the defendant and signed on May 4, 2018 by Judge Sippel. In the consent judgement, the defendant specifically agreed to (1) not utilize secured money bail for persons in the custody of the Defendant on arrest; (2) offer any arrested person release from the custody of the Defendant on recognizance or on an unsecured bond as soon as practicable after booking (with the only exception are persons charged with assault, or if release would pose a danger to the community); (3) notify all arrestees in writing upon release from custody when and where they are required to appear in court; (4) specific procedures in relation to traffic stops; (5) mail a notice of a motion for bond forfeiture, should the released person fail to appear in court; and (6) to take appropriate and lawful steps to convert any unsecured bond into a money judgment at any time after non-appearance.
The court retained jurisdiction over the consent judgement for two years starting on May 4, 2018. Subsequent to the dissolution of the consent judgment, the defendant agreed to continue to (1) ensure that indigent persons arrested were afforded the necessary protections under the law; and (2) comply with applicable state and federal laws pertaining to the setting of conditions upon pre-trail release from custody.
As of May 20, 2020, there has been no further action in the docket and the case is presumed to be closed.
Ryan Berry (7/12/2016)
Sarah McDonald (4/5/2018)
Dawn Lui (11/7/2018)
Alex Moody (5/20/2020)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4299667/parties/powell-v-the-city-of-st-ann/
Sippel, Rodney W. (Missouri)
Carroll, Nathaniel R. (Missouri)
Harvey, Thomas B. (Missouri)
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia)
Garrett, Steven W. (Missouri)
Sippel, Rodney W. (Missouri)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4299667/powell-v-the-city-of-st-ann/
Last updated July 11, 2023, 10:53 p.m.
State / Territory: Missouri
Filing Date: May 27, 2015
Closing Date: May 4, 2020
Case Ongoing: Yes
Named plaintiff, an arrestee imprisoned due to inability to pay preset bail amount, and class of "all arrestees unable to pay for their release pursuant to St. Ann's fixed bail schedule who are or will become in the custody of St. Ann."
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Mooted before ruling
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Amount Defendant Pays: $10,000
Order Duration: 2018 - 2020
Content of Injunction: