Case: Gonzales v. City of Austin

1:15-cv-00956 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Filed Date: Oct. 27, 2015

Closed Date: 2016

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

The Plaintiff, a thirty-five-year-old single mother with seven children, filed this class-action complaint in the District Court for the Western District of Texas (Austin Division) on October 27, 2015. The Plaintiff, represented by the Texas Fair Defense Project and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, sued the City of Austin under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Plaintiff claimed that the City had a practice of jailing people who are too p…

The Plaintiff, a thirty-five-year-old single mother with seven children, filed this class-action complaint in the District Court for the Western District of Texas (Austin Division) on October 27, 2015. The Plaintiff, represented by the Texas Fair Defense Project and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, sued the City of Austin under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Plaintiff claimed that the City had a practice of jailing people who are too poor to pay their fines for traffic tickets and other petty misdemeanors in violation of their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and counsel under the Fourteenth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The Plaintiff herself was indigent. Her annual income as a childcare aid at an elementary school was less than $6,000 and she received food stamps, free school lunches for her children, and Section 8 housing assistance. She could not afford expenses like car insurance or auto-inspections, and thus, when she started receiving traffic tickets for driving without an inspection or insurance, she was not able to pay off the fines. In December 2010, the Plaintiff was arrested and incarcerated in a local jail. Her sentencing judge did not inquire into her ability to pay for the fines or appoint counsel to represent her. Because of her incarceration, she lost her job. The Plaintiff was again arrested and incarcerated in 2013 for driving without a valid license and insurance, and for driving with expired registration. She subsequently received two more traffic tickets after her release. At the time she filed this complaint, the Plaintiff’s two traffic tickets were still outstanding.

Along with the initial complaint, the Plaintiff filed a motion for class certification. The City filed a motion to dismiss on November 17, 2015, but on December 8 the Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. On December 28, the Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s pending motion for class certification as well as the City’s Motion to dismiss in light of the amended complaint. The City filed a new motion re-urging the court to dismiss the amended complaint and on January 11, 2016, the Plaintiff filed a new motion for class certification. On January 19, 2016, a stipulation was entered between the parties agreeing that the Court need not determine the Plaintiff’s motion for class certification at the time, and that any determination made would be after the completion of discovery.

On March 15, 2016, District Judge Sam Sparks approved the City’s motion re-urging a motion to dismiss and dismissed the case without prejudice. The court agreed with the City’s argument that even if the Plaintiff’s allegations were taken as true (that Austin municipal judges failed in practice to appoint counsel and conduct indigency hearings), the judges were still performing their judicial functions, and those actions cannot constitute municipal policy. The rules governing a municipal judge’s response to an individuals’ inability to pay a fine and his/her ability to issue a warrant if the fine is not paid leaves discretion to the judge and does not mandate any particular action.

The case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Robert Carnes (10/21/2017)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4401701/parties/gonzales-v-city-of-austin/


Judge(s)
Attorney for Plaintiff

Ashe, R. Lawrence (Texas)

Barsness, Paul R. (Texas)

Bernhardt, Rebecca (Texas)

Carter, Lynn E. (Texas)

Christensen, Jeanne-Marie Bates (Texas)

Attorney for Defendant

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Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:15-cv-00956

Docket [PACER]

April 4, 2016

April 4, 2016

Docket
1

1:15-cv-00956

Class Action Complaint

Gonzales and Salazar v. City of Austin

Oct. 27, 2015

Oct. 27, 2015

Complaint
15

1:15-cv-00956

First Amended Complaint

Dec. 8, 2015

Dec. 8, 2015

Complaint
33

1:15-cv-00956

Order

Harris v. City of Austin

March 16, 2016

March 16, 2016

Order/Opinion

2016 WL 2016

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4401701/gonzales-v-city-of-austin/

Last updated May 5, 2024, 3:08 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

COMPLAINT ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0542-7903906), filed by Valerie Gonzales, Maria Salazar. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(Trigilio, Trisha) (Entered: 10/27/2015)

1 Civil Cover Sheet

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Oct. 27, 2015

Oct. 27, 2015

RECAP
2

REQUEST FOR ISSUANCE OF SUMMONS by Valerie Gonzales, Maria Salazar. (Trigilio, Trisha) (Entered: 10/27/2015)

Oct. 27, 2015

Oct. 27, 2015

PACER

Case Assigned to Judge Sam Sparks. CM WILL NOW REFLECT THE JUDGE INITIALS AS PART OF THE CASE NUMBER. PLEASE APPEND THESE JUDGE INITIALS TO THE CASE NUMBER ON EACH DOCUMENT THAT YOU FILE IN THIS CASE. (so)

