Case: Kavadas v. Martinez

MER-L-1004-15 | New Jersey state trial court

Filed Date: May 1, 2015

Closed Date: 2019

Clearinghouse coding in progress

Case Summary

This lawsuit challenged New Jersey’s practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of non-custodial parents who were unable to pay child support. A New Jersey state statute provided for automatic license suspension when a bench warrant was issued for failure to pay child support or a parent failed to appear at a child support hearing. Several named plaintiffs, most of whom had been the subject of license suspensions under this statute, filed this putative class action lawsuit on May 1, 2015 in t…

This lawsuit challenged New Jersey’s practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of non-custodial parents who were unable to pay child support.

A New Jersey state statute provided for automatic license suspension when a bench warrant was issued for failure to pay child support or a parent failed to appear at a child support hearing. Several named plaintiffs, most of whom had been the subject of license suspensions under this statute, filed this putative class action lawsuit on May 1, 2015 in the New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division for Mercer County, where the case was assigned to Judge Mary C. Jacobson. The plaintiffs alleged that the law violated the Due Process clauses of the United States and New Jersey constitutions and brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and several New Jersey statutes. They were represented by a solo-practitioner with a history of litigating constitutional challenges to New Jersey’s child support system. The defendants were several state entities and their leaders, including the state Motor Vehicle Commission, the Department of Human Services, and the Administrative Office of the Courts. In their complaint, the plaintiffs requested several forms of declaratory and injunctive relief aimed at preventing the state from suspending their licenses in the future, as well as attorneys’ fees.

The plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction, which Judge Jacobson denied after a hearing on July 22, 2015. The court also denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, reasoning that it would be more efficient to litigate the case individually.

After over three years of discovery and other litigation, Judge Jacobson issued an opinion deciding the case in favor of the plaintiffs by granting their motion for summary judgment (and denying the state’s cross-motion) on December 7, 2018. The court found that the plaintiffs’ due process rights had been violated by the license suspension scheme. As a remedy, Judge Jacobson ordered the state to develop procedures for notifying parents of their future license suspension and granting them a hearing, where they would be represented by counsel, to contest the suspension. Judge Jacobson found, however, that one of the named plaintiffs lacked standing and dismissed the case as to that plaintiff.

In response to Judge Jacobson’s ruling, the state decided to end its practice of automatic license suspensions for child support violations, according to a March 29, 2019 letter.

The case appears to be closed.

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

MER-L-1004-15

Opinion

Dec. 7, 2018

Dec. 7, 2018

Order/Opinion

MER-L-1004-15

Letter

Kavads v. Martinez

March 29, 2019

March 29, 2019

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Resources

Docket

Last updated June 24, 2022, 3:03 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: New Jersey

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Key Dates

Filing Date: May 1, 2015

Closing Date: 2019

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Non custodial parents whose drivers' license were suspended for failing to child support

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Denied

Defendants

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (New Jersey), State

Attorney General of the State of New Jersey (New Jersey), State

Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development, Office of Child Support Services (New Jersey), State

Administrative Office of the Courts and the Probation Division (New Jersey), State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

State law

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation