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Case Name Fant v. City of Ferguson CJ-MO-0005
Docket / Court 4:15-cv-00253 ( E.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ArchCity Defenders
Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On February 8, 2015, persons jailed for failing to pay fines imposed by the City of Ferguson that they could not afford filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. They made a number of allegations against Ferguson, including: (1) that the City failed to ... read more >
On February 8, 2015, persons jailed for failing to pay fines imposed by the City of Ferguson that they could not afford filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. They made a number of allegations against Ferguson, including: (1) that the City failed to conduct an inquiry into whether plaintiffs were able to pay their fines before jailing them, in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) that the City failed to provide plaintiffs with legal counsel during the proceedings leading to their incarceration, in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments; (3) that the City jailed plaintiffs indefinitely and without an adequate legal process through which they could challenge their detention, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) that the squalid and unhealthy conditions of Ferguson's jail constituted Cruel and Unusual Punishment, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; (5) that the City used jail time and the threat of jail time to deny plaintiffs the substantive and procedural protections that Missouri debtors would have against private creditors, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (6) that the City issued arrest warrants against impoverished persons for failure to pay traffic fines without any finding of probable cause, in violation the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; and (7) that the City detained plaintiffs arrested without a valid warrant for an extended period without a legitimate government interest, in violation the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Represented by ArchCity Defenders, the Civil Rights Corps, Equal Justice Under Law, lawyers from St. Louis University School of Law, and private counsel including White & Case LLP, the plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201. They sought class action certification, declaratory relief, injunctive relief requiring Ferguson to change its practices and policies to stop violating the U.S. Constitution, damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Audrey G. Fleissig.

On May 26, 2015, the court granted defendant's motion to dismiss in part, dismissing plaintiffs’ claims (5) and (6). 2015 WL 3417420. However, on July 13, 2015, the court granted plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration, reversing the May 26 order. 2015 WL 4232917.

On January 29, 2016, the parties were told to select neutral parties to act as mediators and to schedule mediation to see if they could come to a settlement agreement. On May 10, 2016, the neutral parties reported that though they had mediated in good faith, they were unable to reach a settlement.

On April 13, 2016, the plaintiffs filed an amended class action complaint. The defendant subsequently filed a partial motion to dismiss two weeks later in response. The plaintiffs in July filed a motion with the court to compel production of emails from the defendant in support of its claim that the City of Ferguson engaged in a "widespread scheme" of jailing individuals who could not afford small debts. While the motion to dismiss the amended complaint was denied in November, the court subsequently granted the defendant's claim of privilege on the documents and held a hearing on that issue. The motion to compel documents was eventually granted in part and denied in part to the extent that plaintiffs sufficiently narrowed search terms for the electronic documents. The case proceeded through discovery in 2017.

Plaintiffs sought class certification again in June 2017 and simultaneously moved to disqualify defendant's counsel due to a conflict of interest. In August, the court granted the motion to disqualify counsel and extended a stay on the issue of class certification. According to ProPublica, the firm was disqualified because it had hired a lawyer who had previously represented one of the plaintiffs while working for ArchCity Defenders. The court denied class certification on January 29, 2018 without prejudice to refiling.

Once the defendant obtained replacement counsel in September, it moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on Counts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 due to sovereign immunity. This further stayed proceedings until resolution on the issue on February 13, 2018, when the court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss. 2018 WL 10245936. On February 15, the defendant filed an interlocutory appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals of the decision against sovereign immunity.

Subsequently, the defendant moved to stay proceedings pending appeal. The plaintiffs had opposed the motion to stay, claiming that there was no ruling for the defendant to appeal. The original trial date in April was vacated. On March 12, 2018, the court granted the stay. The case was administratively closed until resolution of the interlocutory appeal. On January 10, 2019, the Eighth Circuit (Judges Steven Colloton, Raymond Gruender, and L. Steven Grasz) dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that the City was not itself entitled to sovereign immunity and could not invoke the state's sovereign immunity to justify dismissing the suit. 913 F.3d 757. The district court lifted the stay and litigation resumed.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss counts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 on March 5, 2020. After briefing, the court denied this motion in full on August 6, 2019. The court found that, contrary to the defendant's arguments, the state municipal court was not a required party whose absence (here due to sovereign immunity) required dismissal. 2019 WL 3577529. Later that month, on August 28, the defendant appealed this order to the Eighth Circuit. The defendant filed a motion to stay proceedings pending appeal the following day. The district court denied this motion on September 19, 2019, and discovery continued. On October 10, 2019, the Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction without explanation. 2019 WL 8194959.

The defendant appealed the October 10 Eighth Circuit decision on February 13, 2020. On March 23, 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari. 140 S. Ct. 2515. As of April 2020, discovery is ongoing in the district court.

Ryan Berry - 07/11/2016
Chelsea Rinnig - 02/28/2018
Chelsea Rinnig - 03/25/2018
Alex Moody - 04/18/2020


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Conflict of interest
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Placement in detention facilities
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) City of Ferguson
Plaintiff Description Impoverished persons who were jailed for failing to pay legal fines imposed on them by the City of Ferguson.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ArchCity Defenders
Civil Rights Corps
Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Denied
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 02/08/2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Fant et al. v. City of Ferguson
Fines & Fees Justice Center
Date: March 19, 2020
By: Fines & Fees Justice Center
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Ferguson, MO: Debtors' Prison
http://www.civilrightscorps.org/
Date: Feb. 13, 2018
By: Civil Rights Corps
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
E.D. Mo.
04/23/2020
4:15-cv-253
CJ-MO-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Mo.
02/08/2015
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-MO-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
05/26/2015
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 19] (107 F.Supp.3d 1016)
CJ-MO-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
07/13/2015
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 27] (2015 WL 4232917)
CJ-MO-0005-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
04/13/2016
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 53]
CJ-MO-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
E.D. Mo.
11/15/2016
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 79] (2016 WL 6696065)
CJ-MO-0005-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
12/02/2016
Order [ECF# 84]
CJ-MO-0005-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
08/07/2017
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 136] (2017 WL 3392073)
CJ-MO-0005-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
E.D. Mo.
02/13/2018
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 173] (2018 WL 10245936)
CJ-MO-0005-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
03/12/2018
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 189]
CJ-MO-0005-0009.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
01/10/2019
Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis [Ct. of App. ECF# 204] (913 F.3d 757)
CJ-MO-0005-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
03/05/2019
The City of Ferguson's Rule 12(c) Motion to Dismiss Counts I through III and V through VII for Failure to Join an Indispensable Party under Rule 19 [ECF# 223]
CJ-MO-0005-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mo.
08/06/2019
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 261] (2019 WL 3577529)
CJ-MO-0005-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/10/2019
Judgment [Ct. of App. ECF# 16] (2019 WL 8194959)
CJ-MO-0005-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Colloton, Steven M. (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0005-0011 | CJ-MO-0005-0013
Fleissig, Audrey Goldstein (E.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0005-0002 | CJ-MO-0005-0003 | CJ-MO-0005-0005 | CJ-MO-0005-0006 | CJ-MO-0005-0007 | CJ-MO-0005-0008 | CJ-MO-0005-0009 | CJ-MO-0005-0012 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Grasz, Leonard Steven (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0005-0013
Gruender, Raymond W. (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0005-0013
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ammann, John J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0005-0001 | CJ-MO-0005-0004 | CJ-MO-0005-9000
Atri, Sima (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0005-9000
Audette, Danielle Marie (New York) show/hide docs
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Black, Jonathan Clayton II (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Carroll, Nathaniel R. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Craven, Meredith Francine (Texas) show/hide docs
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Daker, Angela (Florida) show/hide docs
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Dieuveille, Glenda (New York) show/hide docs
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Downer, Ryan Chasce (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Gajiev, Zaur D (California) show/hide docs
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Gonzalez, Mauricio A (California) show/hide docs
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Hall, Edward James (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Hanlon, Stephen F (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Harvey, Thomas B. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Heery-Hyatt, Micaela Ann (New York) show/hide docs
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Jiang, Li show/hide docs
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Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Kim, Leonardo (California) show/hide docs
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Kutnik-Bauder, Jacqueline Marie (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Lane, Shannon (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Leonard, Claire (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Lopez, Marco Antonio (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Mikkilineni, Tara (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Moscowitz, Lawrence Crane (New York) show/hide docs
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Murphy, Sonia Williams (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Niwa, Seiji (New York) show/hide docs
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Panchyson, Dorian K. (New York) show/hide docs
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Prasad, Vivake (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Roediger, Brendan D. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Ryals, Stephen M. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Sawyer, Martin Bingham (New York) show/hide docs
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Sigillito, Sean Martin (New York) show/hide docs
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Spicer, Margaret Jane (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Strode, Blake Alexander (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Tomback, Andrew Ernst (New York) show/hide docs
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Tsier, Alice (New York) show/hide docs
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Voss, Michael-John (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Waldron, John McCann (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Brinker, Jeffrey J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Carey, Aarnarian (Apollo) D. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Diamond, Jessica Lynn (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Dunne, Peter J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Graham, Maurice B. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Hellmich, William A. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Hill, Blake Daniel (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Norwood, Ronald A. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Plunkert, Robert T. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Reeves, John Michael (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Reichardt, Timothy J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Retter, Jason S (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Rudolph, Timothy William (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Stallings, Michelle V. (Missouri) show/hide docs
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Torbitzky, John P (Missouri) show/hide docs
CJ-MO-0005-9000

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