Oct. 27, 2015

Oct. 27, 2015

PACER
3

Summons Issued as to City of Austin. (so) (Entered: 10/27/2015)

Oct. 27, 2015

Oct. 27, 2015

RECAP
4

MOTION to Certify Class by Valerie Gonzales, Maria Salazar. (Attachments: # 1 Ex. A, Gonzales Declaration October 2015, # 2 Ex. B, Gonzales Case List, # 3 Ex. C, Gonzales Declaration August 2015, # 4 Ex. D, Salazar Declaration, # 5 Ex. E, Austin Municipal Court Data 2011-2015, # 6 Ex. F, Application for Extension to Pay, # 7 Ex. G, Austin Municipal Court Internal Rule 13.3, # 8 Ex. H, Austin City Code 2-10-21, # 9 Ex. I, Rules of Austin Municipal Court, # 10 Ex. J, Austin Municipal Court Website: Appointment of Counsel, # 11 Ex. K, Austin Budget 2014-2015 (Excerpt), # 12 Ex. L, U.S. Census Quickfacts: Austin, Texas, # 13 Ex. M, Bernhardt Declaration, # 14 Ex. N, Pringle Declaration, # 15 Ex. O, Natarajan Declaration, # 16 Ex. P, Trigilio Declaration, # 17 Ex. Q, Grinstein Declaration)(Trigilio, Trisha) (Entered: 10/27/2015)

1 Ex. A, Gonzales Declaration October 2015

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2 Ex. B, Gonzales Case List

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3 Ex. C, Gonzales Declaration August 2015

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4 Ex. D, Salazar Declaration

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5 Ex. E, Austin Municipal Court Data 2011-2015

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6 Ex. F, Application for Extension to Pay

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7 Ex. G, Austin Municipal Court Internal Rule 13.3

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8 Ex. H, Austin City Code 2-10-21

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9 Ex. I, Rules of Austin Municipal Court

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10 Ex. J, Austin Municipal Court Website: Appointment of Counsel

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11 Ex. K, Austin Budget 2014-2015 (Excerpt)

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12 Ex. L, U.S. Census Quickfacts: Austin, Texas

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13 Ex. M, Bernhardt Declaration

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14 Ex. N, Pringle Declaration

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15 Ex. O, Natarajan Declaration

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16 Ex. P, Trigilio Declaration

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17 Ex. Q, Grinstein Declaration

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Oct. 27, 2015

Oct. 27, 2015

PACER
5

DEFICIENCY NOTICE: re 4 MOTION to Certify Class (dm) (Entered: 10/27/2015)

Oct. 27, 2015

Oct. 27, 2015

PACER
6

ATTACHMENT of Proposed Order Granting Class Certification to 4 MOTION to Certify Class by Valerie Gonzales, Maria Salazar. (Trigilio, Trisha) (Entered: 10/27/2015)

Oct. 27, 2015

Oct. 27, 2015

PACER
7

SUMMONS Returned Executed by Valerie Gonzales, Maria Salazar. City of Austin served on 10/27/2015, answer due 11/17/2015. (Trigilio, Trisha) (Entered: 10/29/2015)

Oct. 29, 2015

Oct. 29, 2015

PACER
8

Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim by City of Austin. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Edwards, Christine) (Entered: 11/17/2015)

1 Proposed Order

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Nov. 17, 2015

Nov. 17, 2015

PACER
9

MOTION to Appear Pro Hac Vice by Susanne Ashley Pringle ( Filing fee $ 100 receipt number 0542-7973277) by Brian A. Coleman on behalf of Valerie Gonzales, Maria Salazar. (Pringle, Susanne) (Entered: 11/19/2015)

Nov. 19, 2015

Nov. 19, 2015

PACER
10

MOTION to Appear Pro Hac Vice by Susanne Ashley Pringle ( Filing fee $ 100 receipt number 0542-7973493) by Lindsay B. Orr on behalf of Valerie Gonzales, Maria Salazar. (Pringle, Susanne) (Entered: 11/19/2015)

Nov. 19, 2015

Nov. 19, 2015

PACER
11

ORDER GRANTING 9 Motion to Appear Pro Hac Vice for Brian A. Coleman. Pursuant to our Administrative Policies and Procedures for Electronic Filing, the attorney hereby granted to practice pro hac vice in this case must register for electronic filing with our court within 10 days of this order. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (os) (Entered: 11/20/2015)

Nov. 20, 2015

Nov. 20, 2015

PACER
12

ORDER GRANTING 10 Motion to Appear Pro Hac Vice for Lindsay B. Orr. Pursuant to our Administrative Policies and Procedures for Electronic Filing, the attorney hereby granted to practice pro hac vice in this case must register for electronic filing with our court within 10 days of this order. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (os) (Entered: 11/20/2015)

Nov. 20, 2015

Nov. 20, 2015

PACER
13

Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply to Motion to Dismiss by Valerie Gonzales, Maria Salazar. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Grinstein, Joseph) (Entered: 11/24/2015)

1 Proposed Order

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Nov. 24, 2015

Nov. 24, 2015

PACER
14

ORDER GRANTING 13 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (dm) (Entered: 12/01/2015)

Dec. 1, 2015

Dec. 1, 2015

PACER
15

AMENDED COMPLAINT against All Defendants amending, filed by Karian Harris.(Trigilio, Trisha) (Entered: 12/08/2015)

Dec. 8, 2015

Dec. 8, 2015

PACER
16

ORDER DISMISSING 4 Motion to Certify Class; DISMISSING without prejudice 8 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (td) (Entered: 12/29/2015)

Dec. 28, 2015

Dec. 28, 2015

RECAP
17

Motion Re-urging Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim 8 by City of Austin. (Edwards, Christine) Modified on 12/29/2015 to correct motion type (td). (Entered: 12/29/2015)

Dec. 29, 2015

Dec. 29, 2015

PACER
18

Response in Opposition to Motion, filed by Karian Harris, re 8 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendant City of Austin, 17 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendant City of Austin (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Exhibit C, # 4 Exhibit D, # 5 Proposed Order)(Grinstein, Joseph) (Entered: 12/30/2015)

1 Exhibit A

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2 Exhibit B

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3 Exhibit C

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4 Exhibit D

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5 Proposed Order

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Dec. 30, 2015

Dec. 30, 2015

PACER
19

ORDER, ( Status Conference set for 1/13/2016 09:00 AM before Judge Sam Sparks,). Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (dm) (Entered: 01/04/2016)

Jan. 4, 2016

Jan. 4, 2016

PACER
20

MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 18 Response in Opposition to Motion, by City of Austin. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Edwards, Christine) (Entered: 01/05/2016)

1 Proposed Order

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Jan. 5, 2016

Jan. 5, 2016

PACER
21

MOTION for Leave to Exceed Page Limitation by City of Austin. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Edwards, Christine) (Entered: 01/08/2016)

1 Proposed Order

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Jan. 8, 2016

Jan. 8, 2016

PACER
22

REPLY to Response to Motion, filed by City of Austin, re 8 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendant City of Austin (Edwards, Christine) (Entered: 01/08/2016)

Jan. 8, 2016

Jan. 8, 2016

RECAP
23

NOTICE of Attorney Appearance by Robin E. Harris on behalf of City of Austin (Harris, Robin) (Entered: 01/11/2016)

Jan. 11, 2016

Jan. 11, 2016

PACER
24

ORDER GRANTING 20 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (dm) (Entered: 01/11/2016)

Jan. 11, 2016

Jan. 11, 2016

PACER
25

REPLY to Response to Motion, filed by Valerie Gonzales, Karian Harris, Maria Salazar, re 8 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendant City of Austin Surreply To Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit E, # 2 Exhibit F, # 3 Exhibit G, # 4 Exhibit H, # 5 Exhibit I, # 6 Exhibit J)(Grinstein, Joseph) (Entered: 01/11/2016)

1 Exhibit E

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2 Exhibit F

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3 Exhibit G

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4 Exhibit H

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5 Exhibit I

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6 Exhibit J

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Jan. 11, 2016

Jan. 11, 2016

RECAP
26

Opposed MOTION to Certify Class by Karian Harris. (Attachments: # 1 Ex. A, Decl. of Karian Harris, # 2 Ex. B, Docket Sheets for Karian Harris, # 3 Ex. C, Austin Municipal Court Data, # 4 Ex. D, Payment Plan Application, # 5 Ex. E, Austin Municipal Court Internal Rule, # 6 Ex. F, Decl. of Valerie Gonzales, # 7 Ex. G, Decl. of Maria Salazar, # 8 Ex. H, Decl. of Juan Martinez, # 9 Ex. I, Austin City Code 2-10-21, # 10 Ex. J, Austin Municipal Court Rules, # 11 Ex. K, Austin Municipal Court Website, # 12 Ex. L, Austin City Budget Excerpt, # 13 Ex. M, US Census Austin Data, # 14 Ex. N, Decl. of Rebecca Bernhardt, # 15 Ex. O, Decl. of Susanne Pringle, # 16 Ex. P, Decl. of Ranjana Natarajan, # 17 Ex. Q, Decl. of Trisha Trigilio, # 18 Ex. R, Decl. of Joseph Grinstein, # 19 Ex. S, Decl. of Brian Coleman)(Trigilio, Trisha) (Entered: 01/11/2016)

1 Ex. A, Decl. of Karian Harris

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2 Ex. B, Docket Sheets for Karian Harris

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3 Ex. C, Austin Municipal Court Data

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4 Ex. D, Payment Plan Application

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5 Ex. E, Austin Municipal Court Internal Rule

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6 Ex. F, Decl. of Valerie Gonzales

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7 Ex. G, Decl. of Maria Salazar

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8 Ex. H, Decl. of Juan Martinez

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9 Ex. I, Austin City Code 2-10-21

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10 Ex. J, Austin Municipal Court Rules

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11 Ex. K, Austin Municipal Court Website

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12 Ex. L, Austin City Budget Excerpt

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13 Ex. M, US Census Austin Data

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14 Ex. N, Decl. of Rebecca Bernhardt

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15 Ex. O, Decl. of Susanne Pringle

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16 Ex. P, Decl. of Ranjana Natarajan

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17 Ex. Q, Decl. of Trisha Trigilio

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18 Ex. R, Decl. of Joseph Grinstein

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19 Ex. S, Decl. of Brian Coleman

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Jan. 11, 2016

Jan. 11, 2016

RECAP
27

ORDER GRANTING 21 Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (dm) (Entered: 01/12/2016)

Jan. 12, 2016

Jan. 12, 2016

PACER
28

Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Sam Sparks: Status Conference held on 1/13/2016. Motions taken under advisement, written order forthcoming. (Minute entry documents are not available electronically.). (Court Reporter Lily Reznik.)(dm) (Entered: 01/13/2016)

Jan. 13, 2016

Jan. 13, 2016

PACER
29

Proposed Scheduling Order by Valerie Gonzales, Karian Harris, Maria Salazar. (Grinstein, Joseph) (Entered: 01/19/2016)

Jan. 19, 2016

Jan. 19, 2016

PACER
30

STIPULATION Order Regarding Briefing Schedule for Plainitiff's Motion for Class Certification by Valerie Gonzales, Karian Harris, Maria Salazar. (Grinstein, Joseph) (Entered: 01/19/2016)

Jan. 19, 2016

Jan. 19, 2016

PACER
31

Unopposed MOTION to Withdraw as Attorney for Plaintiff, by Trisha Trigilio by Karian Harris. (Trigilio, Trisha) (Entered: 01/26/2016)

Jan. 26, 2016

Jan. 26, 2016

PACER
32

ORDER GRANTING 31 Motion for Trisha Trigilio to Withdraw as Attorney. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (os) (Entered: 01/27/2016)

Jan. 27, 2016

Jan. 27, 2016

PACER
33

ORDER GRANTING 17 Motion Re-Urging Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (td) (Entered: 03/16/2016)

March 16, 2016

March 16, 2016

RECAP
34

ORDER DISMISSING CASE WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (td) (Entered: 03/16/2016)

March 16, 2016

March 16, 2016

RECAP
35

Transcript filed of Proceedings held on January 13, 2016, Proceedings Transcribed: All Pending Matters. Court Reporter/Transcriber: Lily I. Reznik, Telephone number: 512-391-8792. Parties are notified of their duty to review the transcript to ensure compliance with the FRCP 5.2(a)/FRCrP 49.1(a). A copy may be purchased from the court reporter or viewed at the clerk's office public terminal. If redaction is necessary, a Notice of Redaction Request must be filed within 21 days. If no such Notice is filed, the transcript will be made available via PACER without redaction after 90 calendar days. The clerk will mail a copy of this notice to parties not electronically noticed Redaction Request due 4/13/2016, Redacted Transcript Deadline set for 4/25/2016, Release of Transcript Restriction set for 6/21/2016, (Reznik, Lily) (Entered: 03/23/2016)

March 23, 2016

March 23, 2016

PACER
36

ADVISORY TO THE COURT by City of Austin. (Edwards, Christine) (Entered: 04/04/2016)

April 4, 2016

April 4, 2016

PACER
36

ADVISORY TO THE COURT by City of Austin. (Edwards, Christine) (Entered: 04/04/2016)

April 4, 2016

April 4, 2016

PACER

Case Details

State / Territory: Texas

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Special Collection(s):

Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of Poverty)

Multi-LexSum (in sample)

Key Dates

Filing Date: Oct. 27, 2015

Closing Date: 2016

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

An indigent thirty-five-year-old single mother with seven children who was incarcerated on multiple occasions for failing to pay her traffic tickets.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Mooted before ruling

Defendants

City of Austin (Austin, Austin), State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Equal Protection

Available Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General/Misc.:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Over/Unlawful Detention

Poverty/homelessness

Jails, Prisons, Detention Centers, and Other Institutions:

Placement in detention facilities

Reproductive rights:

Fetus Identity